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Benedictine Health System: Touching Lives with the Blessings of a Century

125 years on, Minnesota monastery’s legacy is honored with extensive Heritage Edition tour

Posted March 22, 2018 in Healthcare
The Saint John's Bible at Benedictine Health System

Hospitality; Stewardship; Respect; Justice. At Minnesota-based Benedictine Health System, these Core Values of the Benedictine faith align with the idea of healthcare and are so much more than just words.

“At other organizations you may see the values displayed on the wall or on paper and that’s the extent of it,” said BHS marketing communication manager Julie Sellers. “At BHS, our associates bring our Core Values to life daily as they serve our guests and residents.” And those values have been shared just as faithfully as they’ve been lived, in one way or another, for the past 125 years.

The Saint John's Bible at Benedictine Health SystemBHS’ founding sponsor, the Sisters of St. Scholastica Monastery, founded in 1892, has long been a source of religious and healthcare ministry outreach in the Duluth area. The involvement of the Sisters in education and healthcare (including what may have been the first health insurance plan in America) has led the evolution of BHS as a leader in senior services for the Midwest.

“The Sisters have great influence and a strong legacy with BHS,” said Sellers. “BHS was looking for ways to honor and celebrate [them]” when BHS leadership met representatives of The Saint John’s Bible at an annual meeting of the Catholic Health Assembly.

Honoring the 125th anniversary of their founding meant finding a way to celebrate their history while putting their generations-long message in the spotlight. The history, artistry and community of The Saint John’s Bible, BHS administrators decided, was the perfect tribute to the legacy of the Sisters of St. Scholastica.

Reaching Out

The Sisters’ mission statement emphasizes the importance of contributing one’s personal talents and abilities to the betterment of their community. Sellers said she sees that spirit reflected in the opportunities The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Edition offers to BHS’ unique communities. BHS communities are located in five states throughout the Midwest and offer a wide variety of independent and assisted living, memory care, short-term rehabilitation, long-term nursing care, adult day services, care at home, community-based services and child care on their individual campuses.

“By giving our BHS communities the opportunity to host the Bible, they’re bringing the Sisters’ Benedictine heritage to our residents,” said Sellers. BHS communities started sharing the Heritage Edition this past January and it will visit nearly 40 BHS locations across the Midwest throughout 2018, escorted by BHS senior consultant for spiritual care David Allen (follow his travels with the #BHSOnTheRoad hashtag on Facebook and Twitter).

Along with the Heritage Edition, BHS sends additional resources like DVDs and textbooks about the Bible, special bookmarks to use as handouts, lighting, display options and signage to help facilitate each visit. But each community ultimately finds a way to make its time with The Saint John’s Bible unique and accessible to all.

“Benedictine Living Community of Duluth built a table about 18 inches off the ground so wheelchair-bound residents and pre-school children could easily view the Bible,” said Sellers. Another covered a rolling medical cart with a piece of plywood and a tablecloth and wheeled the Bible into a larger area when the crowd size exceeded its display room. Special accommodations and workarounds like these let each member of the community, from residents to family and staff, get as close as possible to the illuminated pages of The Saint John’s Bible.

“We want people to touch it,” said Sellers, and a bottle of hand sanitizer is always on-hand for just such occasions. The tactile impact of the Heritage Edition’s cotton pages, shining illuminations and specialty binding prompts a universal response. Even an evening pharmacy courier finishing his nightly deliveries dropped his cargo upon seeing the Bible outside its case. “He was so excited and moved to be able to get up close and touch the Bible. I was pleasantly surprised by the strong reaction he had to this opportunity,” said Sellers, recalling the encounter.

Some BHS residents have had an even more pronounced reaction to the experience. “Staff have shared that individuals, particularly those suffering from memory issues, were having deeper responses and reactions to the Bible,” Sellers recalled. “Something in those illuminations, something in those pages, was triggering much more expression and emotion than they typically communicate.”

Igniting the Spiritual Imagination to Make a Difference

Honoring the Sisters may be BHS’ stated goal, but it’s an unquantifiable one. When can you consider a legacy “honored”?

The Saint John's Bible at Benedictine Health SystemWith more than half the year ahead (concluding with a six-week stay at the St. Scholastica Monastery over Advent), Sellers said the metric for the success of their year with the Heritage Edition is less about promoting a message than making a difference – continuing a tradition and dedication established by the order that made BHS possible. “We’re a Catholic organization,” said Sellers, “but we’re open to all. The expression ‘Igniting the Spiritual Imagination’ – of people of all faiths – embodies that so well.”

Allen added, “The Saint John’s Bible has enhanced the spiritual connection of staff and residents with where they work and live. This whole tour is an absolute blessing.”

“The Sisters are such a unique group of women,” said Sellers. “They are visionary, and they’ve been doing so much for so long to benefit the communities they live and work in. If they knew they were sparking something for whatever reason in somebody, they would be pleased.

“If, at the end, we’ve made a difference in the lives of any of our residents or staff by bringing The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Edition to our communities, that’s a success.”