Benedictine College Wraps Up Successful Symposium for Advancing the New Evangelization

Benedictine College Wraps Up Successful Symposium for Advancing the New Evangelization

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The third annual Symposium for Advancing the New Evangelization, hosted by Benedictine College’s Institute for Missionary Activity, brought more than 200 people together to discuss ways to bring Christ’s message to the classroom, parish, workplace and the general public.

The event, held March 21 and 22 on the Benedictine College campus in Atchison, Kan., attracted speakers from as far away as Geneva, Switzerland and Washington, D.C. and featured three keynote addresses and 52 breakout sessions.

While predominantly Catholic, the conference also included Eastern Orthodox and Evangelical Protestant presenters. In addition to talks and discussions, the conference featured a live performance by painter Mike Debus of Face of Mercy and musician Michael McGlinn of Sistine Films.

“There was a real sense of interdisciplinary dialogue this year,” said David Trotter, Benedictine’s Director for Mission & Ministry and Director of the Institute for Missionary Activity. “It helped everyone in attendance encounter the person of Jesus Christ in the sacraments, in conversation and in intellectual formation. It created a vision for them to be leaders in culture creation in their own communities back home.”

President Stephen D. Minnis said the Symposium is the latest example of Benedictine College’s leadership role in the Church. “Benedictine College is truly the flagship college of the New Evangelization and this great event shows that. This was a great opportunity for leading Catholic intellectuals, missionaries and church leaders from across the country to share ideas for the New Evangelization.”

“I thought it was providential that the symposium fell on the Feast of St. Benedict,” Trotter added. “It profiled the primary role that the Benedictine Order plays in the new evangelization, tying the creation of culture from these abbeys more than a thousand years ago to the culture we are creating for the new evangelization today.”

The theme of the conference was “The Transcendentals as a Preamble to the Faith.” Trotter explained that human beings experience desire for the fundamental attributes of being — especially truth, goodness and beauty — such that they are never satisfied. Philosophers call these “the transcendentals” and Trotter said our desire for unconditional truth, goodness and beauty reveal the existence of the soul and, ultimately, of God.

The three keynote speakers were: Dr. Denis McNamara, Assistant Director of the Liturgical Institute, University of St. Mary of the Lake; Dr. David Bentley Hart, author, theologian, philosopher and cultural commentator; and Dr. Regis Martin, Professor of Theology, Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life, Franciscan University of Steubenville.

Martin, who spoke on the evening of March 21, talked about how the experience of beauty renews and refreshes.

“The more something is beautiful, the more it refers one to something else,” he said. “It is the office of beauty to mediate the distance between the world and God.”

Hart, the author of Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and its Fashionable Enemies (Yale University Press), started the main day of symposium sessions with his address on Saturday morning, March 22.

Dr. Stephen Mirarchi, assistant professor in Benedictine College’s English Department, introduced the noted author as being “on the forefront of the Christian response to the New Atheism.” Hart spoke about how the transcendentals point to a more complete experience of being in God.

“Consciousness is ecstatic from the start,” said Dr. Hart. “The mind delights in the truth because it is aware of its incomplete grasp of the whole. Beauty stirs us from our habitual forgetfulness of the wonder of being.”

McNamara, the final keynote speaker, closed the symposium with his address on the evening of March 22. He gave a lively presentation on church architecture accompanied by images of the world’s most beautiful — and least beautiful — churches. He spoke of entering Atchison and seeing the spires of St. Benedict's Church and the Abbey.

“Those buildings tell a story. You know right away who made them and what they are for,” he said. Not so with many churches.

“Joyful and festive. That's what a church should be,” he concluded. “A church is God’s glory being manifested through the material of the world.”

In addition to the three keynote speakers, presenters at the colloquium sessions were from a variety of different institutions, organizations and ministries and came from many walks of life, including artists, architects, engineers, businesspeople, theologians, philosophers, ministry practitioners and Church leaders. Archbishop Joseph Naumann from the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas and Abbot James Albers, OSB, from St. Benedict’s Abbey, also participated.

This year’s symposium sessions included presentations from organizations like Cerner Corporation, Archdiocese of St. Louis, Boston College, Wyoming Catholic College, Benedictine College and the BlueTail Medical Group, among many others. Breakout sessions included, to name just a few:

  • William O’Leary, Director of Religious Formation at the Church of the Ascension in Overland Park, Kan., spoke about his parish’s successful catechetical program.
  • Nuclear Physicist Michael Murray, from the University of Kansas, shared how cutting-edge scientific discoveries point to God.
  • Blake Wells, a Wichita insurance executive, shared insights into Christian servant leadership as modeled by the life of Christ.
  • David Carollo, Executive Director of the World Apostolate of Fatima, whose members commit themselves to becoming faithful witnesses of the Catholic faith in their own families, work, parishes and communities, shared updates on the group’s mission.
  • Internet marketer Patrick Padley applied lessons learned from his business clients to faith outreach.
  • A panel including Blue Tail Medical Group founder Jim Unnerstall, Diana Crook, M.D., and attorney Joshua McCaig, looked at religion and healthcare.

Founded in 1858, Benedictine College is a Catholic, Benedictine, residential, liberal arts college located on the bluffs above the Missouri River in Atchison, Kansas. The school is proud to have been consistently named one of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report as well as one of the top Catholic colleges in the nation by First Things magazine and the Newman Guide. It prides itself on outstanding academics, extraordinary faith life, strong athletic programs, and an exceptional sense of community and belonging. It has a mission to educate men and women within a community of faith and scholarship.