How St. John Paul II ‘Guided’ College’s New Transforming Plan
The meeting’s organizers didn’t plan for it to fall on the feast of St. John Paul II. But they think maybe he did.
A special meeting of board of directors of Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, with past board members and key faculty, staff, industry leaders and alumni was scheduled for Oct. 22 because it was the day before homecoming.
But it was also the feast of the great saint.
“It actually gives me chills to see how John Paul has planned this effort,” said Benedictine College President Stephen D. Minnis.
The meeting was to implement the Transforming Culture in America plan. “The college spent three years and many hours working on this plan. Many of you in this room — faculty and staff as well as alums, board members, experts — all came together to provide input and vision,” Minnis said.
The plan puts the college’s mission of community, faith and scholarship to work for the larger culture. “In a world of loneliness and polarization, Community is the key; In an age of hopelessness and incivility, Faith is the key and In a ‘post-truth’ era where we are information rich but analysis poor, Scholarship is the key,” Minnis said.
He said the plan will launch the Raven Standard to form students in the mission of community, faith and scholarship, and expand the Raven Walk to “help to place graduates in positions where they can take that formation to others.” He said the plan matches closely with St. John Paul II’s own plan.
“At the end of the Church in America conference in 1999, St. John Paul II, called on Catholic colleges to take a leading role in helping the laity strive to evangelize America’s family life, political life, cultural life, and economic life,” Minnis said.
Benedictine College’s plan calls for a Center for Family Life, a Center for Constitutional Liberty, a Center for Beauty and Culture and the Thompson Center for Integrity in Finance and Economics.
In 2012 when the Church reviewed the Church in America plan, five Catholic college presidents were invited to attend — including President Minnis.
St. John Paul II says that through the prayers of Our Lady of Guadalupe, “The Gospel will penetrate the hearts of the men and women of America and permeate their cultures, transforming them from within.” Minnis said his emphasis on Our Lady of Guadalupe caused the college to consecrate the college to Our Lady, build an Our Lady of Guadalupe Hall and welcome the postulator of the cause of St. Juan Diego to consecrate a chapel to Juan Diego.
Minnis said there are many coincidences between journey of the college and the pontificate of John Paul II: “My first year as a student was John Paul’s first year as Pope, and my first year as president was his last year as Pope. In his inauguaral address as Pope he asked us to Be Not Afraid. I repeated his theme at my own inauguration I also asked us To Be Not Afraid to embrace our mission.”
Another coincidence: Pope John Paul II’s Constitution for Higher Education, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, went into effect in fall of 1991. That year, Benedictine College had a total undergraduate enrollment of 570. Now, 30 years later, “Because of that document, Benedictine College has nearly four times that many students,” said Minnis.
“John Paul says there are no coincidences with God,” said President Minnis. “St. John Paul II is clearly looking over us as we take up his call to transform culture.”