Portsmouth: A showcase of unofficial saints

Hugh Gibbons with Gallery. Image: Jo Lewry, CAFOD Portsmouth

Hugh Gibbons with Gallery. Image: Jo Lewry, CAFOD Portsmouth

An unusually ecumenical gallery had its first public appearance on 24 November - in the Discovery Centre of Portsmouth Catholic Cathedral after the Thanksgiving Mass for the Canonisation of St Oscar Romero.

Created by Hugh Gibbons in Bracknell, the two-metre high Adelante Gallery is "a sort of vertical commonplace book, to amuse the eye, mind and soul".

Hugh built it during the summer, in part to chime with Romero becoming an official saint of the Church on 14 October. The name comes from the Spanish word for Forwards - shouted by him as Archbishop when the crowd at the funeral of Fr Utilio Grande was blocked by soldiers. The four faces of the Gallery offer many other takes to show why he's respected far and wide.

But Hugh saw an opportunity to move art forward. So the freestanding Gallery on wheels is also a colourful showcase of Unofficial Saints. It pays tribute to all sorts of inspirers, uplifters, encouragers, campaigners and social justice and peace - and makers of waves.

The Gallery also offers Hugh's Alphabet of Unofficial Saints, "which schools and parishes might enjoy emulating. It may form the basis of a cheerful week of acclamation in the Spring".

The exhibits offer an unusual array of cultural diversity. They include the voices of Jo Cox MP, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Martin Luther King Jnr, Mary Robinson, Kurt Vonnegut, Malala Yousafzai, Henri Dunant, the Royal British Legion, Anglican Bishop Peter Price, Dorothy Day, Fr Michael Campbell-Johnson SJ, and the Co-Director of Toronto's FCJ Refugee Centre. Hans Egil Offerdal kindly provided a long litany of other "voices for the voiceless" in Latin America, starting with Bartolome de las Casas. And the well-known Martyrs of the Twentieth Century above the west door of Westminster Abbey have a presence.

Makers of Waves are celebrated. So Fr Daniel Berrigan SJ is referenced - seen in his office with its large wall poster saying: "We need more bishops like Romero".

The Gallery lists two dozen community organisations with Adelante in their name, many across the USA. NGOs Adelante Africa in Uganda and Vamos Adelante in Guatemala get coverage. And there's news of women journalists on tough reporting assignments in Latin America under the Adelante initiative of the International Women's Media Foundation.

Others contributed. Churches Together in England donated a pair of FairTrade socks as a token of their admiration of Romero's modest lifestyle, in which he was happy with just three: one on, one in the wash, one in the drawer. It's just above the familiar CAFOD postcard: Aspire Not to Have More but to Be More. Pax Christi helped with the balsawood crosspiece that carries a genuine sickle and a 20mm cannon case to go with the famous Romero saying about the Violence of Love turning weapons into sickles. The TUC provided a carpenter's pencil, as an allusion to his first vocation and the respect trade unions around the world for the record of Romero on human rights.

The UK-based Forgiveness Project gets a place - together with an actual touch of the weekly hour of silence that for over 300 years pupils at Sidcot Quaker school in Somerset have cherished as breathing space.

The Gallery has something else that visitors are welcome to touch. It's a relic from another 14 October - a WW2 fragment of an historic American Flying Fortress and soil from the American German Air Memorial Garden of reconciliation and St Josef's Church in its target city of Schweinfurt in 1943. It's accompanied by an an even more poignant story of common humanity - shown by the great mix of citizens, prisoners or war, and forced labourers caring for survivors of the bombing regardless of nationality or ethnicity.

The Gallery will have a winter home based in the chapel at Oaklands School & Sixth Form College in Waterlooville. The RE Department plan visits to schools participating in their Oscar Romero Award scheme (www.romeroaward.co.uk). The Gallery is ingeniously made in sections to travel in the back of a family car. In the Spring, Adelante will be available for schools and parishes with suitable space to borrow and put the Gallery to use in extended stays or brief meetings.

For further information and news, see: www.just1.org.uk/adelantegallery or contact [email protected]

Tags: Hugh Gibbons, Adelante Gallery, Portsmouth

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