Steve Nelson, KM invited members of the Order of Malta to participate in the inaugural Western Association retreat to Saint John's Abbey and University near Minneapolis. The focus there was to prepare for the Pilgrimage to Our Lady of Champion by spending time in a monastic setting, Mass, prayer, contemplation, learning about the Saint John's Bible, and Catholic reflections on wealth. After the invention of the printing press, the Saint John's Bible is the first completely handwritten and illuminated Bible to be commissioned by a Benedictine abbey. Additionally, there was an opportunity for Knights and Dames to view some Malta Manuscripts.
Members stayed in the guest house, with every room overlooking green grass and a path to the gorgeous lake, where they could use the sail boards, kayaks, and canoes.
The Benedictine monks, in particular Fr. Eric Hollas and Fr. Cyprian Weaver, were incredible hosts and went above and beyond to make all retreat participants to feel welcome. This included a personal tour of the Abbey, including the crypt which contains 34 side altars. The monks also took members to the tunnels that lead to the various buildings around the campus that the monks use in the winter when the weather is bad.
Members were invited to Mass and prayed vespers with the monks and students each day. It was an incredibly unique experience.
“It filled my soul and my heart with unforgettable peace and memories.” Cheryl Hungate, DM
Members viewed all the volumes of the Saint John’s Bible Heritage Editions as a group in a private room. Later, members had the special privilege to view many original pages in a vault which is climate-controlled to preserve the art. They were able to linger over each page and contemplate their beauty and meaning. The artistic strokes of the scribes and the colors were vibrant, especially the gold leaf. Several members described this as an event of a lifetime.
Members also met Dr. Daniel K. Gullo, director of the Malta Study Center. This started in 1973 and it is the oldest, continuous microfilm and digital preservation project at the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library. The archival, manuscript, music and art collections from Malta and Gozo contain records dating from the 11th century through the 20th century. The preservation and documentation of the collection requires the ability to speak and write in three to four languages and to have been awarded a doctorate degree. At the Malta Study Center, members were given a presentation by Dr. Daniel Gullo and live video chat from Malta with Dr. Valeria Vanesio, who is collaborating with Dr. Daniel Gullo on multiple preservation projects.