Disability and Human Nature: Day of Study 2019

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Disability and Human Nature

Day of Study 2019

On Saturday, February 2, 2019 from 9:00AM - 4:00PM, the Saint Benedict Forum will host a Day of Study on the theme Disability and Human Nature.

The rise of disability studies has given fresh urgency to the question of what it means to be human and many of those engaged in this study seem to be operating from very different principles. On the one hand, there are those who would deny that the disabled, especially the intellectually disabled, have lives worth living and, indeed, would even argue that some among them are not persons.  On the other hand, there are defenders of the disabled who challenge the idea of ‘normal’ and who often explicitly or tacitly argue that traditional notions of human nature are wrong or, at least, need to be rethought.   This Day of Study is meant to explore, in the light of faith, some of the questions raised by the current state of disability studies.  What does it mean to be human?  Is there a different meaning for disabled humans? Is there such a thing as ‘normal’ for human beings? What are the characteristics, if any, of our common human nature? Are disabilities part of creation or the Fall?  Does the Christian tradition have resources for addressing the questions raised by disability studies or does the tradition need a radical re-thinking?

The day of study will consist of several papers presented by Michael Waddell, Sarah Barton, Carlos Thompson, and Greg Carrier. Each paper will be followed by a conversation with twenty invited "thoughtful interlocutors" from the region.

Michael Waddell is the McMahon Aquinas Chair in Philosophy at St. Mary's College and Director of the Master of Autism Studies.  He is currently working on a book, Autism and the Catholic Tradition

Sarah Barton is a Nouwen Fellow at Western Theological Seminary.  She is finishing her dissertation on "Becoming the Baptized Body: Disability, Baptism, and the Practice of Christian Community" at Duke Divinity School. 

Carlos Thompson is a Nouwen Fellow at Western Theological Seminary and Director of Friendship House.  He is finishing his dissertation at the University of Aberdeen.  

Greg Carrier received his Masters degree in History from University of Alberta where he wrote a fascinating thesis, "Fiat silentium? Deafness in Medieval Thought."

Giving Tuesday 2018


Giving Tuesday Supporting the Saint Benedict Institute

Today is #GivingTuesday! Please consider making a gift to support our ministry at Hope College. Throughout the month of November we have shared several stories from our students. They are beautiful accounts of vocation, conversion, and service. By giving to the Saint Benedict Institute your generosity can help foster many new stories in the lives of students at Hope College in the years to come. 

Check out our featured students below!

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"Inspired by the Holy Spirit, I had a newfound openness to God’s voice. It was in hearing His voice that I found out that He was leading me to the priesthood."

Read Jacob's story


"I gobbled up all the Catholic media I could find, ravenous to know God in this new way that was true and beautiful, simple yet endlessly mysterious."

Read Jazz's story


"There is no doubt that if I wasn’t altar serving, I could spend more time with friends, run over to the dining hall earlier and then try to finish my school work. Yet, it is when we make ourselves poorer for His sake, the One who sacrificed everything to be with us, that the blessings of God make themselves manifest in our lives."

Read Chase's Story

Immersion Trip: St. Meinrad Monastery

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Immersion Trip: St. Meinrad Monastery

Theme:  Prayer, liturgy, contemplative life

This trip will immerse you in the world of monastic religious life, centered around the ideas of prayer and manual labor.  We’ll joining the monks five times per day for prayer, doing an outdoor project on the monastery grounds, hearing some interesting talks about prayer and monastic life, and also enjoying R&R with the monks.  

Location:  St. Meinrad Archabbey in Meinrad, IN

Program Dates:  March 17-23

Cost:  $700 (Includes lodging and food)

Important Dates:

Applications Open: January

           Payment Dates:

                 **Registration is NOT COMPLETE until the NON-REFUNDABLE DEPOSIT of $100 has been paid.

            - 1st Payment Due: $100 (Deposit at sign-up)

            - 2nd Payment Due: Friday, February 1, 2019

            - 3rd Payment Due: Balance Due Friday, March 1, 2019

**Cancellations forfeit any refund

Student Stories: Made New in Christ

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Jazmine Porter: Made New in Christ


My freshman year at Hope I took a 2-credit introductory religion course with Dr. Ortiz. I found the course very challenging and it totally wrecked what I thought I knew about Jesus and Christianity. Near the end of the course Dr. Ortiz stopped me at the end of the class and said “You should be a religion major.” I spent the next two years after that wrestling with Christianity and seeking a denominational home that seemed theologically and philosophically consistent within and outside itself. I was having a horrible time and regularly interrogated Dr. Ortiz with questions via email which he would always respond to graciously and patiently with more answers than I really wanted or could emotionally bear.

I decided I would leave Hope to gain some perspective.  I signed up for a domestic study abroad program where I lived in a cabin on a mountain a long car ride from civilization without my phone or Facebook and many other distractions. I intended to figure out this denominational issue once and for all. The summer before I left I took a church history course with Dr. Ortiz. Although the course was condensed at the time I took it and luckily had my whole semester “abroad” to meditate on it. During this time, I tried every church on the map. Funny enough, the way it worked out, even going to Protestant churches, I don’t think I got to receive communion that entire semester. Driving up the mountain, on the way home from my last church service that semester, which happened to be Mass, I looked out the window at the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. I turned to my professor, also the driver, and said: “Want to know my pet peeve? When churches don’t serve communion every time. In the ancient church, the Eucharist was the whole point of going to church. Everything centered around that. At least for the sake of tradition, we should stay historically consistent.” We stayed silent a moment. I looked back out the window at the sun filtering through trees as we rounded a bend and the scene broke into another bright and beautiful landscape. I got uncomfortable. Finally, I said it out loud: “I have to be Catholic.”

As soon as we got home I emailed Dr. Ortiz and St. Francis de Sales Parish to alert them of the fact that my heart was on fire and this needed to happen as soon as possible. This was too many years in the making. I gobbled up all the Catholic media I could find, ravenous to know God in this new way that was true and beautiful, simple yet endlessly mysterious. When I came back to Hope for the Spring semester, the Saint Benedict Institute had all kinds of groups, activities and events on campus that I could do alongside Catholics in preparation for my baptism and confirmation. I joined the women’s prayer group, an Exodus 90 group, and met with Carly McShane (the campus missionary) and Fr. Nick weekly, and attended a three-week seminar on Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory. By the time the Easter Vigil arrived I was already a changed person. But that night, at my baptism, I became a new person in Christ, and through my confirmation I matured more fully into that person.

I can’t imagine what it would be like to be given my eternal baptismal robes and then return to a campus with minimal Catholic community and then try to maintain my robes as I said I would in my baptismal promises. Without things like daily mass, constant access to the sacrament of reconciliation, such an intense community of Catholic students, and events that the Saint Benedict Institute has, I may have lost sight of my new identity. Besides the gift of a deeper, more fruitful, and eternal relationship with God, the next greatest gift that I received from my conversion almost 9 months ago is the new community of friends and family (including the communion of saints!) that I have found through the Catholic Church and more specifically through the Catholic community at Hope.

Jazz Porter is a senior studying Church History and Theology and Environmental Studies at Hope College. She is a member of the leadership team for the student group Hope Catholics and leads a bible study on campus. Jazz enjoys brewing her own kombucha and playing with her four guinea pigs.

Student Stories: Come and See

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Jacob Mazur-Batistoni: Come and See

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It was over coffee during the first semester of my sophomore year of college that I heard these words, “Do you want to know the best way to do what you want to do? The priesthood.” I looked Fr. Nick in the eyes and adamantly shut down the idea. Fast forward to the next semester: I was sheepishly telling Father, “I think I am being called to the priesthood,” to which he simply raised his eyebrows as if to say, ‘I told you so.’ Just before the semester started I attended a conference and had a deep conversion. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, I had a newfound openness to God’s voice. It was in hearing His voice that I found out that he was leading me to the priesthood.

After I informed Fr. Nick of my new direction I began the discernment process, allowing him to help me follow the Lord faithfully. We began meeting every two weeks and shortly after that we started the Exodus 90 program. In this time of prayer and fasting, I grew deep in my faith and learned about myself and God. I did not feel a pull in one direction or another, but I had a great deal of peace despite the lack of direction.

My discernment process picked up when Fr. Nick suggested that I go to a “Come and See” weekend with the Dominicans in St. Louis. During this visit I experienced the brother’s communal way of life. All the visitors joined the brothers in Morning Prayer (Lauds), Evening Prayer (Vespers), and Night Prayer (Compline). This was an incredible experience that revealed a longing for a life built around prayer. The brothers were friendly, joyful, and had a great sense of humor. The mission of the Dominicans, to preach the gospel and convert souls, deeply resonated with me. I feel myself drawn to the spiritual works of mercy, which is at the core of this mission.

Although there are many years of discernment ahead of me, the Dominicans are currently the front runners. I am thankful that guidance will be readily available due to Fr. Nick’s presence at Hope. Regardless of where I end up, this season has been a great blessing for me and I will be closer to Christ because of it.

Jacob Mazur-Batistoni, formerly ‘Jacob with the long hair,’ is a junior studying Church History and Theology at Hope College. Jacob serves as a leader for the student group Hope Catholics and works with the high schoolers in the ALPHA program at St. Francis de Sales Parish.

Student Stories: My Time Serving at the Altar

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Chase Pearce: My Time Serving at the Altar


On the twenty-eighth Sunday of Ordinary time, Fr. Nick gave a homily on what it means to be poor, relating it to the Gospel of Mark and the rich man that came to Jesus. Christ told the man “Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me", and the man was disheartened for he had many things. While it’s true that Our Lord calls us to make material sacrifices, there are many other forms of poverty, and serving at the altar has helped me become poorer, specifically in temporal poverty. Time is a precious gift that no one can get back, and being an altar server takes time, whether it’s to help set up for Mass, to bear the crucifix as people leave (an awesome title called the crucifer), or to help take everything down and ensure its safely stored away. There is no doubt that if I wasn’t altar serving, I could spend more time with friends, run over to the dining hall earlier and then try to finish my school work. Yet, it is when we make ourselves poorer for His sake, the One who sacrificed everything to be with us, that the blessings of God make themselves manifest in our lives. It is only when we have emptied ourselves of that which we possess that we can then be fulfilled by the abundant gifts that Our Lord lavishes upon us.

Chase Pearce is a senior studying biology at Hope College. You will frequently find him doing homework in the basement of Graves hall at ‘his desk’. Chase is also a convert to the Catholic faith.

Carly's Chapel Talk

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Carly’s Chapel Talk

On Wednesday, October 3, 2018 hundreds of Hope students gathered in Dimnent Memorial Chapel as they do every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for a twenty-five minute worship service. Student regularly hear from the Hope College chaplains, their peers, and special guests. On this particular day the guest speaker was our very own Saint Benedict Institute campus missionary, Carly McShane. Carly was invited to speak on 1 Timothy 3:14-16. Listen to her talk here or click the link below.

I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these instructions to you so that, if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth. Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of our religion:

He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.
— 1 Timothy 3:14-16

Film Showing: Summer in the Forest [TRAILER]

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Summer in the Forest

On Thursday, November 8 at 7:00 PM in Winants Auditorium students, faculty, and community members gathered for a screening of the film Summer in the Forest followed by a talk back with Dennis Feaster, professor of Social Work and Sociology at Hope College.

Summer in the Forest is a documentary film that explores the life and work of Catholic author and philosopher Jean Vanier. It traces Vanier’s activism and faith from wartime to present day and reveals to us the universal need for love, community and companionship.

Like countless others Philippe, Michel, Andre and Patrick were labeled 'idiots', locked away and forgotten in violent asylums, until the 1960s, when the young philosopher Jean Vanier took a stand and secured their release - the first time in history that anyone had beaten the system. Together they created L'Arche, a commune at the edge of a beautiful forest near Paris. A quiet revolution was born.

Now in his 80s, and still at L'Arche, Jean has discovered something that most of us have forgotten - what it is to be human, to be foolish, and to be happy.

Film Showing: The Dating Project


The Dating Project

On Thursday, November 1 at 6:30PM Hope College Campus Ministries and the Saint Benedict Institute hosted a showing of The Dating Project in Dimnent Chapel.

The film was followed by a panel discussion with students and Campus Ministries Staff.

50% of America is single. The way people seek and find love has radically changed. The trends of hanging out, hooking up, texting and social media have created a dating deficit. Dating is now…outdated. Follow five single people, aged 18 to 40, as they navigate this new landscape.

Watch the trailer.

Sunday School 2.0: The CCD You Wish You Had


Sunday School 2.0: The CCD You Wish You Had

October 21, 28 and November 4 (Sundays)

Following Mass 6:00PM - 7:15PM

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Current students are invited to join us for a three-week FREE dinner and class on Catholic doctrine and practice. This ain't your grade school CCD! Each week Fr. Nick Monco O.P. will give instruction on the Saints, purgatory, and praying for the dead (indulgences). 

Students only. Registration is required and attendance is expected at all three sessions. Seating is limited to 25 students. 

A Civil Dialogue on Abortion: Two Philosopher Friends Discuss Controversial Topics [VIDEO]

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A Civil Dialogue on Abortion: Two Philosopher Friends Discuss Controversial Topics

On October 18, 2018, Jack Mulder (Hope College) and Bertha Manninen (Arizona State University) had a refreshingly civil dialogue on abortion. After some humorous trouble with the microphones, the event gets going in earnest.

Two friends, a pro-life philosopher and a pro-choice philosopher, came together to show us what civil dialogue looks like on one of our most contentious issues.

Jack Mulder is the Chair of the Philosophy Department at Hope College. He writes and teaches in the areas of philosophy of religion, Catholic thought, applied ethics and the thought of Søren Kierkegaard.

Bertha Manninen is an associate professor of Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies at Arizona State University. Her scholarly interests are applied ethics, biomedical ethics, normative and meta-ethics, philosophy of religion, and social and political philosophy.

Their new co-authored book  (Routledge, 2018) has been praised by critics on both sides as showing us "how to engage with our opponents thoughtfully, critically, and respectfully while illuminating the moral and philosophical complexities behind the abortion debate."  


This event was sponsored by the Saint Benedict Institute, the Philosophy, Political Science, Psychology, Religion, Women’s and Gender Studies Departments, along with Vox Populi, GRACES, Campus Ministries, the Center for Ministry Studies, Markets & Morality, and Hope Catholics.

Restorative Justice Conference: Hope, Healing, and Radical Reconciliation

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Restorative Justice Conference: Hope, Healing, and Radical Reconciliation

Saturday, October 13, 2018


Calvin College, Covenant Fine Arts Center


Two years ago, the students in the Calvin Prison Initiative program at the R.A. Handlon Correctional facility had an idea and heart to put on a conference about restorative justice. They wanted, in some way, to reach out and create something that the public could participate and learn in. That produced the first restorative justice conference last year, held at Hope College. This year, is a continuation of that spirit of connectedness and dedication to restorative justice.

The 2nd Annual West Michigan Restorative Justice Conference is again, organized by students in the Calvin Prison Initiative program at the R.A. Handlon Correctional facility, with a theme of Hope, Healing, and Radical Reconciliation.

This one-day FREE conference (registration required) will feature a variety of speakers and organizations from the State of Michigan that work in areas of restorative justice and criminal justice reform. The conference will be held on October 13, 2018 from 9AM-4PM at Calvin College's Covenant Fine Arts Center.

Lunch will be provided at this event, and attendees will have time to visit booths of local organizations and non-profits, seeing how they contribute to restorative justice efforts in the state. In addition, a new application created by teh Civitas Lab will be featured. This app is an interactive map providing resources for re-entry and other restorative resources for those affected by incarceration.

Our speakers include:
Dr. Nicholas Wolterstorff is an American philosopher and Reformed epistemologist, formerly a professor at Calvin College, and a passionate believer in restorative justice. He will open the conference on what it means to mobilize hope in restorative justice.

Father David Kelly is the director Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation which operates out of a center in an old school on Chicago’s south side. There, the Missionaries of the Precious Blood minister in the Back of the Yards neighborhood and beyond. They offer a place of safety to neighborhood youth and families; operate work and study programs; take a stand against the senseless violence that ruins so many lives; and reach out to the lonely and forsaken through their prison ministry.

Dominique Gilliard is an ordained minister, advocate, speaker, and author. He wrote the book Rethinking Incarceration: Advocating for Justice that Restores and is the current director of Racial Righteousness and Reconciliation for the Evangelical Covenant Church's initiative Love Mercy Do Justice.

State Representative David LaGrand (D-Grand Rapids) is currently serving his full term in the Michigan house of Representatives and is the political face of criminal justice reform. LaGrand will provide an inside-political look at Michigan's criminal justice landscape and specific legislative areas for reform.

Dr. Charlotte Van-Oyen Witvliet is a professor of psychology at Hope College and specializes in forgiveness and its emotional and psychophysiological effects. Dr. Witvliet also studies empathy, accountability, and hope, themes which will be discussed at the conference.

Jerline Riley is a mother, advocate, and speaker. She lost her son in 2012 and has been going to conferences and events, speaking about restorative justice and forgiveness. She will share part of her story and have a brief interview with Dr. Michelle Loyd-Paige, the associate the the President for Inclusion and Diversity at Calvin College.

Join us on October 13th to explore how Hope, Healing, and Radical Reconciliation is possible and restorative justice attainable for those effected by incarceration. And, how you can participate!