#GoodFriday ProFile Friday
Ade Bethune (January 12, 1914 – May 1, 2002) was a Catholic liturgical artist and activist who contributed covers and comics work to the Catholic children’s comic Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact from 1949 to 1962.
Bethune was born Marie Adélaïde Anne Caroline de Bethune, Baroness, to a noble Belgian family. Her parents, Gaston and Marthe (Terlinden, daughter of Viscount Terlinden), emigrated with the family in 1928. She went to Cathedral High School and later, the National Academy of Design and Cooper Union. In 1933, while at Cooper Union, she designed a stained glass medallion which won a prize, and she was able to spend the following summer in Boston in the studios of Charles J. Connick.
After returning to New York, Bethune volunteered her illustrations to improve the quality of the Catholic Worker when she was a nineteen year old art student, impressed with the work of Dorothy Day. This was preparation for her later illustration for Catholic liturgical works such as ‘My Sunday Missal’ in 1937, and similar works such as ‘My Lenten Missal’.
She was interested in the Catholic Worker Movement’s work with hospitality for the poor throughout her life, and became interested in the issue of providing housing for the elderly, particularly the poor elderly. She designed an early masthead of its publication, the Catholic Worker, first used in 1935. She later re-designed this in 1985, replacing one of the men with a woman.
In 1938, she moved to Newport, Rhode Island, to study wood carving and calligraphy at the John Stevens Shop; she later taught her own apprentices at the shop.
From 1949 to 1962, she contributed to the Catholic children’s comic book Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact, including covers, full page comics, “how-to” articles, and a series called “Jesus Spoke in Parables” in 1951 and 1952, where she illustrated the parables of Jesus with modern images. Her iconographic style was well-suited to comics, and she wanted children to actively engage with her art as a mode of religious self-instruction:
“For a small child all of life is full of signs and wonders. But in certain signs he comes to experience more closely something of God and of the Church, in terms he can grasp—in terms not of people or of words, but of images, smells, colors, lights, myths. His first impressions are lasting. The prime images her forms—in art or nature—must thus be such as can remain valid for life.”
Beginning in the 1960s, she was the artistic director of the Terra Sancta Guild, a commercial firm that produced religious art works for many Christian denominations. As part of her work for Terra Sancta, she travelled to Israel to study metalwork and enamelling. In 1969, she founded the Church Community Housing Corporation in Newport County, Rhode Island, to design and build housing. In 1991 she founded ‘Star of the Sea’ to renovate a former Carmelite convent into an intentional community and state of the art housing for the elderly, where she lived until her death in 2002.
She is buried at Portsmouth Abbey, Portsmouth, Rhode Island.
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