Dr. Robert Hurteau, director of the Center for Religion and Spirituality (CRS), recently reviewed “Gods and Gifts,” a visiting exhibition from the Vatican Museums currently open to the public at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, California. His review, “The Story Behind ‘Gods and Gifts'” was published in the recent edition of the Orange County Catholic.
“Gods and Gifts,” the Bowers Museum’s extraordinary visiting exhibition from the Vatican Museums’ Ethnological Collection, has been rightly reported in the press as an expression of the Catholic Church’s esteem for all human cultures. Today that museum in Rome contains a collection of almost 100,000 objects from around the world; over 70 objects gathered from six continents and Oceania make up “Gods and Gifts,” which is on display at the Santa Ana museum through Feb. 9.
While each object has a story of its own, the exhibit also offers an overarching narrative that describes how the Vatican came to have an Ethnological Collection in the first place.
Although some of the objects were gifts to popes, a larger portion of the museum’s collection was gathered in response to requests the Vatican made in the mid-1920s to Catholic missions in Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Oceania. At that time, those missions were staffed by both missioners (mainly Europeans) and local clergy, religious, and bishops.
Catholic missions therefore form the back story to the Ethnological Collection. (In fact, until just a few years ago, it was called the Vatican Missionary Ethnological Museum.)
The founding of the Vatican Ethnological Collection involved Father Wilhelm Schmidt, SVD, a missionary ethnologist, and Pope Pius XI (pope 1922-1939), who was greatly committed to developing a strong national clergy and bishops in each mission that was staffed by foreign missioners.
These two visionary individuals did not always see eye to eye.
Click here to read the full article at OCCatholicNews.com. Dr. Robert Hurteau is a former missionary and recently authored A Worldwide Heart: The Life of Maryknoll Father John J. Considine, a biography on Maryknoll missionary John Considine that offers a look into the U.S. Catholic missionary movement in the twentieth century.