In early spring, Lucas stands on a balcony at the University of San Francisco and takes in a view stretching from the Golden Gate to the downtown skyline. Though he's in the midst of teaching duties at the university, he and Wo communicate regularly, exchanging ideas and images via e-mail and phone, endlessly refining concepts and designs.
"It's much more complicated than working on your own," he concedes. "But at the same time it's a whole lot better than what I would've come up with [on my own] or what she would have come up with on her own." Their arguments, he believes, belong in a complicated intercultural dialogue.
Despite the frustrations, the project has been an unambiguous success in Lucas' mind, if only for the encounter on the morning Wo unpacked the first panel at St. Ignatius. Lucas recalls that a teenage boy who gives tours of the cathedral wandered over, saw the modified paper-cut design, smiled and exclaimed, "Cool--they're Chinese style!"
The panel depicts the Annunciation in elegant, flowing lines, and Wo points it out as she gives a private tour of the St. Ignatius nave chapels during Lent. Then, on the way out of the church, she stops briefly in the entry vestibule to examine two golden windows engraved with greetings in several languages. Beside them, a large photo of Pope Benedict XVI greets visitors.
In September 2005, in an unexpected move, Pope Benedict personally invited Bishop Jin to attend a synod (a doctrinal meeting of church leaders) at the Vatican, and in March he informally, and somewhat cryptically, indicated that he was ready to visit China if the circumstances allowed. If and when a visit does occur, there is little question that Benedict would visit St. Ignatius, China's largest Catholic church.
Outside, on the church steps, Wo looks up at the diocese's office building next door and two fourth-floor stained-glass windows, designed by her, that interrupt a steady march of clear glass. Behind them, obscured by the color, is the bishop's private chapel. "When I was studying in Milan they told us that we should go back and do church art as our own art," she recalls. "I thought it was only talk, actually, but now I understand." She throws her green canvas knapsack over a shoulder. "I think China needs this path." With that, she strides off to the subway and her studio, where the sisters have been busy cutting glass since the morning.