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When Our Lady of Częstochowa arrived at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas on April 10th, the Benedictine fathers and the students placed the Icon in the university chapel just before the student-led veneration. Fr West concelebrated the 5:00 PM Mass and the homily was given by Abbot James Albers, OSB, who connected the visit of the Black Madonna with the Rosary Service.

The Benedictine Fathers are the oldest West European contemplative order, founded by St. Benedict of Nursia. Around the world, Benedictines have always had a strong devotion to Our Lady. In 2008, Benedictine College build a Grotto modeled after Lourdes, to mark the 150th anniversary of the apparitions. Atchison1The Benedictines base their monastic life on the Rule of St. Benedict, and the first rule is Pray and work.

This stop of the From Ocean to Ocean Campaign in Defense of Life brought together HLI vice president Fr. West with Father Matthew Habiger OSB, former president who served under HLI founder, Father Paul Marx OSB.  Father Habiger commended us for the work we were doing and assured us of his prayers for us and for Fr. Boquet. Atchison2 In many ways, HLI is building on the work begun by Fr. Marx and continued by Fr. Habiger.

They also met Molly Loesel, who served as an intern at HLI in the Summer of 2013. Father West led the Stations of the Cross and gave a presentation about the icon, the work of HLI and the From Ocean to Ocean Pilgrimage in Defense of Life.  Fr. Habiger also attended the talk.  Many students came up after the presentation to take a holy card and venerate the icon.

The College is truly Catholic, and is featured in the Cardinal Newman Society’s Newman Guide to Choosing a College. Here students receive a strong formation in the faith along with rigorous academics, and students certainly hear of the importance of being pro-life and being faithful to the Catholic doctrine.

AtchisonDuring dinner with students in the cafeteria, Fr. West and Chris asked the students why they chose Benedictine College. Two answers were most prevalent; first, because Benedictine College has a real Catholic identity and second, because it feels like home. In keeping with the school’s Catholic identity, and it being a Friday in Lent, fish was the featured menu item.

Early the next morning, we were invited to breakfast with the Benedictines, which we shared in silence as we listened to the spiritual reading, per the Benedictine discipline.

Atchison3Before leaving with the Icon they walked around the campus and found a great vantage point to view the Mississippi River. The monastery is located on a hill above its tributary, the Missouri river.

The college made this vantage point into a contemplative spot with benches surrounded by serene quiet and beautiful plants and trees. The whole area helps one to reflect. We reflected on how Lewis and Clark must have certainly passed by this spot and how, on July 4th, we will be in Astoria, Oregon, where the explorers finally reached the Pacific Coast. We have much to look forward to on our own trek across the continent, though we can boast on behalf of our pilgrimage partners that Louis and Clark did not begin in Vladivostok, Russia!

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