Deroche resident Daphne Sleigh is the author of The Artist in the Cloister

Art in the Abbey

Life and works of Father Dunstan Massey portrayed in new book

Deroche author Daphne Sleigh’s newest book paints a detailed picture of one of the most talented, yet unknown, artists in B.C.

Father Dunstan Massey has been the artist in residence at Mission’s Westminster Abbey since it first opened almost 60 years ago. Visitors to the popular Benedictine monastery often marvel at the paintings, sculptures and stained glass work that line the halls and rooms of the church, but few take the time to discover that many of the great pieces were created by one man.

Sleigh was familiar with Massey’s work even before she met him.

“I’ve often been up to the Abbey and seen his sculptures and other works,” said Sleigh, who had already written two biographies and was looking for another subject when the artist caught her attention.

The catalyst was when she saw Massey’s work featured in a TV documentary seven years ago.

“It occurred to me that right here, where I live, is a wonderful artist,” she stated.

Sleigh was impressed with Massey’s versatility with different art forms from oil paints and ceramics to tapestries.

“There seems to be nothing he can’t turn his hand to,” said Sleigh, whose favourite Massey piece is a mural called Tree of Life. The soft colours, graceful figures and symbolism portrayed captured her imagination.

Massey is currently working on a silver-gilt crucifix which will hang over the alter when it’s completed.

There are two currents running through Sleigh’s book, The Artist in the Cloister, The Life and Works of Father Dunstan Massey: the evolution of his art and the story about him growing up.

“He was a child prodigy in art,” explained Sleigh. “His talents were recognized at age 13 and he had sponsors who financed his art education.”

Massey was also a gifted musician, but at 18 years of age, he decided to enter the monastery.

“He came from a deeply Catholic family. Teachers tried to dissuade him and get him to pursue the arts, but he persisted.”

Massey finally became a priest at age 31.

Sleigh is a local historian and author who has been writing books since 1972. Her works include Discovering Deroche, which won the Lieutenant-Governor’s  Medal from the B.C. Historical Federation, and three biographies.

The Artist in the Cloister is available at Black Bond Books in the Junction, Mission Arts Centre, and the Mission Visitor Centre on the Lougheed Highway.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

District of Mission promotes two new assistant fire chiefs

Nick Rychkun and Ian Glasgow bring over 40 years of experience to job

Three locations approved for Mission cannabis stores

Council gives its support to three of five applications

Imagination Library Fraser Valley celebrating Christmas in July

Dolly Parton early literacy intiative looking for financial support to help with waitlist

PHOTOS: Readers are proud of their cats

Abbotsford News asked people to share photos of their feline friends as part of National Kitten Day

Flood fears ease as Fraser River water levels begin to lower

Mission’s CAO says water level never rose above six metre mark

B.C. sees 25 new COVID-19 cases, community exposure tracked

One death, outbreaks remain in two long-term care facilities

VIDEO: Vancouver Island cat missing 18 months reunited with family

Blue the cat found at Victoria museum 17 kilometres from home

VIDEO: Alberta man rescues baby eagle believed to be drowning in East Kootenay lake

Brett Bacon was boating on a lake in Windermere when he spotted the baby eagle struggling in the water

Police nab three impaired drivers in one night in Maple Ridge

Ridge Meadows RCMP served 80 impaired driving infractions in June

Conservationists raise concerns over state of care for grizzly cubs transferred to B.C. zoo

‘Let them be assessed now before their fate is sealed,’ urges B.C. conservationist Barb Murray

B.C.’s COVID-19 job recovery led by tourism, finance minister says

Okanagan a bright spot for in-province visitor economy

National Kitten Day aka the ‘purrfect’ day to foster a new friend

July 10 marks National Kitten Day, a special day to celebrate all things kittens

Lower Mainland YouTubers claim to be Kelowna display toilet ‘poopers’

RCMP can not speak to legitimacy of video, will be investigating

Haida matriarchs occupy ancient villages as fishing lodges reopen to visitors

‘Daughters of the rivers’ say occupation follows two fishing lodges reopening without Haida consent

Most Read