Providence College hosts rare Dominican stamp collection

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PROVIDENCE — Providence College is hosting a unique exhibit this month at the Center for Catholic and Dominican Studies. Philately and Holiness: Dominican Saints and Themes from the Stamp Collection of Dominican Reverend James A. Driscoll is sponsored by the Office of Mission and Ministry.

Father Driscoll, retired theology professor and philatelist, has put together a display that takes a rare look into the world of theological stamps with a special emphasis on Dominican history. The collection includes stamps of four eminent leaders of the Dominican order: St. Dominic Guzman (founder of the Dominican Order of Preachers), St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Albert the Great (Albertus Magnus) and St. Catherine Siena.

His interest in stamps started as a young boy, but his collecting of religious stamps began in 1954.

That particular year was proclaimed a Marian year by Pope Pius XII, and was also the year of Father Driscoll's ordination. “That started my concentration on religious stamps,” he said. “It’s important to have a focus when collecting or you become easily overwhelmed.”

Through traveling, reading and occasionally attending shows, he has been able to amass a collection of Marian and Vatican stamps, one he has been working on for more than 50 years.

The exhibit shows the reach of the Dominicans throughout the world and includes stamps from Italy, Spain, Germany, Czechoslovakia and the Philippines. Stamps are, as the National Postal Museum states, “miniature gateways to the world.” — or in the case of this exhibit, the Dominican world.

Several stamps and first-day covers of revered church leaders are paintings by classic artists such as Titian and Fra Angelico (another Dominican, named the patron saint of artists by Pope John Paul II). “Stamps are educational,” said Father Driscoll. “They teach history, art, geography, and politics. They have the ability to connect events to places and people.”

Stamp collecting and philately (the study of stamps) is still a popular hobby, requiring focus and patience, something that, as Father Driscoll noted, “is increasingly at odds in the world of cell phones and laptops.” Many collectors are older; but as with any hobby, those that are bit by the collecting bug find enjoyment and education in pursuing their passion.

All are invited to stop by the Center for Catholic and Dominican Studies and view a moment of history in a place that encourages quiet reflection and study. Providence College, the only college in the United States administered by the Dominican Friars, is offering a peek at its distinguished and noble religious history.

The stamp collection will be on display Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. until October 26.