Posted: Friday, August 29, 2014 2:30 pm | Updated: 6:00 pm, Fri Aug 29, 2014.
By Ronnie Ellis / CNHI News Service
NERINX, Ky. – Carol Pike isn’t Catholic, and technically she’s not an archivist. She’s a former college and high school librarian and an elder for her Disciples of Christ church in Glasgow, Ky.
So Pike may have been an unlikely figure in what’s best described as the re-discovery of a rare Catholic Bible, which for decades was stored in a vault at the Sisters of Loretto Community here and has since returned to the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind.
Pike spent years cataloging a rare book collection for the Sisters of Loretto, a congregation of nuns and lay co-members who “work for justice and act for peace because the Gospel urges us.” Founded in 1812 as a teaching order, the community’s headquarters – the “Motherhouse” – is located in the central Kentucky community of Nerinx.
One day the community’s archivist, Sister Eleanor Craig, asked Pike if she’d like to examine some of the books stored in “the vault,” a secure, climate-controlled room in the basement of the infirmary.
After passing through two sets of steel doors, Sister Eleanor pulled a cardboard box labeled “Rare Bibles” from the shelf and handed it to Pike.
As she opened a carefully wrapped volume, Pike had a Eureka moment.
“This is a Carey Bible!” she exclaimed to Sister Eleanor, who didn’t immediately recognize its significance.
Pike realized she was holding a 1790 Catholic Bible – the Douay-Rheims version printed by Philadelphia printer Mathew Carey. He printed only 471 of the Bibles, of which 28 are known to still exist.
The one Pike held was exceptional even among those. The three-volume Bible – two for the Old Testament and a third for the New Testament – was owned by the first Catholic bishop in the United States, Bishop John Carroll of Baltimore. He’d inscribed the Bible to the first Catholic priest ordained in the United States, Father Stephen Badin.