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Radiating Christ: Emily Gross

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With a flair for all things creative, 23-year-old Emily Gross could never have imagined that one day she would combine art and faith to help spread the message of God’s love. But that’s exactly where her heart and her art landed with her April launch of “Fruitful Creative,” an online space designed to “bring together a social media community through original illustrations, music and content, focused on Christianity and Catholicism,” according to her website.

“I think that, to someone who would go to the site, it’s definitely faith-based, you would see a lot of crosses, religious depictions, definitely that’s the main thing,” explained Gross. “But that is the goal, to spread the faith in an artistic, creative manner.”

Fruitful Creative had its beginnings as Gross’ senior year capstone project in the Design, Architecture, Art and Planning (DAAP) program at the University of Cincinnati (UC). However, the path that lead her there began much earlier.

Gross grew up in Morrow, faithfully attending Sunday Mass at St. Philip the Apostle Church with her parents, Chris and Debbie Gross, and her three siblings. Gross said she always loved creativity, from drawing with markers and crayons to helping her dad with small construction projects.

“I always loved any creative project growing up, and would even offer to do my younger sister, Maddie’s homework if it had anything to do with using the art bin,” she said. “Naturally, I was just drawn to making things with my hands as I grew up.”

Gross’ faith journey began when she started attending UC and joined the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS). She also lead Bible studies and had a core community of Catholic friends who helped her to continuously grow in her faith.

“When I got into college, we were raised Catholic, went to Mass every Sunday, but we didn’t understand… what that encompasses, like why the Church teaches what it does and that love for Christ. And I think as I got into college, you grow and go through different trials in life that helps you kind of stay grounded and see that not only is there a Creator, there is a God,” she said.

Through her strong faith and faith community, Gross began to see her artistic talent as a gift from God to help spread His word.

“At first I thought, ‘Oh I need to try so hard and be perfect,’ but slowly, He showed me it’s nothing I can do; it’s all through Him,” Gross said. “And when Curtis [her brother] went to the seminary, I think that exaggerated that in a good way because it helped me dive deeper. [I thought,] ‘Wow, that’s giving your whole life to Christ.’ It helped me to realize how close people can come to their faith, and I can do that as well, no matter what vocation I find is right for me.”

When the time came for Gross to determine her capstone project, the decision was easy. The one thing she was most passionate about was her Catholic faith. Admittedly shy about her work, encouraging words and support from her Catholic community helped Gross put her faith forward for others. She said the project was also an opportunity to share, through art, with her fellow students.

“They were very receptive to a lot of the artwork I had done,” she said. “And they wanted to see more of it, which I thought was really nice because it welcomes a lot of people in to the Catholic Christian faith.”

Gross, who graduated in May, now works as a graphic designer with P&G in Cincinnati. She enjoys outdoor activities, especially kayaking. She still attends Mass regularly and continues sharing her faith through art on “Fruitful Creative.” Gross, who plays the ukulele, even has a few original songs on the site.

“As I think through actually posting on the Fruitful Creative, launching the brand itself, I remember reading this in an email, if it just touches one person’s life, or helps someone one day, it’s so worth it. So it’s shifting the focus off myself and allowing God to do the work in my life,” she said.

This article appeared in the September edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.

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