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The Gregorian Institute’s online name will change on Sept. 8 to Ex Corde, to reflect Benedictine College’s plan to match the college’s new emphasis on St. John Paul II’s blueprint for Transforming Culture in America.
The Latin phrase Ex Corde means “from the heart” and is often used as a shorthand for St. John Paul II’s 1990 Constitution on Higher Education, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, whose first words say that Catholic colleges are “Born from the heart of the Church.”
In that Constitution, St. John Paul II identifies transforming culture as the task of Catholic higher education. He uses the word “culture” 65 times and says Catholic colleges “give me a well-founded hope for a new flowering of Christian culture in the rich and varied context of our changing times.”
In 1999 John Paul reiterated higher education’s role in culture in The Church in America, which made Our Lady of Guadalupe the Queen of the Americas. In the document, he also puts colleges in charge of “promoting the inculturation of the Gospel” and gives universities three tasks.
Benedictine College incorporated all three in its new strategic plan Transforming Culture in America.
First, colleges should “persevere in their most important mission,” writes John Paul.
Benedictine’s Transforming Culture in America plan stresses the college’s mission throughout, saying:
“Benedictine College’s mission of ‘The education of men and women within a community of faith and scholarship,’ commits the college to the same transformative work of the first Benedictines who saved civilization from darkness and set the world ablaze. Benedictine’s mission can Transform Culture in America by modeling community in an age of incivility, spreading faith in an age of hopelessness, and committing to scholarship in a ‘post-truth’ era.”
Second, Colleges should “extend to all sectors of society, without distinction or exclusion,” writes St. John Paul.
He specifies that “the laity strive to evangelize the various sectors of family, social, professional, cultural and political life.” The Transforming Culture in America plan supports several centers, including centers in each sector John Paul specified: The Center for Family Life, the Center for Service-Learning, the Thompson Center for Integrity in Finance and Economics, the Center for Beauty and Culture, and the Center for Constitutional Liberty.
Third, colleges should “provide ‘a Catholic education to the poor and the marginalized in society,’” wrote St. John Paul II.
The Transforming Culture in America plan stresses endowed scholarship and says, “The global Catholic Church which embraces the world’s races and cultures is our model for diversity.” On Aug. 31, President Minnis announced that “Beginning in the fall of 2022 we will recruit up to six first generation/minority students, providing them with full-tuition scholarships. They will be formed in the thoughts and values of Martin Luther King and training in principles of effective mentorship; they will be teamed with at-risk youth in the Atchison schools and provide them with guidance.”
It’s no wonder the college’s plan follows St. John Paul II’s vision so closely. After all, the college had only 491 students in 1991 when Ex Corde went into effect and, after decades of following Ex Corde Ecclesiae, has more than 600 Freshmen alone this year. And after Benedictine College was chosen to help implement John Paul’s The Church in America document, the college consecrated itself to Our Lady, opened Guadalupe Hall, and saw unprecedented success.