On Canonization Day, Benedictine College Names ‘St. John Paul II Student Center'

On Canonization Day, Benedictine College Names ‘St. John Paul II Student Center'

School To Name New Tower After John XXIII

Monday, April 28, 2014

Benedictine College renamed its Student Union the St. John Paul II Student Center on April 27, 2014, just hours after the canonization of the former pope. Though heavy rains and thunderstorms prevented the traditional procession, the naming went on as planned.  The naming capped off a series of events (listed below) on the campus in Atchison, Kan. and included the announcement that a new tower will also be named to honor St. John XXIII, who was also canonized that day.

“Today’s naming of the St. John Paul II Student Center is a long time coming. Our students have long expressed an interest in naming a significant building on campus after Pope John Paul II," said Stephen D. Minnis, president of Benedictine College. "His impact on this college, and on me personally, goes back to the very beginning of his pontificate. St. John Paul II became Pope the year I was a freshman at Benedictine, and his reign as Pope ended during my first year back as president."  

Minnis cited several ways Pope John Paul II influenced Benedictine College:

  • In 1979, when Pope John Paul II visited Altoona, Iowa, Stephen Minnis and other students visited from Atchison, Kansas. The visit made a big impression.
  • In 1990, Pope John Paul II promulgated Ex Corde Ecclesiae, the transformative Apostolic Constitution governing Catholic colleges and universities.
  • In 1993, Pope John Paul II’s World Youth Day in Denver  was pivotal to many vocations — including Father Brendan Rolling, OSB, the Benedictine College chaplain who built its College Ministry program and Abbot James Albers, OSB, the abbot who this year consecrated Benedictine College to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
  • Other Benedictine College administrators trace their enthusiasm about the faith to encounters with John Paul II in his 1987 trip to California and his 1999 trip to St. Louis.
  • The college’s landmark document Benedictine 2020: A Vision for Greatness defines its academic goals by quoting John Paul: “As a Catholic college, we consider faith and reason as ‘two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of the truth.’ [John Paul II, Fides et Ratio]”

"Pope John Paul is the reason I am a Catholic priest," said Benedictine College chaplain Father Brendan Rolling. "I had thought about becoming a priest during my college years.  When friends and I attended the 1993 World Youth Day in Denver, CO, it was a game changer. Blessed John Paul's witness, conviction, and call for radical conversion in Christ made me want to run for the Gospel."

The St. John Paul II Student Center houses the Office of Student Life (residence life, student activities, student government), college ministry, FOCUS and SPO, athletic offices, the O'Malley-McAllister Auditorium and the school’s Ralph Nolan Gymnasium.

“This building captures the spirit of John Paul II in its very variety,” said Dr. Joseph Wurtz, Benedictine's dean of students. “His work on the theology of the body, which our staff uses in its programs, is also promoted through the sculptures in the building. JPII also opened the Office of Church and Sport in 2004, which indicated that the Church considered sport an important dimension of contemporary culture. Lastly, JPII was an artist with a passion for theater and the relationship between faith and art.”

"This facility is the epicenter of student leader development—Student Life, Athletics, and College Ministry," said Joey Gruenwald, president of Benedictine's Student Government Association. "Like JPII, these student leaders build a vibrant culture on campus, one that integrates faith into every component. It is only fitting for students to have this great Saint’s name on the building to serve as a constant reminder of our call to greatness. The activities that take place in the St. John Paul II Student Center have cultivated, and will continue to cultivate with even greater strength under JPII’s intercession, men and women who enable Benedictine College to be the Flagship College of the New Evangelization."
Monica Swingle, Benedictine College class of 2015, was recently voted Student Government Association Communications Director. "I am very excited the college has decided to publicly honor such a wonderful example of a soon to be saint that reflected such strong Catholic leadership on a global scale," she said. "It will remind students of what we aspire to do here at Benedictine and out in the world when we graduate as we participate in the New Evangelization."

In the days leading up to the canonization, Benedictine College will highlight the pontificate of Pope John Paul II with several events.

John Paul Days at Benedictine College, 2014

April 2 – The Traveling Pope. On the death anniversary of soon-to-be St. John Paul II, the Gregorian Institute at Benedictine College presented inspiring images online of “12 Stunning Statues of John Paul” showing worldwide love for him.

April 11-12 – Totus Tuus Day. In this year of the college’s consecration the official traveling icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa, Pope John Paul II’s favorite, visited campus. Click here for information about the visit.
April 13 Ex Corde Ecclesiae Day To celebrate Catholic identity and begin Holy Week, the college featured a campuswide Eucharistic procession. It started at the Abbey Church, with stops at Scholastica Hall, Wilcox Stadium, Cray Seaberg Plaza, Haverty Center.

April 21 – Human Rights Day. On this 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests, the Benedictine College History Department showed the documentary “Nine Days That Changed the World.”  Following the movie, there was a discussion on how John Paul II’s Poland visit in 1979 created a revolution of conscience.

April 22 Fides et Ratio Day. Pope John Paul II promoted Faith and Reason and the interconnection between the two in an encyclical and throughout his pontificate.  To focus on this, Dr. Andrew Swafford gave a lecture on  “John Paul II to Aristotle and Back Again: A Disciple's Tale."  The event was sponsored by Ravens Respect Life.

April 24 – Vatican II and Unity Day “That they all may be one: John XXIII and John Paul II's Pioneering Vision for the Reunification of All Christians” lecture and questions with Dr. Matthew Ramage sponsored by College Ministry.

April 24 — Playwright and Poet. Pope John Paul II was an actor, poet and playwright.  "Drama of Word and Gesture" was a landmark presentation of all his dramatic work in one sitting.  The event was a seven-hour marathon put on by faculty and students in the Raven Roost inside the college's Haverty Center.

April 24 — Liturgy of Light. Pope John Paul II revolutionized the Rosary by adding the Luminous Mysteries, or Mysteries of Light.  The “Liturgy of Light” was sponsored by Catechesis of the Good Shepherd at Cup o Joe in downtown Atchison.

April 25 – Choir Concert. The Benedictine College Music Department and Atchison High School presented an evening commemorating John Paul II’s contributions to the arts.  The location inside the Abbey Church was fabulous for the performance by the Benedictine College Concert Chorale and Atchison High School Choir.

April 25 – A Life That Changed the World. College Ministry presented a showing of "Pope John Paul II" (2007) starring Jon Voight and Cary Elwes in the O'Malley-McAllister Auditorium.  A discussion followed the event.

April 26 – Divine Mercy Vigil. In honor of Pope John Paul II’s promotion of Divine Mercy, and his death on the vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday, the college held Eucharistic adoration and Divine Mercy devotions as a preparation for his canonization.

April 27 - Canonization Watch Party - College Ministry held a watch party in the O’Malley-McAllister Auditorium with a live stream of the canonization ceremonies from Rome from 2:00 - 4:00 a.m.

April 27 – Canonization Day. The college welcomed students into the Church, then proceeded with the naming ceremony from inside the Abbey Church due to the weather. Later, balloons were released and the name was uncovered from the building.

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 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.