My friend Alice was born, raised and educated in the Midwest. While she has visited the great state of Minnesota on occasion, she has never stepped foot in Collegeville.
And yet, Alice has connected with Saint John’s University in profound ways over the past few years, from more than 1,600 miles away in the Pacific Northwest.
I first met Alice when my family and I moved from Minnetonka to Seattle in August 2013. I quickly joined Epiphany Parish (the rector and his wife, The Rev. Doyt Conn and Dr. Kristin Conn, have been close friends of mine for nearly 25 years) and was introduced to Alice within my first few weeks as a new parishioner.
Alice made an impression. Alice is a mover and a shaker.
Alice lights up a room. Alice gets things done.
That fall, Epiphany Parish entered into “A Year with The Saint John’s Bible.” This 12-month program gives churches, colleges, libraries and hospitals opportunities to have one of the volumes of the full-sized Heritage Edition in their midst (supported by workshops, guest speakers, exhibit assistance, etc.) while they consider and often fundraise for the possible acquisition of one of the remaining fine art sets.
Although Alice was not a formal member of the parish’s program committee, she was always brainstorming the “who” and the “how” of making a Heritage Edition purchase. More on that happy ending below.
About a year ago, Alice stopped me at a post-service social hour and mentioned that she had a grand-nephew back in the Midwest who was getting very close to making his college choice. He had narrowed the field to Saint John’s and another Catholic liberal arts college in St. Paul I’ll call “The University of St. Francis.”
“I think my grand-nephew is going to become a ‘Frankie,’” Alice said. “Is that a good thing, Brad?”
To which I spontaneously replied, “Over our dead bodies, Alice!” (or something along those lines).
After a couple emails, a few phone calls and some lightning-quick action on the part of the SJU Admission Office, the world had one less “Frankie” and one more “Johnnie” starting in the fall of 2016.
Alice’s grand-nephew has done so well and she has been so pleased with his first-year experience at Saint John’s that Alice has decided to support the university with generous annual gifts to an established First Gen scholarship fund.
Now for the happy ending I promised earlier. A few months ago, an Epiphany parishioner was attending the funeral of a long-time, faithful member of the parish. During the service, she thought to herself “we need the Heritage Edition of The Saint John’s Bible here to honor all the grateful souls in our congregation and my departed husband Bill.”
This was a true Epiphany moment for her.
Later that day, she spoke with me about a possible purchase. That evening, she called Rev. Conn and offered this incredibly generous gift over the phone.
The call came from Alice.
So, my home parish here in Seattle has now made a Heritage Edition of The Saint John’s Bible our spiritual community's “family Bible” and Alice has become a long-distance member of the Saint John’s family.
I am working on getting her to campus one of these days. It’s about time she visited her new “home.”