Please register to access this FREE content.
More than 400 seniors walked across the stage on Saturday, May 14, during the annual Commencement ceremony at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. Those at the undergraduate ceremony heard an inspiring motivational speech from Bishop Robert Barron, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries, who was the event’s keynote speaker.
“I’m well aware I’m on Benedictine ground today,” he told the graduates, embracing his role as a new Raven based on his honorary degree. “A place filled with the mind and spirit of St. Benedict. I want to share with my fellow graduates some simple rules of life that I think flow from the heart of that great saint.”
He went on to talk about humility and the importance of listening to God. He said it was important to hear a voice that transcends ego and pettiness and calls us to the “highest venture of the spiritual life.”
“The higher voice summons us to break free of the black hole of our egotism,” he said. “And to come into contact with aesthetic values, with moral values, with epistemic values, all of which are grounded to God who is supreme goodness, supreme truth, and supreme beauty.”
He also talked about work and stability.
“My fellow graduates,” he said. “Find something that you love, and then do it, day in and day out, when you feel like it and when you don’t feel like it. It will benefit others, it will make you happier, and it will give glory to God. Not a bad combination.”
He closed with a call to prayer and helped pass out Bibles to all the graduates. Bill Drexel, a good friend of the college and a generous donor, purchased the Bibles for the Class of 2022.
“My sincere hope is that your years here, in the shadow of the Abbey Church, have effectively opened up the door of prayer and that this door never shuts your whole life long,” he said. “Fellow graduates, you should pray when you’re happy, you should pray when you’re depressed, you should pray when you achieve your greatest success, you should pray when an ambition goes unrealized, you should pray when everyone loves you, you should pray when you become unpopular. There is never a wrong time to pray. The cultivation of your relationship with the Lord must be the top priority of your life. Trust me when I tell you it will sustain you through the vicissitudes of life, through the mountains and valleys that I assure you will come, but on this day you can barely sense.”
Bishop Barron received an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Benedictine. Patrick Reilly, founder and president of the Cardinal Newman Society, also received an honorary degree during the ceremony.
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.
There were five Valedictorians for the Class of 2022: Theresa Fischer, a Mathematics major from Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Jacob Harrington, a Finance major from League City, Texas; Monica Lyn Moser, a Marketing major from Maple Hill, Kansas; Naomi Muggli, a Chemical Engineering major from Atchison, Kansas; and Ashley Wurtenberger, a Nursing major from Olathe, Kansas.
“The world tells us to do what’s easy and convenient,” Fischer told her fellow graduates. “But all of you have taught me to ask questions to make sure I’m doing what the Lord wants me to do with my life.”
Harrington echoed her sentiments and talked about how the college had prepared them to enter the world. “I don’t think that greatness is something that falls out of the sky in a strike of lightning. I think it’s a habit,” he said. “I think it’s safe to say not only are we made for greatness, but we are actually ready for greatness.”
Muggli reminded students not to take their impact on the world lightly. “Don’t think that if you don’t see a difference, you didn’t make one,” she said. “God can set the world on fire with the smallest flame.”
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 Olivia Ortiz, a Political Science and Philosophy major from Olathe, Kansas, and Isaac Rudolph, a Secondary Education, Social Science and Theology major from Peoria, Illinois.
Vincent Schiffiano, a Political Science and Philosophy major from Weddington, North Carolina, received the Transforming Culture in America Award for his work supporting the Pro-Life movement in the community and in the state, along with other activities aligned with the College’s vision to transform culture in America. Those discerning religious vocations were recognized. President Minnis called Colette Cassar, Matthew Connor, Kendall Kopf and Rori Richardson the “next leaders of the Catholic Church.”
The graduating seniors from the 2022 NAIA Women’s Lacrosse National Champion team were also recognized during the ceremony. It is the first team to win a national championship for Benedictine College in 55 years. Rianna England, Aidan McEnerney, Brooke Rauber, Clare Ryan and Natalie Wechter were the seniors who helped lead the team to the title.
Although not commissioned during Benedictine’s Commencement ceremony, President Minnis recognized U.S. Army Cadets Joseph Satterly, Georgine Irving, Megan Massey and Reese Holder, and U.S. Air Force Cadets Peter Weber and Sarah Tarnowski. They were all commissioned as 2nd Lieutenants in their respective branches in separated ceremonies. President Minnis also recognized other military personnel, veterans and first responders in the audience.
The ceremony concluded with one of the graduates, Annie Goodwin, a Vocal Music major, singing the Benedictine College Alma Mater, O Lord of Ev’ry Blessing, followed by the closing prayer from Abbot James Albers, OSB, of St. Benedict’s Abbey.
The day before Commencement featured the traditional photo of graduates around the Benedictine “B” in front 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 Bishop Robert Barron was concelebrant and homilist for the Mass.
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.