Saint John’s Bible Road Trip

“Well I’m flyin’ ‘cross the land tryin’ to get a hand playin’ in a travelin’ band”                                                                                                                Creedence Clearwater Revival

One of the most unique and rewarding aspects of our work at the Bishop Farrell Library & Archives is the outreach we do with The Saint John’s Bible.

The Saint John’s Bible is a modern day illuminated bible, designed and produced from 2000 – 2011.   It is a combination of ancient and modern techniques, contemporary and traditional images.  The mission of The Saint John’s Bible is “to ignite the spiritual imagination of people around the world of all faith journeys”.

It is the full Catholic bible encompassing seven volumes: Pentateuch, Historical Books, Wisdom Books, Psalms, Prophets, Gospels and Acts, and Letters and Revelation. St. John’s Abbey and University in Collegeville, Minnesota commissioned the renowned British calligrapher Donald Jackson to collaborate in the creation of The Saint John’s Bible.  It is the first handcrafted bible of its scale to be commissioned by a Benedictine abbey in over five hundred years.

The Diocese of Hamilton is home to a Heritage Edition of The Saint John’s Bible.  This is a fine art reproduction comprising all of the illuminations and text of the original.  The Heritage Edition was designed to share the beauty of the original with the world and to inspire people through the celebration of the Word of God.  Each volume is stamped and embossed in gold to ensure it is true to the artistic intent of the original Saint John’s Bible.

Creation 1

Illumination for Creation, Pentateuch Volume, Heritage Edition, The Saint John’s Bible, Photo courtesy of Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota. 2014

In 2016, the Diocese of Hamilton began the process of acquiring a Heritage Edition of The Saint John’s Bible.  We received one to two volumes at a time over a year and a half, from August 2016 until April 2018.  Bishop Crosby immediately saw in The Saint John’s Bible a way of drawing people in – of reaching out and providing opportunities for people to experience scripture in new ways.  We are very blessed in the Diocese of Hamilton to have the opportunity to share The Saint John’s Bible.  We provide a number of experiences:  visio divina prayer sessions, talks on the mission and making of the Bible, open opportunities for people to explore the Bible page by page, and calligraphy workshops that look at the tools of the trade and give people the chance to have a hands on experience with calligraphy.  It’s been an amazing and humbling experience to see people of all ages and backgrounds engage deeply, in such varied forms, with the Word of God.

Part of this experience involves travelling.  While we welcome everyone to come and see The Saint John’s Bible on display in the Bishop Farrell Library & Archives, we want to embrace the Bible’s mission of outreach.  And so we take the Bible to the people.  We go to schools, parishes, and ecumenical events.  As Bridget Ker, our Coordinator for The Saint John’s Bible says, “As long as there’s no food, fire, or water we’ll take the Bible to you!”  We’re kind of a travelling band.


The Adventure begins!  Bridget Ker, Coordinator of The Saint John’s Bible and Dominy Williams, Director of Library & Archives about to hit the road, on a mission to share The Saint John’s Bible

Last month we had the pleasure of travelling to Kingston to share The Saint John’s Bible with the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul.  We brought with us two volumes of the bible:  Wisdom Books and Gospels & Acts.  The day of fellowship involved a display of Gospels & Acts during the Sunday morning liturgy, followed by talks on the mission and making of the Bible.  Those in attendance then had the opportunity to dive into the volumes with an overview of each volume and an open discussion on the art and symbolism of the Bible.  It was a lovely day filled with joyful discipleship.


Bridget Ker, Coordinator of The Saint John’s Bible speaking on the mission and making of the Bible at the “Chapel of Mary, Mother of Compassion”, Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul

Discussion focused on the art and making of the bible but also centered on the Benedictine values of transformation, justice for God’s people, and radical hospitality, which are emphasized in text and imagery throughout The Saint’s John’s Bible.  The charism of the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul is to provide “compassionate caring for God’s people, especially the most destitute” through “service given in a spirit of humility, simplicity and charity, and relying on the providence of God”.  The themes highlighted through The Saint John’s Bible had a strong connection to the vision and mission of the Sisters of Providence and to their lives dedicated in union with the suffering Christ and Mary.

It was an enriching experience for all who were there, including us!  We were treated to a very warm welcome and kind hospitality by all.  Sr. Margo Shafer, Sr. Frances O’Brien, Fr. Ed Debono, and Albert Dunn in particular, ensured for the enjoyment of our stay and the success of our work.  Veronica Stienburg, Archivist for the Sisters of Providence, also spoiled us with a lovely dinner and tours of their Archives, Printing Room Museum, and Heritage Room.


Veronica Stienburg, Archivist for the Sisters of Providence in her office


Printing Room Museum, Our Mother of Sorrows Chapel at Providence Manor, Kingston

As St. Augustine wrote, “the world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page”.  We are very grateful to have the opportunity to fill the book of life with many pages.

For more information on The Saint John’s Bible in the Diocese of Hamilton view our video or visit our website at


Banner Image:  Creation, Covenant, Shekinah, Kingdom, Donald Jackson, Copyright 2006, The Saint John’s Bible, Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota USA. Used by permission.  All rights reserved.