Love for sacred art gathers Vatican patrons in Phoenix

Dr. Barbara Jatta, director of the Vatican Museums, and Fr. Daniel Hennessy, LC, international director of the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums, present Arizona Governor Doug Ducey with a piece of art and induct him as an honorary patron, at a welcoming reception for an international patrons’ conference in Phoenix March 3. (Tony Gutiérrez/CATHOLIC SUN)
Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums

The Patrons of the Arts support restoration project at the Vatican and beyond.

Info: azpatrons.org; vatican-patrons.org

Beauty in art has the power to inspire and can bring people closer to the Divine Artist. That was the message that directors from chapters of the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums heard when they attended their international conference in Phoenix March 3–5.

It’s such beauty they preserve by funding restoration projects for art and architecture, not only in the Vatican Museums, but beyond. Money raised by the patrons not only goes to individual projects, but can also support and equip restoration and forensic labs at the Vatican.

“Even Pope Francis has told us that beauty joins us, links us, makes a bridge between people,” said Dr. Barbara Jatta, director of the Vatican Museums. “I’m very aware of the importance of beauty in terms of evangelization and education. My conviction is that art can help us to be better people.”

Conference co-chair Debra Mauro, a “snowbird” from Calgary Alberta who seasonally attends St. Patrick Parish in Scottsdale, said bringing the leadership from chapters throughout the world together allowed them to connect with each other and trade ideas. Representatives from 22 of the 26 chapters came to Phoenix.

“We may have different tax laws around how we gather our money, and what we can do with our money depending on our countries, however our mission is all the same,” said Mauro, who’s also chair of the Canadian chapter. “We are there to fundraise and put our money to use to restore and maintain artwork inside the Vatican Museums.”

Brad Kidd, president of the Arizona chapter and co-chair for the conference, said supporting the Vatican Museums is about preserving the patrimony of art and antiquity. The money paid by tourists only supports the operating costs of the museums, and the funds raised by the patrons allow the museums to carry out larger projects.

Kidd also said the chapter is always seeking new members and that patrons are given a “backstage pass” to tour the labs and other behind-the-scenes activities at the Vatican Museums. The Arizona chapter is currently planning a pilgrimage to Rome in September to coincide with the diaconal ordination of Vinhson Nguyen, a seminarian for the Diocese of Phoenix.

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, who welcomed the international visitors to Arizona in an opening reception March 3, noted that the Vatican Museums preserved not only sacred art, but also art and artifacts from the pre-Christianperiod and from other cultures throughout the world.

“Since the earliest centuries, Christians have expressed their faith in remarkable ways through the creation of some of the world’s most brilliant forms of art. When those creations are preserved, restored, repaired and displayed, the godly reverence of the artist shines through to us all and strengthens our faith even today,” the governor said. “It’s not only those of the Catholic faith that benefit from the diligent work supported by your organization — because the history found within the Vatican Museums is not just the history of the Catholic faith, it is the history of the world on display.”

Mauro said she’s often asked why she’s involved in raising money that goes to Rome, but that for her, it’s a personal mission to help preserve the beauty for future generations. Even though membership is not limited to Catholics, or even Christians or religious people, Mauro said that the art can still inspire.

“Whether we are faith-based or not, the Vatican Museums are housed inside the Vatican and so that in itself speaks to us of faith,” she said.

“You just have to look at a piece, for me it’s Michelangelo — he’s my favorite — if that isn’t God at work, whatever God is to you … I don’t know what is,” she added. Michelangelo allowed his hands to be “transformed” by God — “what he painted or what he sculpted was a gift from God.”