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Last week, May 27-29, Benedictine College hosted the Cardinal Newman Society Leadership Conference on Student Life to promote Catholic identity in college life. More than 40 Student Life professionals from 13 different Newman Guide colleges came to discuss challenges and ideas for Student Life college offices.
Benedictine’s President Stephen D. Minnis opened the conference by discussing three things that happen for 18-24 year olds—today’s Millennials—especially when they’re in college. The conference addressed how all three manifest themselves in Newman schools.
The first thing to happen is the development of strong, life-long friendships. “During this time, the young adult makes the most significant adult relationships in their lives,” said Minnis. “They develop life-long friends and many times find their spouse if they are called to the married life.”
One of the conference’s speakers, Dr. Ted Sri, pointed out that there are two challenges for Millennials: overemphasized self-esteem, and technology. After his talk, a discussion developed about how colleges can help their students overcome those obstacles and rise above.
Linda Henry, Vice President for Student Affairs at Benedictine, noted that Benedictine’s Student Life program is unique in its encouragement of students to “live our Catholic mission and Benedictine charism with resolve and enthusiasm not only during their college years, but throughout their life.”
The second thing that happens is the formation of a mature, adult faith that replaces a more undeveloped childhood faith. Minnis said young adults “move from a childhood faith, perhaps inherited from their families, to one of their own. This could also mean that they make a decision to have no faith—in fact, that is what studies are showing.”
Bob Laird, Vice President for Program Development for the Cardinal Newman Society, said that “student leaders today face immense challenges in providing a Christ-centered atmosphere for the students.” He described the conference as “the only opportunity that these leaders have to share best practices which reflect this atmosphere. There is no other place for them to turn in their quest for excellence.”
Dr. Joseph Wurtz, Dean of Students at Benedictine, said that Benedictine’s office of Student Life is aiming to create such an atmosphere by “raising up young leaders who are facing these complex Catholic identity challenges with the character, the competencies, and the resiliency required to elevate our campus cultures.”
Finally, students in college “seriously discern their vocation, determining what God is calling them to do and be,” Minnis said. Vocations are an integral part of Benedictine College’s end-of-the-year activities. Young men and women who are entering seminary or becoming sisters are featured in the college’s May crowning, and are announced at Commencement.
Laird was very impressed with Benedictine. “Benedictine’s hospitality was at its finest for the conference,” he said. “The little touches that Linda Henry and her staff displayed show how Benedictine practices what it preaches by treating each person as if he or she were Christ.”