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‘Portraits of Grace’ Exhibit Honors Heroes of the COVID-19 Pandemic

‘Portraits of Grace’ Exhibit Honors Heroes of the COVID-19 Pandemic

“NYC Gifts” — Sisters of Life walk up Seventh Avenue in Manhattan on their way to Mass at Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral, from where they would process with others to the Margaret Sanger Planned Parenthood for a monthly witness. The monthly prayer and sidewalk counseling at the abortion center continued through the pandemic, as did the abortions. The religious order was founded in the Archdiocese of New York 30 years ago by Cardinal John O’Connor. (photo: Jeffrey Bruno / The Sheen Center for Thought & Culture)

New York City’s Sheen Center for Thought & Culture is featuring a photo exhibit of inspiring moments from the pandemic.

In the past year and a half, New Yorkers have suffered through the same months of lockdowns, fear and sickness as the rest of the country.

The images and reports of the suffering have been endless.

Yet there were countless moments of people helping others, of caring, of reaching out and offering hope. Moments of courage and moments of trust in God. Moments of transcendence and prayer.

Now the Sheen Center for Thought and Culture in Manhattan is presenting a photographic exhibit that highlights and honors that spirit. “Portraits of Grace: Honoring Heroes of the COVID-19 Pandemic” showcases the human and the divine present in the pandemic experience.

From now to Oct. 4 the Sheen gallery, in collaboration with America Media and the National Review Institute’s Center for Religion, Culture, and Civil Society, and with support from the Anglosphere Society and the Knights of Columbus, are hosting the exhibit. The presentation is intended to capture New Yorkers challenged in ways no one expected, while at the same time offering the living witness of the Gospel message in action.

Amanda Bowman, a board member of the Sheen Center, had the idea of a photographic project to highlight the heroism seen during the pandemic in New York. It would prominently feature the Catholic response but not be limited to it. It would present the Church’s outreach alongside others and present a picture of how coming together worked to bring grace, healing and hope to a suffering city.

When photojournalist Jeffrey Bruno was asked to be the curator, he didn’t realize how few pictures had been taken during the peak of the pandemic. He found that few photographers had taken pictures of how the coronavirus was impacting the city. In addition to many photographers being out of work, hospitals and other venues were not allowing anyone in, many churches were closed, and some photographers didn’t want to be out and about during the pandemic. His role involved countless hours of photo research, speaking with photographers and combing galleries to compile the photos needed.

Bruno found one photographer who did have hospital access because he worked for a medical company, Northwell. Lee Weissman’s photos gave a glimpse of what it was like emotionally for healthcare workers who kept showing up not knowing what toll the virus could take on them or their families if exposed.

“A portrait of courage emerges,” Bruno says. “That’s selfless heroism. I developed a richer understanding and appreciation for those who showed up on the battle lines.”

Heroes of the pandemic were not only medical personnel. Priests, consecrated women and men, and dedicated lay people stepped forward to bring the Gospel’s message of hope. The images honors those who were there to meet the physical and spiritual needs of a people in crisis.

The words of Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, are intertwined between the photos.

“No matter how dark some days seemed,” he said, “we remained united in our unwavering faith in God, knowing that he would bring light out of the darkness, hope from despair, life from death.”

The exhibition is free of charge and marks the grand re-opening of the Sheen Center. Visit the Sheen Center’s “Portraits of Grace” web page for more information.

“Re-entering His Presence” — A young man from St. Francis House in Brooklyn prays quietly on May 26, 2020 — the first day that churches in New York City re-opened after being closed.(Photo: Jeffrey Bruno)


“Portrait of Grace” — A nurse at Lennox Hill Hospital in Manhattan brings hope and encouragement to a patient suffering with complications due to COVID-19.(Photo: Lee Weissman)LEE S. WEISSMAN


“A World Mourns” — Jorge Islas López, consul general of Mexico in New York, joins his staff in carrying the cremated remains of 250 Mexicans who had died from COVID-19, from St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. The ashes were blessed by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan.(Photo: Gregory Shemitz)Gregory A. Shemitz, Three Village Photo, LLC


“Christ in the Streets” — Father John Miara, pastor of the Shrine of the Holy Innocents, leads a Eucharist Procession on the Feast of the Holy Innocents, Dec. 28, 2020, in New York’s Garment District.(Photo: Jeffrey Bruno)


“Compassionate Care” — Nurse Manager Erin Smith and RN Bayo Lawal examine a COVID-19 patient at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan in November 2020. Smith begins each shift with an Our Father and a Hail Mary.(Photo: Lee Weissman)LEE S. WEISSMAN


“Honoring Our Lady in Harlem” — A statue of Mary is lifted above the crowd of about 750 people on the Feast of the Assumption. Auxiliary Bishop Edmund Whalen celebrated Mass in French at St. Joseph of the Holy Family Church and led the annual procession through the streets of Harlem.(Photo: Jeffrey Bruno)
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