In March 2012, Alexian Brothers AIDS Ministry received a donation of two dozen icon paintings done by Robert Lentz, Lewis Williams and William Hart McNichols. These beautiful icons, now located in the Bonaventure House chapel, depict marginalized saints and martyrs.
Patrons of the AIDS Pandemic
“A Patron is a person of distinction under whose protection another is placed. These four Holy men were chosen because of their example of friendship and faith in the face of diseases of pandemic proportion.
There are 40 million humans worldwide that are HIV positive, 2.5 million of which are children. 4.1 million were newly infected and 2.8 million died of AIDS in 2005. Since 1981, 25 million people have died as a result of AIDS. This is a pandemic.
In this icon, two pairs of companions stand on either side of a chestnut tree; a symbol of life that goes on in spite of death. On the left, there are the friends Blessed Bartolo Buonpedoni, a Franciscan and diocesan priest, and Blessed Vivaldo, a Franciscan tertiary. In the 13th century, their shared ministry was to the leper colony at Celloli, Italy, where Bartolo contracted Hansen’s disease (leprosy) and lived (and served) with it for twenty years. The clapper he holds, a symbol of a leper, was a noise maker to alert others that a leper was close. Vivaldo survived him, called to live his life out as a hermit in the hollow of a chestnut tree, that he points to, and where he was found, upon his death, in prayer.
On the right stand the Carmelite lay brothers St.Avertanus and Blessed Romeo. In the 14th century, on an adventurous pilgrimage to the Holy Land over the Alps, they found all villages closed to them as a result of the plague. They are shown with pilgrim staff and water gourds. Romeo carries an arrow; symbol of the Plague. They both contracted the disease. Avertanus died first, followed soon by Romeo.
It is hoped that they offer solace to companions who have survived a loved ones death, or to friends/family burdened by the death of two companions.”
-Lewis Williams, SFO, “Patrons of the AIDS Epidemic,” from Trinity Stores.