Dora Pédery-Hunt is holding a cast of one of her medal designs Photo by Elizabeth Frey

Rare works of renowned artist make their way to archdiocese

  • November 8, 2015

Anyone who has held a Canadian quarter in their hands has encountered Dora de Pédery-Hunt’s work. She was the first Canadian citizen to design an effigy of Queen Elizabeth II which has been used on Canadian coinage since 1990.

Now, the Archdiocese of Toronto’s chancery office houses a small collection of the famous sculptor’s work.

When Pédery-Hunt died in 2008, her great grand-nephew Matthew Hencz inherited the entire collection of her work. Among the notable medallions she designed were the official government medal for Expo ’70 in Osaka, Japan, the Olympic commemorative medals for the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal and a medal for the city of Toronto’s bicentennial in 1993.

With the help of Ildiko Hencz, Matthew’s mother and Pédery- Hunt’s niece, they chose a selection of her religious art to donate to the Archdiocese of Toronto.

“My aunt was a very prolific artist,” said Ildiko of the Hungarian-born Pédery-Hunt, who with her family fled her homeland during the Second World War before coming to Canada in 1949. “I inherited a great deal of stuff from my aunt. All her art is still in my bedroom and basement, and I just thought it needed a home better than that.”

Donations like Pédery-Hunt’s art collection are rare for the Archdiocese of Toronto. Occasionally, the development office receives bequests of unusual gifts, such as religious art and artifacts.

In recent months, Quentin Schesnuik, manager of planned giving and gifts, has received a stamp collection, a pair of $5,000 paintings and a possible second-class relic of St. Thomas More.

Though these gifts are welcomed additions for the Archdiocese of Toronto, the development office works hard to determine the value of these gifts and how these gifts can best serve the archdiocese.

“I’m just hoping that they would be on display or used where other people can enjoy them,” said Ildiko. “They are lovely to look at and if you get a chance to hold it and look at it, look at the hands. They are her hands.”

Pédery-Hunt’s works ended up with the archdiocese because of her great love for the Church. Over the years, she designed artwork for many churches across Ontario, including stations of the cross, crucifixes and even designs for baptismal fonts.

The late Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic, former archbishop of Toronto, was a great fan of her work. He collected many of her pieces himself, as well as commissioning her talents for significant moments in the archdiocese’s history. Pédery-Hunt designed the archdiocese’s Sesquiscentennial Medallion which has been awarded to fewer than a dozen men and women recognized for their service to the Church. Pédery- Hunt also designed a medal which was gifted to Pope St. John Paul II during his visit to Toronto for World Youth Day 2002.

A few, but not all, of these historical designs are now being temporarily kept at the archdiocese’s chancery office. The hope is that the medal collection will find a permanent home for display so others can enjoy them.

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