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African Art Collection Links Viatorian to the Peace Corps

October 9, 2019

Br. Leo V. Ryan, CSV, spent only one year as Deputy Director of the Peace Corps in Nigeria, before he was called away by the Viatorian Community to serve on its General Direction in Rome.

Fr. Daniel Hall helps arrange new exhibit.

Yet, his experience there — from 1966-1967 — was a cherished one. At the time, Nigeria was the second largest Peace Corps program, with 800 Peace Corps volunteers, 100 American staff and 100 Nigerian staff.

Br. Leo V. Ryan, CSV

“I was excited,” Br. Ryan said in his memoir. “It sounded challenging and interesting — a responsible position that would challenge my credentials and enhance my skills performing such a significant role.”

During Br. Ryan’s time in Nigeria he received many pieces of sculpture and other art works from different communities. One tribe even made Br. Ryan an honorary chief.

More than 50 years later, Br. Ryan’s room in the retirement wing of the Viatorian Province Center told the story. It was filled with favorite African pieces, including wooden sculptures, masks, baskets and batik textile pieces.

When Br. Ryan passed away in 2016, some of the pieces were sold while others were tagged and stored away.

Now, Fr. Daniel Hall, CSV, Provincial, wanted to bring the art pieces out to share with visitors at the Province Center. He selected new shelving to display the collection and worked to move the 85 pieces from storage into the exhibit space. He even gave the keepsakes a name: “African Art from the collection of Br. Leo V. Ryan.”