On April 27 a procession to the Student Center will follow the 10 a.m. Abbey Mass, where an unveiling ceremony will reveal the new designation. The building is a hub of campus activity with opportunities to eat, play sports, watch games, attend lectures or theater presentations, or meet with student life staff.
The naming ceremony will cap off the events of “John Paul II Days” (see full list below.)
“Our students have long expressed an interest in naming a significant building on campus after John Paul the Great, so when a generous benefactor offered the resources to do so, we jumped at the opportunity,” said President Stephen D. Minnis. “We have been called the flagship college of the New Evangelization and we owe our thriving faith life to the inspiration of soon to be Saint John Paul.”
Minnis cited several ways Pope John Paul II influenced Benedictine College:
In 1979, when Pope John Paul II visited Altoona, Iowa, Stephen Minnis and other students visited from Atchison, Kansas. The visit made a big impression.
In 1990, Pope John Paul II promulgated Ex Corde Ecclesiae, the transformative Apostolic Constitution governing Catholic colleges and universities.
In 1993, Pope John Paul II’s World Youth Day in Denver was pivotal to many vocations — including Father Brendan Rolling, OSB, the Benedictine College chaplain who built its College Ministry program and Abbot James Albers, OSB, the abbot who this year consecrated Benedictine College to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Other Benedictine College administrators trace their enthusiasm about the faith to encounters with John Paul II in his 1987 trip to California and his 1999 trip to St. Louis.
The college’s landmark document Benedictine 2020: A Vision for Greatness defines its academic goals by quoting John Paul: “As a Catholic college, we consider faith and reason as ‘two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of the truth.’ [John Paul II, Fides et Ratio]”
“Pope John Paul is the reason I am a Catholic priest,” said Benedictine College chaplain Father Brendan Rolling. “I had thought about becoming a priest during my college years. When friends and I attended the 1993 World Youth Day in Denver, CO, it was a game changer. Blessed John Paul’s witness, conviction, and call for radical conversion in Christ made me want to run for the Gospel.”
The St. John Paul II Student Center houses the Office of Student Life (residence life, student activities, student government), college ministry, FOCUS and SPO, athletic offices, an auditorium and the school’s Ralph Nolan Gymnasium.
“This building captures the spirit of John Paul II in its very variety,” said Dean of Students Dr. Joseph Wurtz. “His work on the theology of the body, which our staff uses in its programs, is also promoted through the sculptures in the building. JPII also opened the Office of Church and Sport in 2004, which indicated that the Church considered sport an important dimension of contemporary culture. Lastly, JPII was an artist with a passion for theater and the relationship between faith and art.”
Student Body Vice President Angie Lorang, class of 2016, welcomes the name change. “The name better fits the unique spirit of our school, whereas a ‘student union’ can be found on any campus. I work in the Student Union, so I am excited to be going to work every day in a building named after one of my favorite saints.”
Monica Swingle, Benedictine College class of 2015, was recently voted Student Government Association Communications Director. “I am very excited the college has decided to publicly honor such a wonderful example of a soon to be saint that reflected such strong Catholic leadership on a global scale,” she said. “It will remind students of what we aspire to do here at Benedictine and out in the world when we graduate as we participate in the New Evangelization.”