Ade Bethune Collection

The Ade Bethune Collection contains the papers of Ade Bethune, a world-renowned liturgical artist and social activist.

The story of Ade Bethune is an important chapter in the cultural history of our time. This woman made unique contributions to the field of sacred art & architecture and social justice as an artist, writer, and liturgical consultant, all flowing from her early association with Dorothy Day and the publication of her pictures in The Catholic Worker.

Holdings of the Collection cover Ade Bethune's entire career from art school at the National Academy of Design and Cooper Union in New York City in the 1930s to her final projects in the early years of the 21st century. They consist of manuscript and printed materials, as well as a large variety of non-textual materials (graphic, sound, artifact).

For an overview of the collection, view the Guide below.

Guide to the Ade Bethune Collection (PDF)

More information about Ade:

About Ade Bethune

Chronology of Ade Bethune's Life

Close-up photo of Ade Bethune smiling.

About the Collection

The Ade Bethune Collection occupies some 400 linear feet consisting of manuscript and printed materials, as well as 75 cubic feet of nontextual materials (graphic, sound, and artifact).

Current Holdings of the Collection

  • Correspondence
  • Original manuscripts of books, articles and lectures
  • Over 2,000 drawings
  • Published writings
  • Memorabilia, sketchbooks, and photographs
  • Approximately 1,500 architectural drawings
  • Books and journals from Bethune's personal library
  • About 400 small wooden, copper, and zinc engraved printing blocks
  • 100 audiotapes, 800 slides, and 3 16mm films
  • Multiple artifacts of wood, bronze, pewter, tempera paint, silkscreen, stained glass, textiles, rubber, and clay

Highlights of the Collection

  • Correspondence with Dorothy Day and others in the Catholic Worker movement
  • Correspondence with Graham Carey regarding the Catholic Art Association and views on liturgical art in general
  • Papers and architectural drawings of the Church Community Housing Corporation, an organization providing affordable housing in Newport, RI, including Newport's first solar house
  • Papers, architectural drawings, and photographs of many of her church design and renovation projects
  • Manuscripts and published writings on liturgical and social justice topics
  • Scale models for some of her architecture projects
  • Examples of her work in many media: paper, metal, wood, textile, clay, and stained glass

Topics of Special Interest

  • Sacred art
  • Liturgy and art
  • Church architecture and furnishings
  • Graphic arts, calligraphy, lettering, illustration
  • Icon painting, stained glass, mosaic
  • Theology of imagery, sacred scripture and liturgy in art
  • The Liturgical Movement, especially the role of women
  • Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement
  • Catholic Church history
  • Christian social movements

History of the Collection

Ade Bethune's relationship with St. Catherine University began in 1939. She was asked to speak at the third meeting of the Catholic Art Association (CAA) held on campus in October of that year. While only 25, she had already made a name for herself as a published artist and writer. However, this was her first large-scale, formal lecture, and she was petrified about speaking.

While at St. Catherine, Bethune also spoke at the novitiate of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and painted a large Saint Joseph with the novices. This visit began a life-long friendship with Sr. Cyril Clare Casey, Mistress of Postulants. Later she was to develop a friendship with St. Catherine art faculty member Judith Stoughton, CSJ, while both were active with the CAA. In the 1980s Sr. Judith wrote a biography of Ade Bethune, Proud Donkey of Schaerbeek. On one of her visits to Bethune's home in Newport, RI, she brought St. Catherine library director Elizabeth Delmore, CSJ. Sr. Elizabeth remembered hearing Bethune speak at the 1939 CAA meeting. These two women were instrumental in convincing Ade Bethune to donate her personal papers, books, and artworks to St. Catherine University.

The Ade Bethune Collection opened in 1984 with Bethune's first gift of materials. She made subsequent donations after that time and the remainder was bequeathed to St. Catherine upon her death in 2002.

The Collection has received funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Grotto Foundation, and the Bush Foundation. In November 2009, the Collection was awarded a grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources as part of CLIR's "Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives" program. More information about that grant can be found here. The Collection has also received support from the Friends of the Libraries, Myser Initiative on Catholic Identity, Catherine G. Murphy Gallery, and St. Catherine University Centers of Excellence.

Guides to the Collection

The Ade Bethune Collection is divided into series based on the various roles and activities of Ade Bethune's life. Each series will be arranged and described separately. Series that have been processed appear in bold in the list below. Finding aids for each series will be placed online as they become available.

Creative Activities

Business Activities

Organizations and Associations


  • Personal Correspondence
  • Personal and Family Materials
  • Printed Materials: About Ade Bethune
  • Printed Materials: Collected by Ade Bethune

Work of Ade Bethune

Artwork and Writings from the Ade Bethune Collection can be found in our Digital Collections.

Artwork in the Ade Bethune Collection

Writings in the Ade Bethune Collection

Mosaic Designed for the Cathedral of St. Paul


There have been multiple exhibitions of the Ade Bethune Collection.

Seeing Things Through a Child's Eyes: Ade Bethune's Art for Children

This was a previous exhibition in the Centers of Excellence at St. Catherine University.

Throughout her prolific career, the liturgical artist and writer Ade Bethune created many works of art for and about children. She was proud of her role as a teacher as well as an artist, creating many artworks and activities aimed at families or specifically for children. The simplicity and directness found in all of her work is evident in her work for children.

This exhibition includes illustrations from Ade Bethune's published and unpublished children's books, illustrations and activities she created for Treasure Chest, children's items she designed and sold through her home business, and examples of her work with children.

For more information, view the text that accompanied the exhibition.

Seeing Things Through a Child's Eyes (PDF)

Below: The Temptation of Christ, created by Ade Bethune for Treasure Chest of Fun & Fact: February 1954 (left) and February 1955 (right).

Comic-style cover for Treasure Chest Comic-style cover for Treasure Chest with saint-like figure and devil-like figure standing on a roof

Silkscreen on wood panels: Icon of the Mother of God and Icon of Christ the Teacher, used in several of Ade Bethune’s later churches.
Bringing the Word of God to the People: Sacred Iconography & Church Design

This was a previous exhibition in the Centers of Excellence at St. Catherine University. It showed work from several of Ade Bethune’s church commissions, from her first to one of her last, spanning almost 60 years.

Churches included in the exhibition were:

  • St. Paulinus, Clairton, Pennsylvania
  • St. Joseph, the Philippines
  • Church of San Joaquin, Bacalar, Mexico
  • St. Leo's Church, St. Paul, Minnesota
  • St. Michael's Roman Catholic Church, Troy, New York
  • Cathedral of St. Paul, St. Paul, Minnesota

For more information, view the text that accompanied the exhibition.

Bring the Word of God to the People (PDF)

Right: Silkscreen on wood panels: Icon of the Mother of God and Icon of Christ the Teacher, used in several of Ade Bethune’s later churches.

A collage of three pieces of art: a swordsman, two figures in pink and black, and a flaming woman.
Women--Liturgical and Religious Art

Ade Bethune; Ansgar Holmberg, CSJ; Lucinda Naylor

This was on exhibit twice:

March 11-April 13, 2006
Catherine G. Murphy Gallery
St. Catherine University

March 4-April 30, 2006
Pope John XXIII Gallery and Teresa of Calcutta Hall
Basilica of St. Mary

This exhibition speaks to women's role in both liturgical and religious art traditions through the interpretations of three artists whose artwork spans the 20th century.

For more information, view the text that accompanied the exhibition.

Women—Liturgical and Religious Art (PDF)

Left: (l to r) Pilgrimage (III), Lucinda Naylor; Works of Mercy: Shelter to the Homeless, Ade Bethune; God Stitched, Ansgar Holmberg, CSJ

Ade Bethune's illustration: Giving Drink to the Thirsty
Hospitality and Works of Mercy: The Art of Ade Bethune

This exhibition demonstrated how Ade Bethune returned again and again to the subjects of hospitality and acts of mercy. Through her art, she made biblical scenes and saints' lives meaningful to viewers' lives.

For more information, view the text that accompanied the exhibition.

Hospitality and Works of Mercy (PDF)

Using the Collection

To obtain copies or request permission to use Ade Bethune's work, see the information about Reproduction & Use on our Visiting the Collections page.

Visiting the Collections