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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

And the top job goes to....?

...Another guy.

Yep, that's right. Women are remarkably absent from any discussion of replacements for Leonard Downie or Meet the Press or NBC Washington Bureau Chief . The ME of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has announced his resignation, so I wonder what names will circulate to replace him?

I have no problem with men holding powerful positions in journalism. I have a problem with them holding virtually ALL the powerful positions in journalism. If you want to know why our mainstream news coverage resembles a middle-aged white guy, you need look no further than the newsrooms of most major newspapers.

As it happens Len Downie, a hometown boy, happens to be one of the greatest editors of one of the greatest newspapers. I would have worked for him in a heartbeat. You don't get 25 Pulitzers without fostering a sense of possibility, creativity and high expectations in a newsroom. Likewise, Jim Amoss at the New Orleans Times-Picayune is another I'd work for in a snap because of his commitment to fulfilling the promise of the press as a watchdog for the public.

But far do newspapers in particular have to decline before news organizations start looking a little differently at who is at the helm? This isn't an anti-guy rant, but more an anti-establishment rant. You know the old definition of insanity? Yeah, well, I think it applies to newspapers by the bucket loads.

Check out the numbers: According to the American Society of Newspaper Editors 2006 census: 38 percent of journalists working in daily newspapers are women; 65 percent of all supervisors are men.

Only 3 percent of women hold clout positions in journalism, according to the Annenberg Public Policy Center.

All this is despite the fact that women have been the majority of college journalism majors since 1977. (Ah, yep, that would include me.)

AN-ND... newspapers that enjoy growth from innovation and development are more likely to have a diverse set of leaders at the top.

But, hey, we don't pull our weight, right? Women correspondents report ONLY 25 percent of the stories on television, and women comprise 25 percent of contributors to "general interest" magazines.

Maybe THAT'S why we leave journalism in droves. Or maybe it's because the longer we work in this business the less we get paid compared to our male counterparts.

These statistics are helpfully gathered at McCormick Foundation's New Media Women Entrepreneurs, where they encourage and yes reward us for our knack with new media, social networks and our broader network of contacts and insatiable curiosity.

C'mon! We've got the data, now let's do something about it. And then maybe we can stop mourning for what was and start reaching for what's next.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Where to begin...

Apologies for the dearth of any meaningful posts here of late. I could say I've been too busy, because I have. It's been quite a frenzied month of story assignments, project beginnings, projects ending, projects hopefully getting underway. It's all good and I feel very blessed, indeed. But there's a good amount of hard work involved.

In addition to my regular features for the Catholic Universe Bulletin, I've also just completed work as part of a team of copy editors on the Kovel's Antiques & Collectibles Price List 2009, published by Black Dog & Leventhal. The massive guide will be published later this year.

Yesterday morning, I finalized a 10,000-word narrative on my three years of reporting and observing the small school transformation at Cleveland Heights High School. This year's work was particularly rich since I spent the year following the principal of one small school. Latching on to great characters makes the work highly enjoyable. But cutting and crafting the words is always a challenge. That work will be published by KnowledgeWorks Foundation in September.

You may have noticed the new publication RiseUp, which debuted as a magazine insert in newspapers across the country on Sunday (though not here in Cleveland). I wrote a feature story for that publication (I believe it will be in Sunday's issue. I'll link to it here.) and as a result have five more assignments that will keep me busy for most of the rest of the summer.

I'm working on my third feature for the Christian Science Monitor (running in mid-July). I especially enjoy the multimedia approach to this publication, which is always a great experience.

A market report I wrote for ASJA Monthly magazine was just published (sorry, I can't share publicly, members only). And my favorite pal and I are anxiously awaiting news on a grant that could lead to some very exciting work.

I'm also doing a different kind of writing (search engine optimization) for the Web and have completed work on one site (very fun and launching soon) and will begin work on another next week. This writing style is a nice break from the heavily reported pieces I've been working on.

So if I've been remiss in writing, I hope you'll understand. Gotta strike while the iron's hot. Look here for links to published work in the coming weeks. In the meantime, I'll try to do better with my posting.

Happy Summer!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Merton and the influence of books

In 1963, a reporter from the San Francisco Examiner sent a questionnaire to Thomas Merton. Here were the questions and Merton's responses as found in, "Echoing Silence: Thomas Merton on the Vocation of Writing," edited by Robert Inchausti.

1. Name the last three books you have read.

The Platform Scripture of Hui Neng, translated by Wing Tsit Chan
The Proslogion by St. Anselm of Canterbury
A Different Drummer by William Melvin Kelley

2. Name the books you are reading now.

Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play Element in Culture by John Huizinga
Ratio Verae Theologiae (The Real Meaning of Theology) by Erasmus
The Historian and Character by David Knowles

3. Books you intend to read.

Apology to the Iroquois by Edmund Wilson
The Silent Rebellion: Anglican Religious Communities, 1845-1900 by A.M. Allchin
Cur Deus Homo by St. Anselm of Canterbury

4. Books that have influenced you.

Poetic Works of William Blake
Plays of Aeschylus and Sophocles
Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas
Sermons of Meister Eckhart
De Doctrina Christiana, Confessions, and Sermons on Psalms of St. Augustine
Rule of St. Benedict
The Bhagavad-Gita
The Imitation of Christ, etc.

5. Why have these books been an influence on you?

These books and others like them have helped me to discover the real meaning of my life, and have made it possible for me to get out of the confusion and meaninglessness of an existence completely immersed in the needs and passivities fostered by a culture in which sales are everything.

6. Name a book everyone should read.

Besides the Bible (taken for granted and not included above) and such classics as The Imitation of Christ, I would select a contemporary book which I consider to be of vital importance and which I think everyone should read at this time: The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin.

7. Why this book?

This is the most forceful statement about a crisis that is of immediate importance to every American, and indirectly affects the whole world today. It is something that people have to know about. The Negro has been trying to make himself heard: in this book he succeeds.
Food for thought, eh? How about you? How would you answer those seven questions?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Get that boy a J-O-B

"You're young, you've got your health. What you want with a job?" — Raising Arizona

Every summer of my teenage existence there would be a day when for no obvious reason (to me and my siblings anyway) my mom would be highly agitated by our physical presence. If you listened closely (which we often didn't), she could be heard uttering things like, "This isn't a flop house." "There are chores to be done." "Go find something to do." "Get a job!"

We're only into the second week of summer and I've already experienced sluggish teens lying around and generally causing agitation both to me and their youngest brother (who seems to have no trouble occupying himself).

Chained to cells phones, texting and a steady diet of ESPN, they seem to be waiting for something to happen, though what exactly is anybody's guess. Middle son does a better job of getting out of the house, except that he seems to do so before having done his chores. In fact, he's quite stealthy in his ways. I'll either be on the phone or deep in thought working on something when he quietly mouths, "Mom, I'm going to Chris's house." I'll wave him away (as in I can't talk about this now) and he takes my wave as tacit approval to disappear.

I look in his room and there sits a basket full of clean laundry, an unmade bed and blinds that have yet to be opened. The basement (which we refer to as his apartment) will have cups and wrappers from the previous night's snacking strewn about. Oy! Thankfully, he's only a cell phone call away.

I've come to the realization that my oldest needs a J-O-B. His early mornings are filled with working out for football. His evenings are for fun and hanging with friends. But he's spent most afternoons flopped on the couch in front of ESPN Classic, watching old college football games.

The problem is, he's only 15 1/2. Were he 16, all sorts of employment options would be available. But this age thing is a real problem. I'll admit, I've been somewhat torn about insisting he work. After all, he has the rest of his life to work. Youth is so fleeting. But he wants money and he needs something to do. Plus he's starting driving and gas is expensive. So we're getting that work permit.

I am forever preaching "resourcefulness" as a virtue and to his credit, oldest found a job nearby that will give him some cash at least until school begins. And the important thing is that it not be a pain in the butt for me, which it isn't because he knows other kids who work there and can provide rides.

Once football is over and he turns 16 then we can reassess his job opportunities. But right now a little bit of something is better than afternoons of nothing.

Friday, June 13, 2008

UB story: Paging Father Art

My latest story in the UB is on Father Art Snedeker, the chaplain at MetroHealth Medical Center. My mom, who works in the Rammelkamp Center for Education and Research, remembers Father Art coming to visit her when she was a cancer patient at Metro. (Photo by Bill Reiter)

Paging Father Art

MetroHealth Chaplain helps critical patients
imagine their way to healing

By Wendy A. Hoke

CLEVELAND-The burn unit on the fifth floor of MetroHealth’s near west side campus is quiet today. As Father Art Snedecker, the Catholic chaplain, enters the unit he walks past the nurse’s station when his pager goes off. He turns to use the phone and check in on a patient. After a brief call, all is well—for now.

Snedecker is the chaplain for all the hospital’s critical care units, including patients and staff, and administers to its many Catholic patients.

Lynne Yurko, nurse manager of the burn unit, is standing nearby and smiles when she sees him coming down the hallway. “He is our priest, friend and colleague,” she says. “We laugh together and cry together and when something awful or evil happens, we pray together,” she says.

His presence fosters a peaceful environment in this critical care unit where stress levels frequently run very high.

“Father Art,” as his ID badge says, has been part of the hospital’s multi-disciplinary team for 10 years, and it’s a position that mixes his love of Christ and the power of prayer in healing with the miracles of modern medicine.

His presence has become so important to the burn unit that he, Yurko and three physicians conducted research on the role his pastoral care plays in reducing pain and anxiety in burn patients.

Using prayer, pastoral counseling, guided imagery (the use of rhythmic breathing and visualization) and breath of God (imagining the spirit of God entering them as they breathe), researchers found a significant decrease in both pain and anxiety for patients regardless of gender or faith community affiliation.

The work of guided imagery grew out of Father Snedecker’s work with a 15-year-old burn patient a number of years ago. “This boy had a high degree of pain and anxiety and was under sedation. He should not have remembered anything. But he ran with the image of being at a lake and fishing. In between expletives he would talk about the weather, the day, the clouds, the sky. What was so incredible was when he came out of sedation he wanted to apologize for his language. He should not have even remembered it,” he says, because of the heavy medications.

The therapy worked as Father Snedecker knew it would.

When he was in seminary in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Father Snedecker would have reflection retreats in which he was asked to picture himself sitting at a table with Jesus. “What’s he wearing? Is he smiling? Can you look into his eyes? What is he saying?”

Daydreaming and the process of sighing or expelling a deep breath is the body’s natural release of stress. That’s what Father Snedecker uses to empower patients in their own healing. “It’s as powerful as a person’s imagination and as intimate as their breath.”

In hindsight his path seems very clear.

Father Snedecker had always wanted to become a doctor. He was an orderly at Parma General Hospital and entered Bowling Green State University as a pre-med major. But after he entered college he received a different calling and chose instead to enter the seminary.

After his ordination, he was given a choice to pursue campus ministry or hospital chaplaincy. One night while sitting outside the chapel at Parma Hospital, he prayed for guidance. “I said no to chaplaincy and as I was driving away I wondered why I did that.

“Looking back I think I was too young and didn’t have enough life experience,” he says.

After years as a campus minister and then a parish priest, he suffered a heart attack and, at age 48, required open-heart surgery.

“I knew I needed to make lifestyle changes and I knew I’d been given a second chance,” he says. Against the advice of friends, he resigned as pastor of Immaculate Conception in Akron, and it wasn’t long after that former Bishop Anthony Pilla asked if he’d consider being a hospital chaplain.

What began as a temporary assignment became much more from the first moment Father Snedecker, now 60, set foot on MetroHealth. “As soon as I walked in the doors, I fell in love with the place. God blesses Metro because it cares for the poor,” he says.

“I learned very early on that I couldn’t do this alone. Every unit of the hospital operates as a team in caring for the patient. The work is not mine alone because Christ is here with me.”

The job remains tough because he faces not only trauma and tragedy, but also acts of evil at times. “My faith has been challenged, but also rewarded and I am a richer person for having this work in my life.”

Hoke is a freelance writer.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Has blogging changed your journalism?

Take a survey here.

Paul Bradshaw of Online Journalism Blog and Birmingham City University in England is compiling research on the topic. Take a few minutes to help him out.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Busy, busy; thanks, but no thanks; Copper Cup closed; and summer arrives

My backlog of posts I'd like to write is growing hourly. Of course I'll never get to half of them. As I told someone recently, I could write a post on the things I meant to write a post about. But a steady stream of deadlines has kept me hopping and otherwise committed. I'll try to get something halfway thoughtful posted later this week based on an event I attended last week, especially since it wasn't covered in the news.

Over the weekend I was daydreaming to my hubby how I'd love to take off the entire month of July. A month of playtime in the summer would be just enough to recharge the batteries. After that I'd be itching to get back to work. But with college looming in three years, such a break is unlikely.

Thanks, but no
Here's an open question: How is an anonymous $2 million gift to keep open one of the city's most vibrant parishes, which is spiritually and financially strong, deemed "inappropriate" by the Diocese? Disclosure #1: I attend St. Peter's Church from time to time and was at Sunday's Mass when the Parish Council made its report. I've been spiritually nourished by the parish's adult education series, including RCIA classes. Disclosure #2: The PD story quotes Robert Zack, who is a close family friend and used to be my boss years ago at Avenues magazine. Disclosure #3: I am a regular contributor to the Catholic Universe Bulletin, the diocesan newspaper. Disclosure #4: Bob Tayek, the diocesan spokesman, and I served on the local SPJ board together back in the early 1990s.

Copper Cup closed?
As a Bay Village resident, I am most loyal to Bob and Lisa Lowrie, proprietors of Java Bay. But I can't work there because there's a steady stream of people I know and there's no wireless. Just over the tracks on Dover Center Road in Westlake was the Copper Cup, which did offer free wireless in a fairly quiet beautiful setting. Unfortunately, it's closed right now and that's unfortunate for the legions of West Shore folks who worked there. But then again, one wonders how it can survive when a customer spends four hours and buys only a $2 cup of coffee. Hmmm...

Summer—and heat—arrive simultaneously

We just turned our furnace off a few weeks ago. I'm already sick and tired of having the house closed up with the A/C. I'd like to open the windows and smell the peonies in bloom.

We're headed back to the ortho today for a new, short, hopefully waterproof cast. This heat, humidity and a two-week-old cast = YUCK! Five days into summer vacation, we have yet to hit the pool. That has to be some kind of record.

Word of the day
vibrant: pulsating with life, vigor, or activity

Monday, June 09, 2008

"We are already one"

And the deepest level of communication is not communication, but communion. It is wordless. It is beyond words, and it is beyond speech, and it is beyond concept. Not that we discover a new unity. We discover an older unity. My dear brothers, we are already one. But we imagine that we are not. And what we have to recover is our original unity. What we have to be is what we are.

— Thomas Merton, The Asian Journal

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Foreclosure story has long legs

I never know where my stories will turn up. It's a bit disconcerting as I try to ascertain whether or not copyright has been violated. I'll share an example: Last night I was Googling myself (it's a good practice to get into regularly if you write for living) and found my latest Christian Science Monitor story on foreclosure bus tour turning up in all sorts of places. They go from simple links or blurbs (which is cool) to out and out reprints (which I'm not sure is cool).

Here's what I found:

Northeast Ohio River
: A stream of posts from Northeast Ohio blogs

Seeking Alpha

World Hum: Travel Dispatches from a shrinking planet (a Travel Channel blog)

Sarasota Herald-Tribune Creating Spaces blog

Axcess News
: News for the X Generation (a full reprint with credit to CSM but no permission)
: Will full reprint and photos and no permission from CSM Solon Wire

Foreclosure O.N.E.

The Simple Family

Digg With many listings from above

But then I also received an e-mail from an American living in Iran who wrote a lengthy note demonstrating the power of the Web. A writer from Cleveland publishes a story in a Boston-based newspaper that is eventually read on the news ticket of Yahoo Iran!

Go figure!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

'To bury the dead' wins first place in features

The Catholic Press Association announced the winners of its 2008 editorial contest this past weekend and I just learned this afternoon that my story, "To bury the dead" about the Joseph of Arimathea Society at St. Ignatius High School won first place in features category. Complete results of the contest are available as PDF.

Here's what the judges had to say:
"This story delivered a strong sense of place and purpose. The writer provided keen insight into this unusual ministry, telling the story of the living while paying reverence to the dead. It was also an easy, inviting read. The story is worthy of first place for more than a single reason."
Here's a link to the story. I want to acknowledge and thank photographer Bill Rieter for his great work on this and the many other stories we've worked on together. He does a fantastic job of quickly recognizing the kind of story I'm trying to tell and definitely added to the telling of this important story.

It's important to recognize the young men at St. Ignatius High School who give of their time so unselfishly to perform one of the great honors on this earth—carrying a person to their final resting place. Thank you, gentlemen, for letting me tag along and tell your story.

Monday, June 02, 2008

In Friday's UB: Vatican Splendors and St. John's Bible

I'm a bit behind in my postings, but here are links and copies of two of my stories from Friday's Catholic Universe Bulletin.

By Wendy A. Hoke

In the first century of the Common Era, during the time of Christ, there’s a legend that says King Abgar of Edessa in modern day Turkey had an incurable sickness. Hearing of the miracles of Jesus, he wrote to him asking for his help.

Jesus wrote back saying he could not come to Edessa, located in the Euphrates River basin in the cradle of civilization known as Mesopotamia. But he promised that when he ascended to heaven, he would send a disciple to heal Abgar. Before he died Jesus pressed his face into a rectangular piece of cloth and after he died, did indeed send one of his disciples to Abgar with the cloth.

“The Mandylion of Edessa” as the cloth is known today, is believed to be the earliest image of Christ and is one of the historic and spiritual treasures that await visitors to “Vatican Splendors,” an exhibition opening May 31 at the Western Reserve Historical Society and presented locally by the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums of Ohio, Inc.

The tour commemorates the 500th anniversary of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the founding of the Vatican Museums, Michelangelo’s painting of the Sistine Chapel, and the establishment of the Papal Swiss Guard.

“Visitors will have access to objects that have never before been seen in public and many that have never been outside of Rome,” says Mark Greenberg, president of Evergreen Exhibitions, which is producing the exhibition. Even if you go to Rome, you probably won’t get to see these items because many are not on public display.

Cleveland is the middle of only three stops on the tour that also includes St. Petersburg, Fla., and St. Paul, Minn. “Cleveland has such a strong Catholic community,” explains Greenberg. “We needed a venue with the experience to handle the size, security, handling and environmental controls of such an exhibition.”

Evergreen, the Vatican Office of Liturgical Celebrations and the curator of the Vatican Museums were convinced of the Western Reserve Historical Society’s capabilities following the success of the Princess Diana exhibition.

“Vatican Splendors” is designed to move visitors through galleries that illustrate the early church through to the election of Pope Benedict XVI.

Along with the Edessa image, the reliquary containing the venerated bones of St. Peter and architectural drawings of the original St. Peter Basilica built by the Roman Emperor Constantine represent the early church. The exhibition moves through time all the way to the ballot boxes and white-smoke canisters from the most recent papal election, giving visitors—both Catholic and non-Catholic—a glimpse of the church’s 2,000-year-old history.

While we don’t worship objects, many are sacramental, explains Father David Novak, pastor of St. Stanislaus and Holy Trinity parishes in Lorain and chairman of the board of the Museum of the Diocese of Cleveland. “We don’t worship water and yet we revere it as holy because it’s used as a way to communicate God’s grace and His love of the world,” he says.

The same can be said of the objects and art on exhibition here—objects that celebrate the great mysteries of life, death and resurrection.

“These objects say something about who we are and reflect our story as member of the Catholic church,” says Novak.

The art here reflects more craft than science and nowhere is that more evident than in the simple instrument of Michelangelo’s genius—a compass. The crude-looking instrument, says Greenberg, allowed for the construction of amazing buildings that reflect symmetry sometimes referred to as the sacred geometry.

With the televised death of Pope John Paul II and the election of Pope Benedict XVI, the exhibition will feature actual items from that process, including Swiss Guard uniforms and weaponry, and the ballot boxes and white-smoke canisters from the actual election.

The stories of the popes’ travels in the world are reflected through ancient maps of North America, China and Africa, and the gifts of a Thanka by the Dalai Lama and a wooden Tree of Life sculpture from Africa.

Church history is filled with stories of and the events that changed history and rearranged countries, such as the tiara given by Napoleon Bonaparte to Pope Pius VII, which was made from jewels stolen from the Vatican and featuring one of the world’s largest emeralds. Although it is spectacular in its detail, it also was made too small to wear, which was considered a veiled insult to the pope.

Aside from representing the church’s longstanding history in the world, “Vatican Splendors” also reminds us of the influence of the Vatican’s patronage on art and culture.

And it gives Catholics a way to remember and celebrate the alternating magistry and simplicity of a faith shaped by world history.

“Vatican Splendors” will be open through September 7, 2008 and on Monday-Wednesday, 10 a.m. - 9 p.m. Last admission is at 7 p.m.; Thursday-Sunday 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Last admission is at 5 p.m. The Western Reserve Historical Society is located at 10825 East Boulevard, (in University Circle). The Western Reserve Historical Society parking lot is located off of Magnolia Drive. Visit, or call 216-721-5722. For advance group discount information and reservations, contact sales@ or call 800-840-1157.

St. John's Bible illuminates the word of God for our time

By Wendy A. Hoke

UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS—St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn., is essentially a train stop, a modern campus that marks time by the rhythm of the monks who call the abbey home.

Just an hour from the Twin Cities, it also is home to a spectacular work of art. For the first time in 500 years, the Benedictines of St. John’s Abbey have collaborated on a handwritten and illuminated bible known as the St. John’s Bible.

If your summer travel plans don’t include a trip to the Twin Cities, you can head over to John Carroll University, where just inside the Grasselli Library is a copy of the Wisdom Books of the St. John’s Bible, a gift from Target Corp., in honor of retired Target Executive Vice President John Pellegrene, a North Canton native and John Carroll alumnus.

The oversized Bible is rich with imagery from a craft that dates to the ancient world, when manuscripts were on scrolls of papyrus, according to Joseph Kelly, professor of religious studies at John Carroll University. By the Eighth and Ninth centuries, Benedictine monasteries of the west, under the patronage of the Emperor Charlemagne, began writing and illuminating not just sacred works, but also secular works such as love songs.

Near the end of the Middle Ages, however, capitalism and the need for a literate public led to more widespread printing of books. Illuminated manuscripts were left to history.

But in the early 1970s, Donald Jackson—senior illuminator to the Queen of England’s Crown Office—appeared on NBC’s “The Today Show” where host Barbara Walters asked him about his life’s dream. His response? “I would like to write the Bible.”

Later he would describe his dream as, “The calligraphic artist’s supreme challenge (our Sistine Chapel), a daunting task.”

Sharing his life’s dream on national television brought him to the attention of St. John’s Abbey, a Benedictine monastery with the largest collection of manuscripts in the world—10 million images and 2 million manuscripts, according to Craig Bruner, director of operations, The St. John’s Bible.

Jackson was the main attraction at the first calligraphy conference held at St. John’s in 1984. During an interview with Minnesota Public Radio, he reiterated his desire to write the Bible, something Abbey community kept in mind as the relationship between them continued.

In the mid-1990s, in preparation for a millennium project, Father Eric Hollas of St. John’s asked Jackson over lunch if he would make the word of God live on the page.

“Do you want it?” he asked.

The answer was unequivocally yes. Jackson and St. John’s Abbey would illuminate the St. John’s Bible—a celebration of books, the book arts and religion.

Video accounts on St. John’s Web site show Jackson using the ancient practice of preparing his Quill, stripping its feathers and mixing his inks with egg yolks for lasting color.

In March 2000, the first words were penned.

In the beginning was the Word,

And the Word was with God,

And the Word was God.

Brother Dietrich Reinhart, OSB, describes the frontispiece as, “The word of God striding out of cosmic time into the world we live in.”

When complete in late 2009 or early 2010, the entire St. John’s Bible will comprise seven volumes—Pentateuch, Wisdom Books, Psalms, Prophets, Gospels and Acts of the Apostles, Historical Writings and Letters and Revelation, according to Bruner.

In all, the St. John’s Bible will contain 1,160 pages and 160 illuminations. While the originals will be housed at St. John’s on permanent exhibition, reproductions like the one at John Carroll will travel the world.

While the text is rooted in history, using ancient methods, it is also very much a product of its time, according to Kelly.

“When medieval scribes were writing and illuminating the Bible, they wrote and illuminated what they knew—flora, fauna and people around them,” says Bruner. “It was modern to them just as the illuminations in the St. John’s Bible reflect the flora, fauna and life of people today.”

In the opening to Matthew with the genealogy of Christ, the illuminations feature the double helix of DNA embedded in the manuscript. “That locates this work in the 21st century, because that’s when human genome project was completed,” says Bruner.

The books are more a work of art than scholarly text, but Bruner says the original will be used liturgically for Christmas, Easter, graduation and other major celebrations.
And there’s a hope the reproductions, which will make their way around the world, will ignite spiritual imaginations.

“We’re trying to make a statement about faith and the importance of art and imagination,” says Brother Reinhart in a video about the project. “The fact that there’s common ground for us to stand on in a world torn apart by violence and hatred and it’s to be found in the sacred texts that enliven and enrich all cultures on this planet.”

Visit for information, photos and video of the project.
Hoke is a freelance writer.

Materials used in the original St. John’s Bible

The original Bible is made on calfskin vellum, specifically prepared for writing. The reproductions are made on 100 percent cotton archival paper.

Inks used include lapis lazuli, 24-karat gold leaf and 100-year-old Chinese black inks made from candle soot.

The gold leaf is decades old and made by hammering pieces of gold flat until it is foil thickness. Calligraphers use a substance called gesso—white lead, fish glue and plaster—that they paint on and let it dry. Using a small tube in their mouth they blow on the gesso to warm it up and create a surface glue that they put the foil on. Using a burnisher, (a stone mounted on a wood handle) the calligrapher rubs the foil, making it permanent.