Fifteen hundred years ago, a man named Benedict left a cave to form a monastic community of monks in Italy. He based his community on a Rule that was eventually named after him.
He had no idea that his community would eventually run colleges and universities. He wanted “a school of the Lord’s Service.” What he eventually got was much more than he had bargained for. But what makes all this a “Benedictine Education”?
Recently, Benedictine educators came together to study what values make a Benedictine institution of higher learning. And the result is a list of values that hopefully set aside these institutions as “Benedictine.” Our first value is community. Community is a call to service for the common good. Benedictines unify their efforts through respect for the particular gifts and talents of each person, used for the benefit of all.
The Benedictine tradition recognizes the presence of God everywhere, in things big and small. Our resources, therefore, are used with care and recycled if possible. The beauty of our natural surroundings is irreplaceable, so we protect and cherish what has been entrusted to us.
Another hallmark of every Benedictine community is that we are open to the world or hospitality. Our colleges and universities welcome a diversity of peoples with a common spirit of reverence and respect. The global mission of a Benedictine institution is to foster a hospitable reception of others in a caring environment.
To fully welcome the stranger, we foster a sense of belonging and commitment in our campus community. Our parishioners, students, faculty, staff, and guests are an important part of our lives. Stability helps us to live with that feeling of importance at the forefront. And this is accomplished through listening. Our tradition emphasizes the importance of listening with the heart, especially through prayer. The ability to listen well is the key to respecting, loving, and understanding one another.
Benedictine higher education is student-centered and seeks to integrate classroom material into the fabric of life. The educational process is intended not only to impart knowledge, but to help build a moral character so students may become responsible leaders.
When one attends a Benedictine college or university hopefully the person will come away with a sense of these values that will help her/him to not just survive but flourish in an ever-changing world.