Confusing Bergamo and Mount St. John

By David Shumway

Is it Bergamo or Mount Saint John, and what exactly is it?

Most Beavercreekers of us in the area are familiar with what we popularly (and inaccurately) call “Bergamo.” We know where it is, bordered by East Patterson and Shakertown Roads, and County Line Roads, Research Boulevard Park Drive and Interstate 675, but that’s about it. Since my property backs into it and I volunteer there, friends occasionally ask me about it and its strange name.

Even I had difficulty until I delved into it a bit and asked questions. Now maybe I can explain. maybe I can explain. T The following is my opinion, not necessarily theirs.

The quiet enclave seems to have two entrances and two addresses, one on East Patterson and one on Shakertown. Even the signs have been historically ambiguous, variously “Mount Saint John” and “Bergamo.”

The 147-acre piece of land is indeed punctuated by Mount Saint John (MSJ), a gravelly “mount” or esker left over from the retreating glaciers. The property was previously part of the extensive Watervliet Shaker Village founded in from 11806. Since 1910 it’s been owned, farmed, and later developed by the Catholic Society of Mary, or Marianists, the same religious congregation that sponsors the University of Dayton.

To be clear, “Mount Saint John” or MSJ is a piece of land in Beavercreek. It houses many Marianist organizations and functions, the largest of which is T; “Bergamo” is merely the largest of its many Marianist organizations. The Bergamo Center for Lifelong Learning, or “Bergamo.”

This is a at MSJ is a retreat and conference center founded in 1967 which occasionally hosts outside groups (I’ve even attended WPAFB seminars there). According to its website, also offered are spiritual programs and programs for couples preparing for matrimony. And it’s tagline “Come away to a quiet place” may be a bit belied by high school band camps that used to be held there w.hich I could hear from my home. Incidentally, the name Bergamo comes from the city of Bergamo in Italy, birthplace of Marianist founder Pope John XXIII.

In addition to “Bergamo,” the piece of property MSJ includes the North American Center for Marianist Studies, the Marianist Mission, a residential Novitiate, the Queen of Apostles Community and Chapel, a Marianist community residence, a beautiful grotto, a large gym, an art gallery (Gallery Saint John), art studios, and my favorite: the Marianist Environmental Education Center. ([email protected]).

Ah yes, the Have to elaborate on MEEC. Along Shakertown and Research Boulevard Park we see natural areas; old farm field turned to meadow punctuated by oak trees , and accented by a nature trail, a plant nursery, and a native-plant labyrinth. And walking a trail up the “mount” we find a beautiful earthwork, natural woodlands, more nature trails, and even a restored prairie with water-table pond. Combined, these 100 natural acres are conservation areas maintained by MEEC. This is all still Mount Saint John.

According to its website, MEEC is “an environmental education community … we preserve and act in communion with the land and educate in sustainability through ecology-based simple living, social justice and spirituality.” For my volunteering part, it studies, researches, educates, and gets hands dirty by seed collecting, planting, propagating, and disseminating over 100 species of native wildflowers, prairie grasses, sedges, shrubs, vines, and trees.

It provides native shrubs to replace invasive species and prairie grasses and flowers for prairie restoration, land audit consultations, hosts seasonal retreats and the annual Midwest Native Plant Conference, holds an annual native plant sale , and an annual Winter solstice observance, and conducts extensive butterfly and bird counts.

The butterfly counts are especially timely because of the season. Formal counts with strict protocols are made weekly from April through October, covering the same routes or “transects,” with the results shared with the Ohio Lepidopterists for combined analyses. About 60 species have been identified at MSJ, with two or three species recently found for the first time in Greene County. And yes, monarchs do need our help.

The confusion apparently began when the enclave’s primarily internal Marianist functions at MSJ began community outreach with the establishment of the Bergamo Center. Hope this clears it up.And if I may throw in a plug, the MEEC annual native plant sale is Saturday, June 24th this year. Info and advance order information can be found at the new MEEC website

So there’s a lot more to that piece of land than “Bergamo.” There was little confusion in the early years because the quiet enclave at MSJ housed primarily internal Marianist functions. But when community outreach began with the establishment of the Bergamo Center and its availability to appropriate outside organizations, it was necessary to add signage … hence “Bergamo.” Hope this clears it up.

By David Shumway

David Shuman is 54-year resident of Beavercreek and retired civilian engineer from Wright Patterson Air Force Base and guest columnist.

David Shuman is 54-year resident of Beavercreek and retired civilian engineer from Wright Patterson Air Force Base and guest columnist.