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Every Thursday afternoon, hundreds of faculty, staff, and students gather for a Eucharistic Hour at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.
“I wish everyone could see what is happening here,” said Stephen D. Minnis, the college’s president. “It’s so inspiring to see our students filling the church to adore the Lord.”
“We made an institutional decision that nothing is more important that the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament,” he said. As a result, the college offers free books on the Eucharist by Brant Pitre to all students, offers perpetual Eucharistic adoration on campus, and is a stop on the national Eucharistic procession to the National Eucharistic Congress. Together, these Eucharistic efforts have inspired the college to work to Transform Culture in America.
But it’s adoring the Blessed Sacrament together that stands out …
Students are invited to join as staff and faculty are invited to make the hour part of their work day.
Victoria Rogers, a nursing major from Manassas, Virginia, thinks the possibilities are endless. “If faculty are spending an hour a week with our Lord in adoration,” she said, “that transfers to the classroom; coaches, to the playing field; students, to the activities; staff, to their colleagues.”
The college’s chaplain, Father Ryan Richardson, agrees. “I discovered the depths of my Catholic faith in a profound encounter with the Eucharist on a retreat in high school,” he said. “I wouldn’t be a priest without adoration in college, which is where I discovered my vocation. My hope is that our students will have the same kind of experience as I had.”
Rogers shares that passion. She and other students have been gathering at the school’s busy Raven Crossing to promote adoration.
“We have personally encountered the love of Christ and His true presence in the Eucharist and want to share this with other students,” she said.
That fervor for the Eucharist started with St. John Paul II and Mother Teresa, is why the college is here at all.
Benedictine Father Meinrad Miller, who has ministered to the Benedictine College community for years, gives Eucharistic Adoration credit for the college’s turnaround story that transformed it into a school with two decades of enrollment increases, and vastly expanded academic programs.
“A lot of the turnaround at Benedictine College started when the Pope was in Colorado in 1993,” Father Meinrad said. “After the Pope came you saw more kids involved in the faith life on campus, and we started an hour of adoration at the college in 1994.”
He said he remembers himself and Dr. Edward Sri, who was a professor at the college at the time, doing what Victoria and her friends do — going out onto the sidewalks to invite students to Mass or adoration.
But he traces the roots of the revival to a 1981 visit by Mother Teresa to Mount St. Scholastica Monastery in town, where Benedictine College’s South Campus was located. Mother Teresa told the college: “I beg you to give Jesus to the young people in your care.”
Father Meinrad said, “I sensed that the same thing was happening here that St. Teresa of Calcutta described: The students were receiving Jesus in Communion, serving him in those in need, and adoring him present on the altar.”
When the U.S. bishops began the National Eucharistic Revival leading to a National Eucharistic Congress, they put Bishop Andrew Cozzens in charge.
Bishop Cozzens graduated from Benedictine College in 1991, and is well aware of the crisis in belief in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.
When the National Eucharistic Revival launched a nationwide songwriting contest for a theme song — a Benedictine College alumna, Diane Mahoney, won it with “We Do Believe, O Lord.”
Benedictine College was chosen to be a stop on the “Junipero Serra Route” of the national Eucharistic Pilgrimage from San Francisco through the Rocky Mountains, stopping at the college en route to the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis.
If Eucharistic Adoration does on other campuses what it is doing at Benedictine, the future of the Church is strong.
President Minnis cited some of the fruits of Eucharistic Adoration on campus:
SOLT Sisters Vocations director Sister Mary Elizabeth Albers, is one of multiple vocations directors who discovered their vocations at Benedictine’s adoration, and theologian and author Andrew Swafford and his wife are among married Catholic leaders who did as well.
“You will find Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament everywhere on campus,” Minnis said. “We have built five new chapels, featuring tabernacles in our Residence Halls. The Abbey tower, which is the highest point on campus, is a marker showing the way to the tabernacle there, visible for miles.”