Seattle, Washington – Though it’s not something we consider often, there are many different kinds of understanding in this world. Some ways of understanding live in the mind, as logic and reason do. And then there’s that other kind – that kind of wisdom that lives in the body, stemming from the heart, that entangles itself to every fiber and never lets go.
It’s infinite. It’s visceral. It makes what you thought you understood within the confines of your mind become truly real. Athletes experience this as muscle memory. For songwriters, its plucking melodies from the ether, then wondering from where they really originated. For families, its understanding the essence of a loved one far deeper than understanding the logistics of their day-to-day life. For Brad Neary, it’s looking people of all ages in the eye after they’ve experienced an illumination from The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Edition for the first time. This feeling — this embodied wisdom of a deep, sacred part of another human’s spiritual existence, that always seems to surface when confronted with the vibrant colors and metallics of the Heritage Edition – is his purpose.
This year, The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Program celebrates the work of Brad Neary and his 10th anniversary serving as Director of The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Program. The Saint John’s Bible is no ordinary bible. In fact, it is the first handwritten bible created by a Benedictine monastery in more than 500 years. Thanks to the dedication of the Heritage Program — and the 299 Heritage Editions of the work that were made to be shared across state and international boarders, cultures, and backgrounds — it is a work of art that has, and continues to, touch millions.
A proud alumnus of Saint John’s University, the institution that commissioned the original manuscript of The Saint John’s Bible back in 1998, Neary has been a supporter of the initiative since its inception.
But it wasn’t until 2005, when, having provided modest financial support for the project, Neary was invited to a special exhibit of The Saint John’s Bible at the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA), that he came to truly understand the magnitude of the work.
At the exhibit, he encountered a gentleman who was clearly attending the event out of obligation, as we all do from time to time. But it wasn’t long before something surprising happened. Neary noticed the man’s face was flushed. Then, he saw tears. In a sea of strangers, the man was weeping. As he wept, he quietly expressed to his wife confusion as to why his emotions seemed to well out of seemingly nowhere. It was an expression of the heart…and the soul.
To this day, the scene hasn’t left Neary’s mind.
“From the early phases of the project, I felt that it was something I should support, but it wasn’t until the evening at the MIA that I knew in my heart that I had made a wise choice,” said Neary. “If this man could be as moved as he was and could not even put words to what had grabbed his soul, then I knew in my soul that it could and would speak to all people on some level. That night made me understand that this project was going to touch more people in more profound and unique ways than I had ever imagined. And it continues to do so.”
Celebrating 10 Years of Brad Neary with the Heritage Program
After he graduated from Saint John’s University in 1981, Neary was asked to serve as Assistant to the President of the University, working in that capacity for three years before packing his things and heading to Europe. After his backpacking adventures, Neary found himself back in school, earning his master’s degree in Human Resources and Industrial Relations from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management in 1987. He held senior positions at TRW, KeyCorp, and Medtronic over the course of his 20-year career as a human resources professional.
Neary reconnected with the University in 2008, joining the Institutional Advancement team as a Senior Development Officer. In 2013, Neary and his family moved to Seattle, Washington. At that time, the University was seeking someone on the west coast to fill a director position for the Heritage Program. To Neary, it felt like divine intervention. He accepted the position, continuing to work half-time as a Senior Development Officer and half-time as Director of the Heritage Program. He balanced these two roles for nine years before transitioning to his current full-time role with the Heritage Program in May 2022.
The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Program has succeeded in helping nearly 170 institutions across the world acquire their own seven-volume set of The Saint John’s BibleHeritage Edition. The Heritage Program also has developed shorter and more affordable programming that allowsinstitutions to experience a “season” with the Heritage Edition, on a flexible timeline of the institution’s choosing. Neary has witnessedthe impact of hosting a Heritage Edition firsthand, notingsignificant increases in community engagement.
“I feel that there is a true partnership and a spiritual relationship that is established through this work, and it doesn’t end when a seven-volume set is acquired by an institution. There’s something that happens with stewards…they become very dear to me, and they become critical to the success of the Heritage Program. They become part of the Saint John’s family,” said Neary.
Work of this kind requires a resolute determination to encourage deep spiritual exploration among others. Neary’s commitment to these values is far from fleeting affection – but a purpose that he commits to every single day.
“Brad Neary is a tireless ambassador of The Saint John’s Bible. His passion, authenticity, and knowledge combine in making him uniquely qualified for this ministry in the world,” said Rev. Dr. John F. Ross, Executive Director of The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Program. “Brad has been a stand-out member of the Saint John’s family for decades and continues to this day doing some of his best, most meaningful work yet! As one of his stewards recently wrote, ‘Brad is truly the right person in the right place at the right time; this is his vocation, his ministry, and he carries it out with all of his gifts of mind, heart, and spirit.’”
After all these years, Neary’s steadfast love and devotion to the project remains true. His remarkable passion and authenticity push him to keep connecting with others and inviting them to ignite their spiritual imaginations.
“It’s hard to describe just how powerfully my role impacts me on a daily basis. It’s about the Heritage Edition’s capacity to ignite the spiritual imagination,” said Neary. “I work with a remarkable team of Saint John’s colleagues and incredible partners and stewards with whom I have the opportunity to collaborate. There’s something magical – even divine — that occurs every time I gather in community in the presence of this unique work of Scripture and sacred art.”
The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Program
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