The IRL is comprised of bishops, priests, brothers, sisters, laity and colleges who work together to support and foster vocations to the consecrated life (click here to become an Associate Member!!). It is somewhat surprising to see colleges on the list but it is really no surprise because some colleges are virtual powerhouses of vocations.
One of those is Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. In 2012, for example, seven women who attended the college professed final vows as Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George.
On September 9, 2013, the college was consecrated to the Blessed Virgin Mary on the feast day of her birth. Their President, Stephen Minnis, recounted the many times that the Mother of God had interceded on the college’s behalf, most notably from the very beginning!
It seems that the founder of Benedictine College, Fr. Henry Lemke, OSB, found himself lost on the Kansas prairie in 1856 in a driving rainstorm. Certain that he was going to die, Father lifted his heart to Mary, whom as a convert to the faith, he had never prayed to in his life. “Mary,” he said, “I have never called upon you before; but if you can help me, I’ll be forever devoted to you.”
Just then he saw a faint light. In a prairie house, a mother had lit a lantern because her young daughter had had a vision of a women in white who told her to call her mother. Hearing her daughter’s cry, the mother lit the lantern.
Fr. Lemke believed that the Blessed Mother had saved his life. Two years later, in 1858, he founded Benedictine college, the same year that the Blessed Mother appeared to St. Bernadette in Lourdes. In fact, the college dedicated a new Lourdes Grotto in 2008 on the 150th anniversary of the apparition and the college’s founding. Legendary Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz gave the first donation.
Archbishop Joseph Naumann was present during the grotto dedication and recalled that the weather forecast had been for rain, rain, rain. He called President Minis and asked him to call out the Memorarae Army to pray for good weather. An air traffic controller was amazed “that the storm system that had rolled across Kansas at a steady clip” inexplicably stalled outside of Atchison for approximately 5 hours, “clearing” the way for the dedication.
In this college so devoted to Mary, Mr. Minnis estimates that over 250 students a year consecrate themselves to Mary. St. Benedict Abbey Abbot James Albers said, “She is the avenue of Christ to the world. We need to model our Yes on her Yes in bringing Christ to the world.”
The students agree. “Many of the professors remind us of how important Mary is in our faith lives,” said one young adult, “That through Mary we can be closer to Christ’s heart and live our lives in a more efficient and straighter path to salvation.”