Chronology of Ade Bethune's Life

Written by Carol DeBoer-Langworthy and Ade Bethune
Newport, Rhode Island
Copyright June 14, 1999


  • January 12: Marie Adélaïde de Bethune born in Schaerbeek district of Brussels, Belgium.
  • August 4: World War I begins. Belgium invaded and occupied.


  • Ade emigrates to the U.S. with her family. Enrolls in Cathedral High School, New York City.
  • Attends Cathedral High School and National Academy of Design (NAD), NYC.


  • Gets high school diploma. Continues with NAD.


  • Attends Cooper Union, NYC.


  • Summer: Wins competition on stained glass and trip to Charles J. Connick Studios, Boston, to execute her prize-winning design.
  • Fall: Investigates Catholic Worker soup kitchen at 436 East Fifteenth Street near Second Avenue, NYC, where Dorothy Weston gives her copies of CW publications. Ade now submits black & white drawings to their monthly paper, The Catholic Worker.


  • Meets editor, Dorothy Day, 37, who prints Ade's pictures and suggests appropriate stories and illustrations for future issues. At Friday lectures, Ade hears Peter Maurin recite his "Easy Essays."
  • Per Dorothy Day's suggestion, Ade studies liturgy under Gerald Ellard, S.J., at Summer School of Catholic Action held in NYC.


  • Invited by architect, Graham Carey, 43, of Cambridge, MA, to design a fireplace surround on the style of her Catholic Worker drawings, to be carved by John Howard Benson, 34, of Newport, RI.
  • Meets Benson and Carey at NYC annual meeting of Liturgical Arts Society held at Manhattanville College of the Sacred Heart. Ade takes them to visit the Catholic Worker, and then takes them home to supper with her family.
  • May: Designs new masthead for The Catholic Worker with Christ embracing both colored and white workers. Circulation at 110,000.
  • Summer: Begins printing up cards from her Catholic Worker pictures. Dorothy Day uses these as thank-you notes for contributions. Eventually this printing effort becomes St. Leo Shop.
  • Receives commission for carved wood crucifix for new church built by Depression unemployed members of St. Paulinus Parish, Clairton, PA.


  • January: Ade and friend Lalah Durham spend week at Connick Stained Glass Studios in Boston. Graham Carey then drives them to Newport to view the John Stevens Shop, 29 Thames Street, founded in 1705, so as to understand the process of stone carving for the fireplace commission (never completed). John Howard Benson and his wife, Fisher, give the group supper before putting Ade and Lalah on the night boat for their return to NYC.
  • Invited by the Bensons to come to Newport for two months, to work on St. Paulinus wood carving with Benson's help; Ade also learns calligraphy and wood engraving.
  • Fall: Replaces Benson (now head of sculpture department at Rhode Island School of Design) in teaching arts and crafts at Portsmouth Priory School. Commutes from NYC on Fall River Line every week, arriving in Newport in the middle of night.
  • Sheed and Ward publish Ade's illustrations in Easy Essays by Peter Maurin, as well as The Saint Francis Picture Book by Frank Meyers.


  • Summer: Travels to Europe to visit relatives.
  • Fall: Receives commission to illustrate 1940 edition of Father Ellard's Christian Life and Worship. Also commission to illustrate Father Joseph F. Stedman's My Sunday Missal, which eventually sells millions of copies.


  • Fall: Moves into studio workshop above John Stevens Shop - a permanent move to Rhode Island and literally on the heels of the hurricane of late September, 1938.


  • October: Travels to Midwest to give first major public address, "The Industrial Counter-revolution," at national meeting of Catholic Art Association at St. Catherine University, St. Paul, MN.
  • 26 December: "John Stevens University" - nickname for partnership of Benson-Carey-Covell-Bethune et al, working in the John Stevens Shop - awards Ade her diploma as "Doctor of Ætiology."
  • Takes two apprentices, Mary Katherine Finegan and Mary Krenzer, at "Lion College" of "John Stevens University. First "lion cubs" followed by a number of other apprentices over the years.
  • Her first written pamphlet, Work, published by John Stevens ("University") Press, Newport.


  • Purchases run-down colonial house (1740) at 36 Thames Street, Newport.
  • Attends first Liturgical Week held in U.S., in Chicago. Becomes more active in the Liturgical Movement, which culminates in reforms of Vatican II, 1965.


  • Her parents, Marthe Terlinden de Bethune, 60, and Gaston S. P. de Bethune, 64, move from NYC to join her in Newport.
  • Receives commission from Father Joseph F. Stedman for My Lenten Missal wood engraved illustrations. Again millions of copies are sold, and the missal is translated into German, French, Spanish, Polish, among other languages.


  • Builds her own coffin from second-hand lumber and decorates it with images of her earthly dwellings as well as symbolic doors of heaven - open just a crack.


  • Becomes editor of Catholic Art Quarterly, a position she holds for several years. Learns proofreading from Edith Ballinger Price. CAQ printed by Henry Wilkinson's Ward Printing Co. on Thames Street, Newport.


  • Peter Maurin dies on 17 May.
  • December: Ade travels to The Philippines to decorate new earthquake proof church in sugar mill - St. Joseph Church, Victorias Milling Co., Occidental Negros. Mosaics on church walls composed of pieces of Coca-Cola, Milk of Magnesia, beer and whiskey bottles and broken platters - mostly gathered by little children.


  • Family moves to a 1906 house on The Point.


  • Serves as consultant and paints frescoes in Church of San Joachin, Bacalar, QR, Yucatan.


  • Jennie Amoruso becomes assistant for St. Leo Shop, a role she continues for 30 years.


  • Commission for statue for "Mary's Gardens." Trip to Belgium; takes her Belgian nephew, Stanislas, back to U.S. for a year with his grandparents in Newport.


  • Makes second statue for "Mary's Gardens."
  • Fall: St. Leo's Shop Catalogue becomes St. Leo Bulletin. Along with The Catholic Worker, it is a hub of movement for liturgical reform and ecumenism. Becomes North American outlet for Maria Montessori books on early childhood education, baby carriers made in Europe, and a host of products relating to family and spiritual life.


  • Publishes Sacred Signs, a quarterly review for liturgical arts, illustrated historical studies on iconography, book reviews, museum notes, and practical parish helps, through 1982. Printed at Ward's on Spring Street.


  • Liturgical consultant for St. Leo's Church, St. Paul, MN. Design of octagon shaped church sets direction for subsequent churches in renewal of ancient tradition with altar facing the people in center of open space.


  • St. Leo Shop moves to 117 Washington Street, where St. Leo Bulletin is mailed free to some 50,000 people through fall 1981.


  • Designs sheep for exterior doors of Church of Christ, Sun of Justice planned by and built for Graham Carey in Benson, VT, in 1953. Peter Watts carves the doors from Ade's drawings.
  • Fall: Terra Sancta Guild® is launched by Isadore A. Serot of Philadelphia with Ade as free-lance designer, to manufacture and sell Christian and Jewish religious items throughout the U.S., Asia, Australia, and Africa. Ade becomes art director. Pewter and bronze medals are manufactured by various firms in Rhode Island.
  • Bronze candleholders designed by Ade are used on the outdoor altar erected in front of St. Peter's Basilica, Rome, for the solemn closing of the Second Vatican Council.
  • First of several trips to Israel.


  • Organizes "Living Stones in Architecture," Catholic Art Association annual convention, in Houston, TX.
  • November: Joins Newport group, including Canon Ballard of Trinity Church and Hershel Carter of Newport Hospital, to found Church Community Housing Corporation, a non-profit serving low income families. Ade designs some 30 houses on scattered sites for first time home ownership, including Newport's first solar heated house, 50 Halsey Street, built 1977 with help of Vocational/Technical Rogers High School students.


  • College of St. Catherine (now St. Catherine University) invites Ade to begin sending her oeuvre to a special archive.


  • At Salve Regina College, Ade receives Maurice Lavanoux Award from the New England Liturgical Committee for "her singular contribution to liturgical renewal in the field of the cultic arts."


  • Dorothy Day dies on 29 November.
  • Ade designs commemorative medals for 1500th celebration of the birth of St. Benedict, founder of Western monasticism, and his sister St. Scholastica.


  • May: Ade Bethune Room dedicated at College of St. Catherine Library, St. Paul, MN.
  • Designs mural mosaic for baptistry in Cathedral of Saint Paul, MN.


  • Biography, Proud Donkey of Schaerbeek, Ade Bethune, Catholic Worker Artist, published by North Star Press, St. Cloud, MN. Based on oral history interviews by author, Judith Stoughton, C.S.J., Ph.D., professor of art history at St. Catherine University, St. Paul, MN. Sister Judith had first met Ade in 1939.
  • May: Redesigns masthead of The Catholic Worker to include a woman with baby, an agricultural worker, along with the Black male laborer and Christ. Circulation at 90,000.


  • Liturgical consultant to St. Lucy's Parish Committee Church, Middletown, RI.


  • Receives "Independent Man" award from Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame.
  • New St. Lucy's Church dedicated, with altar, stained glass, etc., designed by Ade.


  • Receives Frederick R. McManus Award at the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions convention held in Memphis, TN.


  • Summer: Subject of exhibition at Newport Historical Society in conjunction with "Ambassadors of God: Homelessness and the Meaning of Charity," a project funded by the Rhode Island Committee for the Humanities.
  • Involved with plans for historic preservation and renovation of Victorian Auchincloss and Rice Houses and Neogothic Cenacle Chapel with ensemble of 13th century style stained glass, as cooperative residences for older people of Newport.