A quarter-century of hospitality offered in the cornfields of Nebraska now includes a permanent, interactive exhibit of the Saint John’s Bible (SJB) Heritage Edition, one of the most impressive and accessible displays in the country.

In the spirit of Benedictine hospitality, Saint Benedict Center was established in 1997 on behalf of Christ the King Priory of Schuyler, Nebraska to welcome all guests as Christ, offering a place of peace for people of many faiths who seek God.

On Sunday, July 17, 2022, the 25th anniversary of Saint Benedict Center was celebrated with the Grand Opening of the Saint John’s Bible Heritage Edition Display, set #150 out of a limited edition of #299, gifted during the year Nebraska observed its 150th Anniversary of Statehood.

The Saint John’s Bible is the first handwritten bible commissioned by a Benedictine monastery in more than 500 years. The Heritage Edition is a special leather-bound version, inspired by the original, printed on 100 percent cotton paper. In this state-of-the-art display, visitors can learn how The Saint John’s Bible was made using traditional materials like vellum (calfskin), ancient inks, and quills. They can see each of the Heritage Edition’s volumes in a separate display case and browse through the pages using an interactive kiosk. There is ample space for prayer and meditation using the texts and images.

The exhibit at Saint Benedict Center includes beautiful images with both English and Spanish translations to learn about Donald Jackson’s vsion to hand-illuminate the Bible.

When Brad Neary, Director of the Heritage Edition, visited Saint Benedict Center in 2017, he knew he had found the space he was looking for— “a sight that people from all walks of life and all religious traditions could experience the Saint John’s Bible.” He coordinated a match between generous donors Allen and Vivian Hager from Omaha and Fr. Thomas Leitner, Administrator of Saint Benedict Center, to display the Bible as a “gift for the new millennium”—a hand-illuminated Bible featuring exquisite, vibrant imagery and stunning gold and silver illuminations to honor women, include those who have been marginalized and to celebrate science and technology.

Brad Neary, Saint John’s University and Director of the Heritage Edition with Fr. Thomas Leitner, Administrator of St. Benedict Center, Schuyler, Nebraska.

Rev. Dr. John Ross, Executive Director of the Heritage Program, shared in a keynote address that the Saint John’s Bible is a “collaboration between the Holy Spirit and the human spirit.” An opportunity to visit both Saint Benedict Center and the Saint John’s Bible is an opportunity to slow down and appreciate the ancient text and art.

The Rev. Dr. John Ross, Executive Director of The Saint John’s Bible’s Heritage Program and Brad Neary Director of the Heritage Edition.

“We tend to read greedily and hastily, as we do so many other things; this beautiful text shows us a better way. This project not only revives the ancient tradition of the church sponsoring creative arts, it also offers an insight into the lost skill of patient and prayerful reading.”

–The Most Rev. Rowan Williams, Former Archbishop of Canterbury

“We have lost this skill of patient and prayerful reading,” Dr. Ross shared. “Ancient ways force us to slow down, which is much needed for these anxious times.” The hand-illuminated process, using ancient techniques, could not be rushed. It would take seventeen years from the time Donald Jackson commissioned the handwritten Bible in 1997 to its completion. The opportunity to experience the St. John’s Bible is to encourage a space for rest, a time to slow down and an invitation to carry this slower pace into our daily lives.

The anniversary celebration culminated with a panel of loyal visitors sharing experiences and final words of wisdom from monastery Prior, Fr. Joel Macul. “That we accept everyone as Christ is not just a saying on the wall, it is something we live. We let people be who they are; we do not judge. This is what hospitality is and it is absorbed into the culture of monastic life.”

We invite you to St. Benedict Center to experience our hospitality by experiencing the Saint John’s Bible!

Additional Resources:

The blessing and enthronement of the Saint John’s Bible Heritage Edition was celebrated at Saint Benedict Center by Fr. Michael Patella of Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota on October 11, 2020 with a small private Mass of monks and oblates. See photo album HERE.