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One had 1,000 questions. One had roommates whose way of life challenged him. One longed to receive Jesus in the Eucharist. You might see all 10 of them in the communion line at Mass this Sunday.
Each year the Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, welcomes new members to the Catholic family at St. Benedict’s Abbey on campus. On April 16, Divine Mercy Sunday, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City-Kansas celebrated Divine Mercy Mass and administered the sacraments to 10 Ravens entering the fullness of the faith.
Each overcame challenges. Addiction, lust, pride and loneliness were separating them from the peace and love of God. Faith’s joy attracted converts to Christ despite adversity.
Community created the safe space for their faith transformation. The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA), which is offered by the parish and campus ministry from around mid-September and through early April, provided an organized process for the community members to convert.
“The RCIA program on campus is a student led ministry,” said Adrian Charles, the coordinator of Catechesis at Benedictine. “We talk about a variety of topics including but not limited to the Trinity, Christ, virtues, and the sacraments. They meet approximately every other week to discuss the faith, prayer life, and their conversion. Depending on a student’s history, they may encounter tension, since they have been called to turn away from their old life and turn towards God.”
For a dining hall employee of the College, a three-year experience of receiving genuine joy from Benedictine students during meals led him towards an unexpected transformation to becoming a Catholic
“My only regret is that I didn’t get here sooner,” said Jordan. “I was the black sheep, the outcast. Father Ryan and all at the Abbey were willing to give me answers if I asked a question. I realized that there was a lot I did not know and that some things I had learned were wrong. There were nights my body hurt because I was relearning so much.”
Moving from Wichita, Kansas, three years ago, it was through his work in the college dining hall on campus that Jordan Gwin (right) formed a desire to learn about Catholicism. After being so positively impacted by the witnessing of faith from students at Benedictine, Jordan began his journey to the Catholic faith by entering the campus RCIA program.
Forward, Always Forward became a mantra for Jordan during RCIA. He said, “I had so many cheerleaders who told me keep going, keep going. I’m not used to that.”
“To actually experience a community of faith, to know it is real; it’s the most wonderful feeling!” Jordan earnestly expressed.
One could say Benedictine baseball player, Creighton Cordova (below right) is making the most of where he is. But there’s more.
He chose to attend Benedictine College because of the opportunity to play baseball and attend on an academic scholarship. A senior with a major in exercise science, Creighton graduated in December with a BA in Exercise Science and began his full-time MBA studies while finishing his commitment to the baseball team.
Creighton said it was lots of little moments that led him to become confirmed in the Catholic Church and to receive his first Holy Communion. What culminated in one Mass, began as a slow process as it is written in Exodus 23:30, “Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased, and you inherit the land.”
“At first I began attending occasional Masses. Living with actively practicing Catholics — guys who practiced what they preach and show you how to do things — heavily influenced my interest in Catholicism,” said Creighton.
“Taking the RCIA classes — learning about God, philosophy, and tangible ways to live in faith have helped me to understand that we get to receive Jesus through the Eucharist. I am beyond thrilled to receive Holy Communion on Sunday — it’s the biggest day of my life,” said Creighton.
Another tremendous influence on Creighton’s conversion was consistent presence of Father Ryan Richardson, the college Chaplain who actively supports the baseball team.
“Before baseball practice, Father Ryan provided the “Spiritual Playbook” for us and we read it before practice started so we could reflect on a verse and a passage that he picked out,” Creighton said.
“While on the road traveling to away games, several baseball players would dress in team college polo shirts and attend Mass. Others would see us and say, ‘Benedictine is here’ and they would see what we’re about!” Creighton excitedly shared.
“I believe Fr. Ryan has a direct impact on the student athletes,” Charles explained. “One of the students converting this year asked Fr. Ryan to be his godparent. That is a great example of the impact he has on the athletes. Just being out there with them shows the athletes that they are more than just athletes, they are children of God. The fact that Fr. Ryan has their best interest at heart is visible. They see this and it helps them start their journey home.”
The end of the story is eternal, which makes this a celebration for each of the 10 new Catholic members from the Benedictine community the very best kind on earth.