Freshmen Hear Worldly Advice at Benedictine College’s Opening Convocation

Freshmen Hear Worldly Advice at Benedictine College’s Opening Convocation

Published: Thursday, September 03, 2015

Benedictine College celebrated the start of another record-setting academic year on Sept. 1 with a formal All School Mass and the Opening Academic Convocation. Benedictine College President Stephen D. Minnis announced that, for the first time in school history, there were more than 500 beginning freshmen at the college. Combined with transfers and international students, there are more new students on campus this year than 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.

Father Timothy Hickey, a Benedictine graduate from the Class of 1981, delivered the homily at the Mass. Fr. Timothy is administrator of Blessed Sacrament Church and School, and of the Shrine of Ste. Anne, both in Waterbury, Connecticut, and served for eight years as the editor of Columbia magazine, the monthly publication of the Knights of Columbus. He told the hundreds of students gathered in St. Benedict’s Abbey Church that he remembered his time as a student more than three decades before. He talked about Sister Mary Faith and the novels he read in his Senior Seminar. And he talked about being prepared to go out into the world to be God’s messengers, not just followers.

“Through the Church, through our Baptism into the death and life of Christ, we have been called to live out the universal call to holiness, sounded by the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council,” he said in his homily. “It is being voiced here on campus this year through the theme ‘Called to Greatness.’ It’s an individual call, and it is a call for the entire campus and beyond.”

The annual Convocation took place following 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, Paolo Carozza, professor of law, concurrent professor of political science and director of the Kellogg Institute for International Studies at the University of Notre Dame, addressed the gathering.

“I have for a long time been an admirer of Benedictine College from a distance, and the number of persons whom I have encountered over the years who have important ties to this community has been too significant for me to fail to notice,” he said.

He went on to talk about the college’s namesake, St. Benedict of Norcia, for whom he also has a devotion. He told the students the story of Peter, from Citadel of God, a novel about St. Benedict. The story, he said, is propelled by the relationship between Peter and St. Benedict and the dichotomy between their visions of success. One selfish and egotistical and one open to a relationship with God. Carozza said the situation is easily recognizable today.

“Peter could be the poster boy for what Pope Francis has labeled a ‘throwaway culture’ in which all of God’s creation is reduced to a tool in the narcissistic pursuit of our material success, in which other people are used and disposed of for the sake of one’s self-referential convenience and comfort,” he said.

Carozza said he sees this in his daily work in the areas of human rights, international development or interreligious dialogue. He can see the “sliding surfaces” today that St. Benedict wrote about 1500 years ago

“Where can we possibly find a point on which to stand firm amid such contradictions and confusions and barbarities of our time?” he asked.

Some would suggest withdrawing from the world to maintain one’s own integrity, sometimes known as the “Benedict Option,” but Carozza said being open to God means going out into the world. He referenced the foundation of St. Benedict’s College by the monks and the first arrival of the Benedictine sisters during the violent ramp-up to the Civil War along the Missouri-Kansas border.

“But was Benedictine conceived as an escape from the violence and moral corruption and ‘sliding surfaces’ of its age, as a haven for ‘preserving’ culture as if in a museum?” he asked. “On the contrary, its mission was to provide a general education to the population – and a Christian educative mission is always, inherently, outward looking, pushing out into the world, with curiosity and passion for all of reality. It is fitting that over time Benedictine College eventually found itself to be geographically at the heart of the nation, because the true Benedict Option that it represents, both at its founding and for our time, is not to withdraw from the world but to reach the heart of the world.”

He concluded by telling the students, especially the new freshmen in attendance, that they should allow themselves to be consumed with a passion for truth and beauty and goodness.

“Beginning again, the beginning of a new year institutionally, the beginning of a new stage in life, the new beginning of hope in a world that has lost its way, begins with our own hearts,” Carozza said. “If we allow ourselves to be made and possessed and consumed there, we will witness the transformation of the very heart of the world.”

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-fledged Ravens,” said President Minnis. “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.