College Celebrates Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of Transforming Culture

The Dec. 12 feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is the feast of Transforming Culture in America, at least at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.

“Our Lady of Guadalupe is tied directly to our college’s Transforming Culture in America plan,” said President Stephen D. Minnis.

The college launched its strategic vision Transforming Culture in America with a Memorare Army prayer campaign that began on Sept. 8 and culminated on Dec. 12, 2021, the 490th anniversary of the appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe to St. Juan Diego in Mexico.

St. John Paul II made Our Lady of Guadalupe the “Star of the New Evangelization” of America in his document The Church in America in 1999. In that document, St. John Paul II wrote: “Through Our Lady of Guadalupe’s powerful intercession, the Gospel will penetrate the hearts of the men and women of America and permeate their culture, transforming them from within.’”

President Minnis said that working with the Vatican in Rome and Mexico City to renew that document “changed everything” for the college:

“Our Lady said to St. Juan Diego: ‘Listen, my child: There are many I could send, but you are the one I have chosen for this task.’ Many years later, I felt a little like Juan Diego when the Vatican chose me to represent Benedictine College at conferences in Rome and at Mexico City to review the document The Church in America.”

After that conference, he said , “We consecrated Benedictine College to Our Lady, opened Guadalupe Hall on campus, and began planning ways to Transform Culture in America.”

Our Lady of Guadalupe is named for the image that appeared miraculously on the tilma of Juan Diego, a Mexican peasant on Dec. 12, 1531, near what is today Mexico City. Scientists can’t explain how the image got there — or even why the tilma itself has not decayed.

The postulator of the cause of St. Juan Diego, Msgr. Eduardo Chavez, consecrated the chapel in Our Lady of Guadalupe Hall at Benedictine College. “Jesus is the center of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe,” Msgr Chavez said. “The sash showing that Our Lady is pregnant is in the very center of the image. And so the center of the message is not her, but Him.”

Just as the center of the Guadalupe image is Jesus, the real presence of Jesus Christ in the tabernacle of St. Juan Diego Chapel is the most cherished part of Guadalupe Hall for the women students of every college year who live there. Following the chapel dedication, Msgr. Chavez also blessed a new statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe in a niche directly across from the entrance to the St. Juan Diego Chapel. The statue was sculpted by Alexandra Stimson using wood from an Ash tree.

Guadalupe Hall is the second location on campus dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe. The first was the Guadalupe Chapel in the crypt of St. Benedict’s Abbey, which features the fresco Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Four Apparitions by the artist Jean Charlot. That fresco and chapel were competed in 1959.

President Minnis said that the early devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe at the college is of her special relationship with the college.

“I will never forget the night I went back and forth in front of the tilma in the basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, asking Our Lady, over and over again, for her son to bless Benedictine College,” said President Minnis. “And I can’t help but hear those words she said so long ago to Juan Diego: “There are many I could send, but you are the one I have chosen.”