Skip to main content

Intergenerational, Ecumenical, and Interruptive: The Franciscan Renewal Center’s 10 Years with The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Edition

The year 2024 marks the 10-year anniversary of the arrival of the Heritage Edition of The Saint John’s Bible at the Franciscan Renewal Center. This gift was received with open arms and has since ignited community excitement for the ways it has served – and will continue to serve -- its mission of renewing lives through spiritual growth, healing and transformation, and service to others.

Posted May 15, 2024 in Religious Institutions
Photo courtesy of the Franciscan Renewal Center: The Casa lies at the heart of Paradise Valley, under the protective gaze of Camelback Mountain.

Scottsdale, Arizona — In times of both strife and joy, many people turn to spirituality to find their path forward. At the Franciscan Renewal Center, affectionately referred to as “The Casa,” leaders of spiritual thought who aid in this work are in abundance. Centered in the concept of renewal, leaders at The Casa support the whole person in growing ever more connected to God, seeking out personal healing and transformation, and giving back to those around them.

This year marks 10 years since the Heritage Edition of The Saint John’s Bible was gifted to The Casa. Since its arrival, The Casa has undergone its own transformation (in and of itself a renewal of sorts) incorporating the Heritage Edition into its space in new and increasingly invigorating ways.

Photo by Rick Rusch: The Heritage Edition is always on display in the lobby of the Franciscan Renewal Center.
Photo by Rick Rusch: The Heritage Edition is always on display in the lobby of the Franciscan Renewal Center.

“The Heritage Edition has blessed our community by becoming such an important, integrated part of our work here. We’ve held retreats and workshops built around the artwork, and we’ve incorporated it into our liturgy and scripture readings during Holy Days,” said Charles “Charlie” Brown, Executive Director at the Franciscan Renewal Center. “The more you learn about The Saint John’s Bible, the more curious you become. It’s such a fascinating way for us to be able to show and share in the Word of God.”

In places with a strong spiritual current such as The Casa, a foundation of unconditional love and intentional service is used to guide all areas of work. It’s a practice built around Saint Francis and Saint Clare of Assisi and the ways they led their lives as followers of Christ and symbols of unity and harmony. The volunteers and staff members who support the Franciscan Renewal Center work hard to channel these values in their daily activities. These seekers approach their work by considering how they can best support others in leading balanced, connected, and spiritually aware lives.

One such way is by honoring a concept that many of us, upon first encounter, might consider a nuisance to everyday life or spiritual practice. They call it interruption.

“One of the values to which we’ve espoused ourselves for at least 20 years is welcoming interruptions. We believe that interruption is the Holy Spirit at work,” said Brown. For The Casa community, an interruption can be anything from stopping to have a conversation with somebody you passed on your way to a meeting to taking the time to encounter something beautiful such as a roadrunner flitting across the desert landscape, a new flower that is in bloom, or the beautiful pages of the Heritage Edition, perpetually open in The Casa lobby, that one might one day see in a new light without warning.

“If you’re going to be late for a meeting because someone stopped you on your way and wants to talk or pray with you, we believe it’s the right time to do that,” said Brown. “Most folks say that when they reflect on their day, it isn’t only the things they got done that were important to them, but also the interruptions that came into their lives. When you build your culture around perspectives like that, it changes everything in terms of how you take care of people and how you treat one another.”

Finding Renewal with the Heritage Edition

Each year, The Casa receives more than 600 nonprofit groups, or 35,000 visitors. To offer a meaningful spiritual experience for guests, Brown, docent Marge Woods, and others work hard to ensure everyone who enters the center engages with the Heritage Edition and feels encouraged to spend time viewing its hand-scribed calligraphy and powerful illuminations.

The Casa also offers 50-minute talks with the Heritage Edition at conferences across the nation and provides workshops on the art forms present in the Bible, where visitors can learn the skills used to craft the elegant pages of the Heritage Edition and gain a deeper appreciation for the incredible undertaking that is The Saint John’s Bible.

One Heritage Edition volume is on display at The Casa.
One Heritage Edition volume is on display at The Casa.

“When we touch and read from the Heritage Edition, we often gaze at the art that illustrates the Word and get lost in that connection and energy. It’s a piece of art that is constantly revealing the Word of God in a beautiful, illuminating way, and it reminds me of the way the Franciscan Renewal Center is all about renewing lives,” said Brown. “Something as beautiful and transformative as The Saint John’s Bible can renew you. I believe the Holy Spirit is working very powerfully through the icon of the beautiful work that is The Saint John’s Bible.”

The Heritage Edition of The Saint John’s Bible is currently displayed in the lobby of the Franciscan Renewal Center. The two display cases that house the Heritage Edition were gifted by Saint John’s University alumni Mark Schweitz, who also funded the creation of a table and chair set for visitors who enjoy experiencing the art of the Heritage Edition together.

“When I present the Heritage Edition to visitors, I’ll ask them for their reaction to the illuminations. Generally, they share quite a lot about their internal perceptions and ideas, which often connect to their life experiences,” said Marge Woods, head docent for The Saint John’s Bible ministry at the Casa. “That connection is what makes those moments so valuable for me, and it’s what our Center was designed for. We want to provide a quiet place for people to come and concentrate on change in their spiritual lives or in the particular situation they are in on their life journey. Coming into nature and listening to the wisdom of those around them is how our visitors find their renewal.”

Honoring the Gift to Last Centuries

In 2014, a group of benefactors and Saint John’s University alumni came together to gift the Heritage Edition of The Saint John’s Bible to The Casa in a way that spoke to the very intention behind its creation — to ignite the spiritual imaginations of people of all faith journeys across the world.

Photo courtesy of the Franciscan Renewal Center: Those at The Casa believe they are the hands and feet of Christ and put themselves to work as such.
Photo courtesy of the Franciscan Renewal Center: Those at The Casa believe they are the hands and feet of Christ and put themselves to work as such.

The donors chose The Casa for its spirit of ecumenical outreach. The Franciscan Renewal Center is unique in that its outreach lends itself to people of all faiths, people of no faith, and people in all different phases and stages of life. The benefactors wanted to ensure that everyone, no matter what their faith or condition, could visit The Casa and experience the joy of The Saint John’s Bible firsthand.

“People from so many different faith traditions come here wanting to spend time with The Saint John’s Bible and learn more about it. It’s fascinating to witness,” said Brown. “We’ve seen Lutherans, Methodists, Episcopalians, Baptists, and Jewish communities come to visit the Heritage Edition. I believe the intention of the donors is truly being met.”

At its heart, the Franciscan Renewal Center is a place where people come to find a renewed understanding of themselves, their life journey, and the incredible beauty of God. 10 years with the Heritage Edition well under its belt, the Casa looks forward to what is to come in its next 10 years with the work of sacred art.

“My hope for the next 10 years is to center the youngsters in our sharing of the Word,” said Brown. “We have six employees that work in intergenerational Faith Formation for families. Children love color, and there’s so much color illuminating from the Heritage Edition that I’d love for it to be a component of their formation as they are growing up here. Every year we do some kind of class for people exploring their faith. We are thrilled to continue to offer these workshops and to see how they grow and evolve in the years to come.”

The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Edition: Supporting Spiritual Renewal for All

To learn more about The Saint John’sBible Heritage Edition, visit this page.

To read stories similar to this one, visit our blog or subscribe to our monthly e-newsletter, Sharing the World.