Students Decide: Only Christ Can Transform America, and He Needs Us

The Benedictine mission of community, faith and scholarship transformed culture in Europe at the dawn of Western Civilization and Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, believes it can do the same in America today. To Transform Culture in America, Benedictine College plans to Form its students deeply in the mission, Advance its mission through alumni in every walk of life, and Extend its mission regionally and nationally.

Only Jesus Christ can Transform Culture in America, but he needs the next generation to help.

That was the conclusion after a student-led effort to face America’s societal ills spent October 8-10 in discussions. The Transforming Culture student conference was the brainchild of senior Vincent Schiffiano, a philosophy and political science major from Weddington, N.C.

When Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, planned its Transforming Culture in America strategic vision, it invited leaders from every walk of life to meet with faculty, staff, students and members of the board of directors.

Schiffiano was one of those students. A Gregorian Fellow, Schiffiano is also member of the Knights of Columbus, Constitutional Fellows, Moot Court and participates in a Hebrew Bible Study.

It was his idea to start the “October Club,” a campus group dedicated to Transforming Culture in America. The group reached out to the student body with a survey that asked: “What are the steps we need to take in order to bring Benedictine’s mission of community, faith and scholarship to the wider world?”

He said 40 students signed up for the conference.

“My single greatest hope for the conference was to make the mission of Transforming Culture our own,” he said. “I do not want the mission to be seen as just something the college administrations and ‘higher ups’ are doing.”

He got his wish. “What surprised me most about the conference was the energy,” Schiffiano said. Conference leaders prayed for the students the conference needed and got them.

The student discussions led to two big takeaways, said Schiffiano.

First, “Christ must be at the center of our efforts. The culture direly needs him and if we do not transform this culture, we are placing our children’s souls in grave danger. But if we do what the Church has always done and bring Christ to the world, then we will be victorious.”

Second, the students said, “We are the people to do it.” Schiffiano said “the energy, creativity and vision of my classmates” was impressive. “We are grounded in a solid philosophy and theology which gives us a way of looking at the problems of our culture and discerning how to fix them.”

Katelyn Bishop from Stillwater, Okla., a senior studying accounting and finance, used social media to highlight “students who are making an effort to Transform Culture with their lives and careers leading up to the conference.”

The students profiled included:

  • Zach Zimmer, from Centennial, Co., a senior studying biology and philosophy on a pre-med track who wants to develop “a holistic approach to the human person in medicine.” His “passion for human dignity” drove him to join the students’ effort.
  • Madeline Joerger, a junior from Overland Park, Kansas, studying secondary education and theology, who said St. John Paul II shows “that young people are called and capable of hard and holy things.”
  • Thomas Hoerner, a theology and philosophy senior from St. Louis, who said students are “passionate about healing American culture” through “the openness of Americans to receive the gift of faith by the action of the Holy Spirit.”

The results of the conference will play out over time, but Schiffiano summed it up this way: “I truly believe that the leaders here today at Benedictine are exactly who Our Lady has put in place to Transform Culture.”

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Benedictine 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 to Choosing a Catholic College. 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.

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