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How do you Transform Culture in America? By strengthening the family. And how do you strengthen families?
“Formation, Restoration and Exploration,” says Tory Baucum (right), director of Benedictine College’s Center for Family Life. The new center has been doing just that — working with students on campus to tutor Atchison kids, working with 10 parishes throughout the Archdiocese, hosting families from across the United States, and going to the roots of John Paul’s vision of the family in Poland. “I have met really extraordinary people at Benedictine College,” said Tory Baucum. “This center is poised to make a real difference.”
The center was formed after members of the board of directors, faculty, staff, and subject experts met to determine the best ways to Transform Culture in America. St. John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation The Church in America became a focal point for plans. The document calls for American colleges to “train truly Christian leaders in the different spheres of human activity” and stresses the family. St. John Paul II has said “The future of civilization passes by way of the family.”
The John Paul II Fellows program forms students to be able to build strong families. Under the Center’s direction and mentorship, Benedictine College students go out to serve at-risk students in local public schools. The objective is to be living examples and teachers of the World Youth Alliance’s “Human Dignity Curriculum,” delivering universal truths in a way that a secular population can receive.
“Central to these principles is the belief freedom enables human excellence,” said Tory. “The Fellows instill the foundation that persons are subjects, never objects, and that students should pursue true friendships, which is the kind that help them accomplish excellence.” Students are responding. “This program has added a whole different element to the meaning of scholarship for me,” said Nicole Hraban, a junior from Windsor, Colo. “Once I stepped outside of myself and my bubble, I was able to better understand the communities’ wants and needs. And by working alongside the people who know Atchison the best, we are able to inspire real change and genuine progress within the community that we serve.”
Family Week at the college forms married and family life for participants from several states. From May 22-28 more than 30 adult participants and more than 80 children converged on the campus of Benedictine College for a week of fun, bonding, learning and full living. The week was designed by veterans of the John Paul II Institute in Rome and brings a rich European model to the states for the first time. The week is “a true experience of an authentic Catholic vision for marriage and family life,” said Tory.
“Fighting back against the secular narrative about family life, and giving intentional couples time and family activities to help refresh and restore their marriage.”
Poland outreach helps explore the depths of the Church’s teaching. Tory and the Fellows planned an immersive dive into the history and culture of Poland, where John Paul II developed his love of the family and was formed into the saint he would become. Unfortunately for the students, the overseas trip was cancelled because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which sent all of Europe into uncertain times.
However, Tory decided to make the trip alone, representing Joseph Naumann, Archbishop of Kansas City in Kansas, in a visit to the Diocese of Warsaw.
There he experienced the beauty of the domestic church in action, as Catholics opened their doors to accept millions of refugees fleeing the terrors of war in Ukraine. In fact, in meeting with Bishop Michal Janocha, Auxiliary Bishop of Warsaw, Tory was impressed to see that the bishop, himself, was housing a Ukrainian refugee family in his own home.
Tory’s writings on the visit proved immensely popular in Poland, and he was invited to return in June for a government-sponsored forum on developing policies toward a long-term solution for the crisis. “Poland is leading Europe in the Ukrainian refugee crisis and the domestic church leaders are leading Poland. Benedictine College’s Center for Family Life has been invited to coach these leaders,” Tory said. It was a deep love for Catholic principles of family life that led a renowned Anglican pastor of 30 years from his prestigious post of one of the Six Preachers of Canterbury Cathedral into the Catholic Church, and to the first directorship of the new Center for Family Life at Benedictine College.
Dr. Tory Baucum served as pastor of Episcopal parishes throughout the country and taught aspiring preachers at Asbury Theological Seminary. His 2014 appointment as one of the Six Preachers of Canterbury Cathedral opened opportunities for Tory to meet and learn from influential figures not only in his denomination, but also from other Christian faiths in ecumenical cooperation. Significantly for him, Baucum met Don Renzo Bonetti, founder of the Italian Movement Mistero Grande, in Rome.
Through that relationship and others, coupled with countless hours of study, Tory became convinced that Saint John Paul’s vision for the domestic Church, fortified by the saint’s unique 20th century Polish experience, was the answer to the disunity and chaos poisoning relationships in the world today.
With help from Atchison’s Benedictines, he became an Oblate of the order. Then, through preparation provided through a dear friend, Fr. Paul Scalia, son of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Tory and his wife, Elizabeth, were received into full communion with the Catholic Church on Easter Sunday, 2020. It was Fr. Scalia who provided a second assist to Tory, recommending that he explore a newly formed leadership position he had learned about in Kansas — which also just happens to be the state of Tory’s childhood.
The Center has ambitious dreams for the implementation of John Paul’s vision, but Tory believes it’s the most important mission of our time. He saw in the Catholic Church the one institution willing to consistently lay it all on the line for the family, and that was enough for him to change his world forever. Now he’s dedicated to a life of training the young people of Benedictine College to change their world.