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Spirit of values, perspectives on Pakistan subjects of two Chautauqua classes

Dedication for Newport, Rhode Island’s first solar house, 1977. Ade Bethune (left) with Edna Mae Nelson, president of Church-Community Corporation. Bethune designed the home.
Dedication for Newport, Rhode Island’s first solar house, 1977. Ade Bethune (left) with Edna Mae Nelson, president of Church-Community Corporation. Bethune designed the home.
Photo courtesy of the Ade Bethune Collection

St. Catherine University’s first-ever summer Chautauqua will take place Aug. 3-12. Here’s a sneak peak of just two of the engaging classes offered on a range of timely topics.

“Ade Bethune: Beyond the Catholic Worker” and “Pakistan: A 50-Year Perspective and Observations of the Current Situation” are presented by women who share a passion for their subjects — topics that are sure to entice anyone interested in learning more.

The Spirit of Ade

“Be prepared to be engaged,” says University archivist and head of special collections Deborah Kloiber to anyone who wants to visit the Ade Bethune Collection. Researchers who ignore this warning may regret it once they discover their scheduled visit affords too little time.

Many researchers come to the collection because of one aspect of Bethune’s life — perhaps her involvement with Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement, or her work as a liturgical artist. But once there, they discover other aspects of her life, and the values that influenced her accomplishments, Kloiber says.

A true renaissance woman, Bethune was also involved in housing and community development, building design and architecture, and even early childhood education. Kloiber’s Chautauqua class on Ade Bethune will include a field trip to the Lumen Christi Church in Highland Park, which Bethune helped design.

Bethune’s entrepreneurial spirit led to the development of her own distribution company, where she turned her artwork into cards, plaques and other three-dimensional pieces that she reproduced and sold. The collection includes letters of advice she sent an artist friend to help launch his own business.

“The more time you spend in her collection, the more drawn in you are by her spirit, by the incredible work she has done,” says Kloiber.

The Smithsonian wanted Ade Bethune’s collected works. Georgetown University also expressed interest, but Bethune herself opted to donate the largest collection of her work to St. Catherine University in 1984.

Georgetown, Marquette University and the University of Notre Dame do have pieces of Bethune’s work — often contained within larger art or Catholic Worker collections. “But we got all the good stuff,” says Kloiber with a laugh.

The St. Kate’s collection ranges from original drafts of articles Bethune has published to rough sketches of her liturgical art, from handwriting how-to booklets for children to fund raising letters and technical drawings for the first solar-powered house built in Newport, R.I. The variety of pieces reveal and illustrate a life that exemplified much more than the simple label of “artist” or “Catholic Worker.” Bethune died in 2002.

Perspectives on Pakistan

When Nancy Parlin SP ’56 arrived in Pakistan with the Peace Corps in 1962, the country had gained independence from the British Colony of India just 15 years before. A few educated people spoke English, while the vast majority spoke many different languages, including Urdu, Punjabi, Pushto and Sindhi.  Many of the 50 million living in the country were refugees from other parts of India, with most living in rural areas. 

“An exciting part of being a Peace Corps volunteer at that time was seeing the huge positive impact of improved agricultural and health practices. I had a sense of what the pioneers must have experienced,” says Parlin. “Plus, American volunteers were welcomed with open arms.”

In the 50 years since Parlin’s initial stay, Pakistan has seen its population grow to over 180 million. Parlin notes that the country has suffered huge disruptions in its conflicts with India, the war against Russians in Afghanistan that resulted in millions of refugees and now the current war in Afghanistan.

“Beginning in 1977, the government adopted many aspects of Islamic law which has changed the culture. Overall the standard of living has improved significantly,” she says.

Despite the chaos the country has faced over the years, Pakistan continues to draw Parlin back, and she’s visited at least once a decade to conduct research and, more recently, to provide teacher training. Her Chautauqua class illustrates a 50-year perspective of change.

“Pakistan has faced so many challenges and seen such rapid change, and the people are so friendly and hospitable that any sociologist would love it,” Parlin explains.

She hopes that people who attend her Chautauqua class will walk away with a deeper understanding of the country she has grown to love — and how the United States has played a role in Pakistan’s evolution.

“Many developing countries have had similar histories, but Pakistan's has been particularly influenced by and affected by American policies,” she said. 

Class and Event Registration

Chautauqua offerings are open to alumnae, students, faculty, staff and the greater community.

The cost is $20 per class for one or two classes, $15 per class for three to seven classes and $12 per class for eight or more classes. Event tickets for the opening ceili, a family-friendly celebration of music and dance, are $10 for adults and $5 for children. Zumba Fitness® events are $10. Poetry readings and podcasts are free.

Click here for more information or to register online.

July 13, 2011 by Sharon Rolenc

See also: Alumnae/i, Arts, Social Justice