Patrick Lencioni Offers Freshmen Advice at Benedictine College's Opening Convocation

Patrick Lencioni Offers Freshmen Advice at Benedictine College's Opening Convocation

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Benedictine College celebrated the start of another record-setting academic year on Sept. 2 with a formal All School Mass and the Opening Academic Convocation. Benedictine College President Stephen D. Minnis announced that, with 586 new students on campus (freshmen, transfers and international students), it was the first year in history that the incoming group outnumbered the entire college enrollment at its low point of 573 students in 1991. The huge class was welcomed into the Benedictine community with a blessing, a photo around the Benedictine “B” in the Haverty Circle, the Mass and the Convocation.

The Most Reverend Andrew Cozzens, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis and a legacy from Benedictine’s Class of ’91, delivered the homily at the Mass. He told the hundreds of students gathered in St. Benedict’s Abbey Church that he remembered sitting in the same place, wearing his beanie 27 years before. And he related how God had spoken to him during his time at Benedictine.

“The Father in Heaven is looking down upon you,” he said. “And in His heart is a great desire, and the desire is to pour out His Holy Spirit upon you and upon this whole campus. You see, His desire is to use this time in your life to draw you closer to Him, and to reveal to you who you are to Him and what He wants you to do for Him.”

“God created you to do Him some definite service,” the bishop continued. “I don’t know what that is, but He knows what it is. And He wants to reveal it to you. In fact, it’s the only thing that will make you happy, because it’s most in accord with the deepest desires of your heart.”

The annual Convocation took place after Mass and included a procession from the church to the Ralph Nolan Gymnasium inside the St. John Paul II Student Center. The Convocation signals the end of “Beanie Week” at the college and features faculty recognitions as well as a keynote speaker.  This year, best-selling author Patrick Lencioni addressed the gathering.

“I had heard great things about Benedictine College and I had looked it up on the Internet,” he said. “But I’ve got to tell you that the product is even better than the reputation. You all are very blessed with what you have here.”

He said that many speakers might tell a group of students that they are the leaders of the next generation and they need to go out and make a difference, but generally those speakers don’t tell them how. Lencioni, the author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and nine other best-selling business books, told them that the keys to good leadership are humility and vulnerability, as demonstrated by Jesus.

“To be a great leader of any kind, you have to be vulnerable,” he said. “You must learn to embrace humility and vulnerability and it’s going to be painful, and it’s going to be difficult, and it’s going to be uncomfortable. When people do things like that, other people will follow them. That’s where real trust is built. It’s at a school like this we can say that leaders suffer for the good of others. In that weaknesses, your strength as a leader lies.”

He went on to talk about his life in college and beyond and how he used to pray for good grades, for a girlfriend, to graduate, to get a job, to get married, and so on. Over the years he achieved great success and notoriety, but he never felt happy. He finally realized that, even though he thought he was praying, he was missing the point.

“When I rediscovered that it was God who was my identity in life, it was only then that I began to experience what I was really looking for, which was not happiness, but peace.”

“My lesson to you is this,” Lencioni concluded. “You can get all of your dreams and be completely unhappy, if you haven’t completely committed it all to God.”

“I just want to tell the freshmen here, do your very best in school. Strive for good grades, but that will not make you happy,” he said. “If you meet somebody who becomes a good girlfriend or boyfriend to you, that’s wonderful, but that’s not going to make you happy. It will only be Christ. And you’re in a place where you are far more likely to see that than most.”

Following the keynote address, the freshman class was welcomed into the community of Ravens and removed their beanies.  The practice of freshmen wearing beanies dates back generations and Benedictine College may be the only college in America that still observes the tradition.

“Now, freshmen, it is time for you to take your place as full-fleged Ravens,” Minnis said. “Having experienced the benefits of a Benedictine College tradition, and been welcomed into the Raven family, you are now fully incorporated into the college.”

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.