Hamilton

Help wanted: Diocese of Hamilton seeking $200K Bible handler

Dust off your resumes, Hamiltonians — the city's Roman Catholic Diocese has job openings for people to watch over a treasured bible valued at over $200,000.

People needed to carry the weight and responsibility of Hamilton's most expensive Bible

Former docent Maxine Whitehead took the Saint John's Bible to various events across Hamilton. Her advice to future docents? "Enjoy it." (Diocese of Hamilton)

Dust off your resumes, Hamiltonians — the city's Roman Catholic Diocese has job openings for people to watch over a treasured bible valued at over $200,000.

It's called the Heritage Edition of the Saint John's Bible, and it's just one of 299 fine art reproductions of the original, which was the first completed handwritten and illustrated Bible since the advent of the printing press over 500 years ago.

So no pressure.

Maxine Whitehead, who is a former "docent" (which is the job's official title), told CBC News that the responsibility that comes with the position can be nerve-wracking. She resigned in January after the commitment became too much for her as a retired person.

"I was less worried about the price tag than I was about the fact that this was a major piece of art," Whitehead said.

The Saint John's Bible was commissioned in 1998 by Saint John's Abbey and University in Minnesota. It was finished in 2011 under Donald Jackson, an internationally renowned calligrapher and the official scribe to Queen Elizabeth II.

It really is just about bringing awareness to the beauty of scripture and encouraging people to come together in community.- Dominy Williams, director of library and archives at the Diocese of Hamilton

In creating this work, Jackson did something not seen since the invention of the printing press in the 15th century: to create a bible the way the Order of Saint Benedict did, which preserved some of Western civilization's most important texts.

It's an "illuminated" edition, which means the text is supplemented with decorations and illustrations.

The reproductions of the original have been printed on cotton. Though still fragile, these editions are meant to be brought out to the community so they can be seen.

That's where the docent comes in — they're responsible for the Bible whenever it's out on visits. They're also there to talk with people and provide information about it.

Commissioned in 1998 under the direction of Donald Jackson, a noted calligrapher of Queen Elizabeth ll, the Saint John's Bible is the first handwritten and illuminated Bible since the advent of the printing press over 500 years ago. (Saint John's University)

"It really is just about bringing awareness to the beauty of scripture and encouraging people to come together in community," said Dominy Williams, the director of library and archives at the Diocese of Hamilton.

The new docents (they'll be hiring two or three) will be part of an existing team that visits schools, parishes and brings it out at community events.

If you think you can bear the responsibility, you'd also better also be comfortable with public speaking.

"Part of the job is going out and speaking and sharing the mission of making it with people," said Williams.

The Bible had 23 bookings in March alone.

The Heritage Edition of the Saint John’s Bible consists of 1150 pages and 160 illuminations. (Saint John's University)

Other desired qualifications for the job include some experience with handling fine art, involvement with children in school settings, and a minimum high school diploma with some post-secondary education preferred.

Enthusiasm for calligraphy and for scripture is also considered an asset. Hiring will take place in June with training throughout the summer.

The docent works 15-20 hours a week.

The Hamilton Diocese alone has 124 parishes, but the Bible is taken to various events — it's not Catholic specific.

The Heritage Edition of the Saint John's Bible consists of 1,150 pages and 160 illuminations. It comes with quite a hefty price tag.

The Diocese would not disclose the exact amount they paid for the Bible, but it can be seen listed online for over $200,000.

Susanne King of St. Margaret Mary Parish described seeing this edition of the Bible as a life-changing experience.

"You can't just walk away without being changed in some way and I think that's the intent," said King. 

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