Faith and Values

Rose French


The biblical story of the Prodigal Son resonates with many Christians. A wayward, sinful young man leaves his father’s home but eventually returns to find acceptance and forgiveness.

The parable recounted by Jesus is intended to illustrate God’s love. It’s a moving story that has inspired Minneapolis resident Jerry Evenrud so much that he’s collected close to 600 pieces of art depicting various scenes.

Evenrud, 83, a retired Lutheran church musician, donated about 400 pieces of the collection to Luther Seminary in St. Paul in 2005. The other 200 he’s amassed since then; they’re on display at the Basilica of St. Mary in downtown Minneapolis through Sunday.

“He is very much convinced we can communicate the message of the Gospel through art,” said Johan van Parys, director of liturgy and sacred arts at the basilica. “It’s a varied collection of art, spanning 400 years. I think everybody is in awe of the breadth of the collection because it spans so many different mediums.

“There is something in there that will speak to each person. We here at the basilica have the same belief, that art is a communicator par excellence of the divine. One of the reasons why he started to collect religious art is because that’s what he believes, too.”

Van Parys says the collection includes paintings, prints and lithographs and other art by an impressive range of 16th- to 20th-century talents. There’s even a Rembrandt. Since the collection went on display nearly two months ago, thousands of people have come to see it.

“It’s actually been very popular, not only with our own congregation but also we’ve had many visitors,” said Van Parys. “Jerry has been … giving tours of the exhibit. He does several practically every day.”

As for the parable itself, Van Parys notes, “there are different people who play in the story of the Prodigal Son. I think we tend to identify with one of those characters. In the end we all know ourselves to be sinners … we fall away from God but can always go back.”


Rose French 612-673-4352