Benedictine Reconsecration Leads to Nation's Largest Birthday Party for Our Lady

Monday, September 11, 2023

The Procession during the Reconsecration event at Benedictine College

September 8, the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, was truly celebrated at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, this year. On that day, the college reconsecrated itself to Jesus through Mary, then hosted a gathering touted as the largest birthday party for Our Lady in the nation. More than 1,200 people, including faculty, staff and students of the college, participated in the event.

“Ten years ago, we came together here to consecrate Benedictine College to the Blessed Virgin Mary.  And five years ago, we reconsecrated the College to her as we encircled the campus with a living rosary,” said Benedictine College President Stephen D. Minnis. “Today, we again reconsecrate the college to Jesus through Mary, renewing our commitment to Our Lord and His Blessed Mother with the same words and prayer we used 10 years ago and again 5 years ago.”

Read more about the Marian devotion of President Minnis at our Media & Culture site in the article “Marian Consecration and Birthday Bash Spotlight College President’s Devotion.”

In addition to the consecration prayer, the celebration included Marian hymns, the blessing of items brought by participants, the distribution of prayer cards and Miraculous Medals blessed by the chaplain of the Miraculous Medal Chapel in Paris, and an opportunity for those in attendance to place rose petals in the pool of the Our Lady of Divine Grace Fountain, located in the center of the Academic Quad.

"What a gift it was to gather with my peers who I love so dearly to give thanks in celebration of the woman who called us all here in the first place,” said Mary Katherine Hess, a Benedictine College senior from Overland Park, Kansas. “Benedictine’s steadfast devotion to Mary has continuously allowed me to grow in my own relationship with Our Lady, and I could not be more grateful!"

“I feel blessed and lucky to have been on campus for the tenth anniversary of the consecration of the college to Mary,” said Max Palmer, a Benedictine senior from Cumming, Georgia. “Seeing everyone gathered around praying helped me remember how special Benedictine really is. I truly believe I was called by Mary to be here!”

Roses tumble from the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe as the band plays for Mary's birthday party.

Following the reconsecration ceremony, everyone moved to the College’s Raven Memorial Park for a buffet dinner and birthday cake. The birthday party included a concert by the Raven Regiment Marching Band that culminated in a fun rendition of “Happy Birthday.” At the end of the song, a banner was displayed from the roof of the Murphy Recreation Center, with roses spilling out as it was unfurled.

“That was so moving,” said Macy Lakeman, a sophomore at Benedictine from Omaha, Nebraska. “The roses pouring from the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe like that. The whole evening has just been very special.”

Here is a synopsis of Benedictine College’s efforts to honor Our Lady:

  • In 1856, the founder of St. Benedict’s Abbey,  Benedictine Fr. Henry Lemke, prayed to Our Lady as he collapsed in exhaustion, lost in a storm in the Kansas wilderness. He was rescued by a “lady dressed in white,” in what he calls “a miracle of the mother of God.” He pledged that from that day forward “I shall always call on you.”
  • In 1858, two years later, Benedictine College was founded in the year that a “Lady Dressed in White” visited another small-town little girl: Bernadette of Lourdes, France.
  • In 2008, on the 150th anniversary of the college and of the Lourdes apparition, the college built Mary’s Grotto in the center of campus. The 58 tons of stone used to build the grotto includes original stones from Lourdes, France. Lourdes water was used to mix the concrete.
  • In 1863, the first sisters in Atchison heard their first Mass on the feast of the Patronage of Mary and took vows “in honor of Almighty God” and “the most Blessed Virgin Mary.”
  • The college has relied on the Marian prayers of the campus Memorare Army prayer campaign to further the college's mission, answering important college needs.
  • In 2015-2017, the college expanded the prayer campaign to a National Memorare Army gathering more than 3 million memorares for religious liberty and celebrated religious freedom wins.
  • In 2019, the college released the short film “Lemke, a Founder’s Miracle” to tell the story of the miracle of the college’s founding, and  lit a perpetual lantern to commemorate the Miracle of Our Lady and the arrival of the Benedictine Sisters.
  • In 2021, the college launched its Transforming Culture in America plan with prayer to Our Lady of Gudalupe of whom St. John Paul II said: “Through her powerful intercession, the Gospel will penetrate the hearts of the men and women of America and permeate their culture, transforming them from within.’”

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 honored to have been named one of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report, the best private college in Kansas by The Wall Street Journal, and 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. Benedictine College is dedicated to transforming culture in America through its mission to educate men and women within a community of faith and scholarship.