2019 Commencement Message -
“You’re called to be a saint.”

Monday, May 13, 2019

A Benedictine College graduate with a decorated hat that says "I just finished the most amazing story"

More than 400 seniors walked across the stage on Saturday, May 11, during the annual Commencement Exercises at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. Twenty-two graduate students had received their hoods and diplomas the week before in a separate ceremony. Those at the undergraduate ceremony heard an inspiring motivational speech from Mike Sweeney, five-time Major League Baseball All Star and former player with the Kansas City Royals, who was the event’s keynote speaker.

[See complete commencement coverage here.]

“You’re not called to be a star in this world,” he told the graduates. “You’re called to be a star in heaven.”

He said he wanted them to remember that he did not come and talk about baseball. Rather, he talked about faith and he asked them to strive to be saints.

“Make a pledge for me today, here, on May 11, at this commencement, at this new beginning, to practice your faith every day,” he said. “Make a commitment truly to be a saint.”

2019 Benedictine College Commencement Speaker Mike Sweeney receives his honorary degree from President Stephen Minnis, with Chairman of the Board Jack Newman alongside.He told the seniors they had made a great decision to attend Benedictine College and their time on campus has changed them and set them on the right path.

“Benedictine is the greatest Catholic College in America,” he said. “This is where I want my kids to come to college!”

Sweeney received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the college, making him officially a Raven.

Dr. Kimberly Shankman, Dean of the College, directed the annual exercise, which began with a prayer from Sister Esther Fangman OSB, Prioress at Mount St. Scholastica Monastery, one of the founding institutions of Benedictine College.

The 2019 Valedictorian was Sister Megan Therese Tunink, who grew up in Omaha and came to Benedictine with the Marian Sisters of the Diocese of Lincoln in Nebraska. She attained a perfect 4.0 grade point average while majoring in Secondary Education, Mathematics and Biology. She will teach at St. Pious X High School in Lincoln, Neb., after graduation.

“Remember,” she told her fellow graduates. “God has things under control. He has plans for your welfare, so as to give you a future of hope.”

She said that, as a graduate of the Benedictine Education Department, she was a trained builder of community and she took comfort in knowing that this, and every, graduating class would always have the Benedictine community behind them.

President of Benedictine College Stephen D. Minnis announced the annual Fran Jabara Leadership Award winners. Each year, the award is given to select graduating seniors at each private, four-year college in Kansas. The award indicates the high level of ability the recipients have displayed as well as the respect with which their peers and teachers view them. This year, the Jabara Leadership Awards went to: Emily Harpole, a Theology and Evangelization/Catechesis & Youth Ministry major from Littleton, Colorado; Nick D’Adamo, a Business Management and Finance major from Olathe, Kansas, who had served as the president of the Student Government Association; and Shaefer Schuetz, a Business Management major from Kansas City, Missouri, who was the starting quarterback and team captain for the football squad that made it all the way to the national championship game.

Although not commissioned during Benedictine’s Commencement ceremony, President Minnis recognized Velia Mariko Colunga, a cadet in the Air Force ROTC program who will soon be commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Air Force. He also recognized other military personnel, veterans and first responders in the audience.

The ceremony concluded with one of the graduates, Michael O’Brien, a Music Education major, singing the Benedictine College Alma Mater, O Lord of Ev’ry Blessing, followed by the closing prayer from Fr. Simon Baker, OSB, the Benedictine College Chaplain.

The day before Commencement featured the traditional photo of graduates around the Benedictine “B” on the ground in from of the Haverty Center. That was followed by the March of Light, a procession up the Raven Walk, through the Grotto and into the Abbey Church for Baccalaureate Mass. The Most Reverend Joseph Naumann, Archbishop of Kansas City in Kansas, was the principal celebrant and homilist for the Mass.

“Benedictine College has created a culture where the pursuit of truth is celebrated no matter if it is in the laboratory unlocking the beauty of the natural world or in the chapel kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament,” he said. “You have been blessed to be born in this time, to live in this country with so many resources and opportunities, to have the support and love of such good families, and to have come to this special place, Benedictine College, to earn your degree.”

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.