The Paradox of Liberty: Alex Honnold and the Art of Human Freedom

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A lecture with Dr. Catherine Pakaluk took place on Thursday, Oct. 19, at 7 p.m. in the Maas Center auditorium at Hope College.

Earlier this year, rock climber Alex Honnold became the only person to have free-solo climbed the 3,000-foot face of El Capitan, an imposing granite monolith in Yosemite National Park.

In 1991, Pope John Paul II wrote “Centesimus Annus,” a papal encyclical letter on contemporary political and economic issues, specifically Marxism and the free market.

What do the two have in common? More than one might think.

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The Saint Benedict Institute and the Markets and Morality student organization at Hope College hosted Dr. Catherine Pakaluk to speak on, “Paradox of Liberty: Alex Honnold and the Art of Human Freedom,” on Thursday, Oct. 19, at 7 p.m. in the Maas Center auditorium at Hope College. The talk addressed the meaning of human freedom in the Catholic tradition and established links to both Catholic social teaching and classical liberalism.

Beginning with a narrative of Honnold’s historic climb, Pakaluk discussed paradoxical aspects of human liberty and how it applies to John Paul II’s encyclical. From there she explored the relation between freedom and the principles of the free society.

Pakaluk is an assistant professor of economics at the Tim and Steph Busch School of Business and Economics at The Catholic University of America. Her primary areas of research include economics of education and religion, family studies and demography, Catholic social thought and political economy. Pakaluk is the 2015 recipient of the Acton Institute’s Novak Award, a prize given for “significant contributions to the study of the relationship between religion and economic liberty.”  She earned her doctorate at Harvard University in 2010 and lives in Maryland with her husband, Michael, and eight children.

The Saint Benedict Institute sponsored this event with Markets and Morality, an intellectually curious and close-knit community of students at Hope College that engages in deep and continuing discussion of serious issues and works to open that conversation to the larger campus community. Markets and Morality supports students as they examine the interplay of market forces through the lens of moral thought, including the precepts of the historic Christian faith, and facilitates a rigorous conversation about whether markets can contribute to human flourishing.

The event was co-sponsored by Hope College’s Department of Religion and Department of Economics and Business.

The Biblical Roots of Exorcism and Its Meaning for Ministry Today

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On September 28, at 7 p.m. in the Maas Center auditorium the Saint Benedict Institute hosted a lecture with Father Vincent P. Lampert, Priest and Exorcist for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, Indiana.


In the public imagination exorcism is the stuff of horror movies. The work of real-life exorcists, however, is much less sensational and much more pastoral, as the Rite of Exorcism is part of the healing ministry of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Saint Benedict Institute hosted the lecture “The Biblical Roots of Exorcism and Its Meaning for Ministry Today” by Father Vincent Lampert on Thursday, Sept. 28, at 7 p.m. in the Maas Center auditorium at Hope College. The talk addressed the definition and kinds of exorcism, the biblical basis for the ministry of exorcism, defense against the demonic, types and signs of demonic activity, and how this ministry relates to mental health questions.

“Evil is real. The devil is real. Jesus talks about the devil more than anyone else in Scripture. We shouldn't be fearful, but we should be knowledgeable,” said Dr. Jared Ortiz, assistant professor of religion at Hope College and director of the Saint Benedict Institute. “There has been an increasing demand for exorcists around the world and an increasing number of movies and television shows about them. We wanted to invite someone to speak to this phenomenon soberly and from a biblical point of view.”


Lampert is a priest and exorcist for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, Indiana. He currently serves as a pastor to St. Malachy Catholic Church in Brownsburg, Indiana.

The address was co-sponsored by the college’s Department of Religion, Campus Ministries program and Center for Ministry Studies.

If you missed the talk you can watch it below or on our videos page.

Conference Organizer Wins Prestigious Award


Eric Boldiszar received the 2017 Bert Thompson Award for Faith-Based Program from the National Association of Community and Restorative Justice, for his work organizing the Saint Benedict Institute Hope for Restoration conference. Below is his acceptance speech.

Whenever you begin a good work pray to [God] most earnestly to bring it to perfection.” These words from St. Benedict have been constantly on my mind as I thought about the community wide effort it took to bring the Hope for Restoration: Radical Hospitality and Prison Reform conference to perfection. First and foremost, God deserves thanks and praise for making the vision of this conference a reality. Only the hand of God can craft something that brings together Catholics, Protestants, and people other faiths; it brought together people of all races and creeds, and it brought together students, academics, businessmen, activists, politicians, corrections officials, and, of all things, prisoners—all for the common goal of restorative justice and the quest for a more proactive approach to repairing the lives affected by crime in our fallen world.

This award is not just mine, it also belongs to all of you—and it is a testament to the power of your love and dedication to social justice, improving society by acknowledging the needs of crime victims, rehabilitating offenders, and restoring wholeness and harmony to the community. Individuals have dreams, but the realization of those dreams comes from people working together towards a common end. Therefore, I’d like to thank: Jared Ortiz and the Saint Benedict Institute, the Corpus Christi Foundation, Hope College and the dozens of campus organizations that stepped up to support the conference, Drs. Cioffi and deGroot, Julie “the Boss” Bylsma, Nate Roels, Calvin College and Seminary, the speakers, Ryan Nichols and my other CPI brothers, MDOC director Heidi Washington, and Warden Burton, and most importantly those who attended, who all are committed to the vision of reforming and transforming the prison culture.

Before coming to prison, I like many others, never gave prisoners a thought, and if I did, I had the perception of thugs, monsters, and cold-hearted, callous men. While I have encountered such, I have also found loving fathers, eager students, and good-hearted men caught up in bad situations. I have also witnessed the power of community programs to transform the former. It is the latter two who motivate me and my brothers to cultivate opportunities and raise awareness for the need of such programs in prison. People should not be defined solely by their worst deed; such definitions negate the human potential to learn, to change, and to become something more. Such definitions negate the possibility of redemption and restoration by refusing a much needed second chance.

America is the land of opportunity and second chances, and I dream of a criminal justice system which affords such a grace, balancing the need for justice with mercy. I dream of a criminal justice system which sets aside retribution and focuses on rehabilitation, replaces stigmatization with restoration, and foregoes condemnation for transformation. That is why I proposed radical hospitality, a faith-based, Trinitarian guide to inform the restorative justice movement. Radical hospitality is an extreme generosity of spirit that is contrary to conventional social expectations. It is active and extends its love outward to all members of the community, viewing each individual as the image of God and seeking to liberate and reconcile the dignity of both victims and offenders. It is the gift of love that we are called to extend to others as God has extended to us.

As things stand now with the criminal justice system, the road to restorative justice is the road less traveled, and therefore, I call on all of you to give of yourselves to bringing about the change our incarceration nation so desperately needs. Thus, I urge each and every one of you not only pray to God daily to bring the restorative justice movement to perfection, but also to write your senators and government official to make the restorative justice movement a reality in America’s prisons. Moreover, I urge you to connect with and work with other organizations within the restorative justice movement because the key to success will be social networking and making your presence known and felt. If you don’t think there is enough good in this world of ours, I challenge you to join me in making it.

Thank you.


Hope Catholic to Enter Seminary


Originally from Lansing, Michigan, Corey Bilodeau graduated from Hope College in 2014. This fall, Corey will enter Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. Recently, the Saint Benedict Institute Vocation Discernment Program helped fund Corey’s discernment pilgrimage to the Holy Land. We asked him to say a few words about his journey to the priesthood and the Holy Land:

I  had not thought much about the priesthood until my senior year of college. The catalyst that propelled my thoughts towards the priesthood was Dr. Ortiz’s Catholic Christianity class. He really went into depth about why Catholics believe what they believe. When we went over the topic of vocations I was instantly drawn to this idea of maybe I was being called to the priesthood.

After graduation, I volunteered in the Archdiocese of Baltimore for one year as Volunteer Coordinator in a soup kitchen. I realized I had to pursue the priesthood more seriously. After much prayer and spiritual direction, I applied to seminary. Part of my discernment process was a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

One of the highlights of that trip was that we were able to have Mass on the beach of Capernaum. It was an amazing experience to celebrate the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist where Jesus called His first disciples. I then had the opportunity to ponder on the beach what God was calling me to do in terms of my vocation.

Another highlight was hiking up Mount Tabor, which is where the Transfiguration happened. We did it in silence and it took about two hours to hike 1500 ft. to the top. It gave me time to really pray without any distractions and I asked for God’s mercy and for Him to grant me the gift of celibacy for the priesthood.

It was a truly blessed time where I learned how to read the Bible more deeply. I also learned how to draw closer to God in a personal and real way.

Please pray for Corey, our first seminarian since the founding of the Saint Benedict Institute!




Meet the Priest


Meet the Priest: An Interview with Fr. Nicholas Monco, O.P., Saint Benedict Institute’s New Chaplain

Where are you from and where did you go to college?

I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. I went to  Claremont McKenna College where I double majored in philosophy and economics so as to be able to feed body and soul upon graduation.

When did you know you wanted to be a priest?

The basic desire to do whatever was most important in life was there since I first had any ambitions at all. The calling to priesthood didn’t explicitly start to emerge until senior year of high school and I managed to resist it until my senior year in college.

Could you say a little bit about your faith journey?

Growing up my family went to Mass every Sunday (even on vacation) and my father would pray with me every night before we went to bed until I was in about fifth grade. Despite the somewhat pious upbringing and a strong sense of duty I would not have described myself as personally pious. I did not protest going to Mass but I cannot ever remember looking forward to the experience or feeling anything when I prayed. In fact, from about the age of five I became very interested in money and girls—two obsessions left unabated until senior year of high school.

When I was a junior in high school I began reading some of the works of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, which I happened to find on the bookshelves in my room. It was a revelation. For the first time in my life I encountered intelligent people who wrote intelligent things about theology and I experienced the beauty of truth. That started to awaken things in my heart that had been dormant for a very long time. At the beginning of senior year of high school I made a good, long overdue confession. It felt great but that was quickly followed by a short and intense period of spiritual darkness that wrought the deepest part of the conversion. As the darkness lifted what remained was desire to pray, to go to Mass, and to love God in general.

What is your favorite Scripture verse?

One of my all-time favorites has to be Jeremiah 6:16: “Stand by the ancient road, ask the pathways of old, ‘Which is the way unto good?’ and follow it and you will find rest for your souls.”

What is the biggest challenge young people face?

That’s like asking, “Who is the most dishonest person in government?” So many choices.  A top contender would be a culture that promotes disconnection or superficial connections between people as opposed to deep and lasting friendships.

What Catholic devotion is most fruitful for you?

Offering Mass. If I could keep only one spiritual practice in my life it would be that. It grounds everything else.

What advice would you give a young person thinking of a religious vocation? Marriage?

Jesus said, “If you are faithful in little things you will be faithful in great ones.” Do the little stuff right every day and the big questions will sort themselves out. That means daily prayer, Mass at least once a week, regular confession, and works of mercy.


Habemus Sacerdotem! We Have a Priest!

Habemus Sacerdotem! We Have a Priest!

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The Saint Benedict Institute is delighted to announce: We have a priest!  Fr. Nicholas Monco, O.P. has been appointed as the Saint Benedict Institute chaplain with a full-time ministry to Hope College.  He begins his ministry on August 1. 

Fr. Nick was born and raised in Chicago.  He went to Claremont McKenna College in California where he majored in philosophy and business.  He then pursued the priesthood with the Dominican Order of the Midwest Province.  He received a Master of Theology and Master of Divinity degree from the Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis, MO, where he also earned a Certificate in Thomistic Studies.  He was ordained in 2013 and has taught Theology at Fenwick High School in Oak Park, IL, for the past four years.

We feel particularly blessed to have Fr. Nick join the Saint Benedict Institute staff.  Once the school year begins, Fr. Nick will offer daily Mass on campus, frequent confession, and weekly adoration.  He will lead Bible studies and the rosary as well as the Vocation Discernment Program.  Fr. Nick will be essential for our goal of forming students intellectually and spiritually so that they will be thoughtful and joyful witnesses to Christ's love.

We also feel particularly blessed to have so many friends and benefactors praying for us and supporting us financially.  We could not have done this without you!  That said, we still need your help!  Please keep praying for this ministry so that Fr. Nick will reach the students God wants him to reach.  And please consider supporting us financially, either through a one-time donation or by joining our monthly giving program, the Saint Benedict Society.  Your prayers and financial support will ensure that this ministry will continue.

Thank you and God bless you!

A Prayer to Truth: Ortiz on Education

Video: A PRAYER TO TRUTH: Dr. Ortiz on education

This Spring, director of the Saint Benedict Institute and Hope College theology professor, Dr. Jared Ortiz gave a lecture for the Lumen Christi Institute at the University of Chicago on "All Things Hold Together: A Great Books Education and the Catholic Tradition.”  


Dr. Ortiz discussed his involvement as a University of Chicago student with the Lumen Christi Institute and offered this advice to current students: 

"With the exception of a handful of religiously-motivated schools, very few universities will provide such an education. So, it is up to the student to do it through the guidance of sympathetic professors, the wise selection of courses, the reading of select theological literature, and, of course, regular attendance at Lumen Christi events.  

But more than this educational dimension, the student who wants such an education must be deeply formed by prayer ....  In The Intellectual Life, the Dominican A.G. Sertillanges says, 'Study is a prayer to truth.'    

Prayer is a lifting of the heart and mind up to God. Prayer is our source of intimacy with him; it is the disposition of receptivity that we need to hear God speaking to us. Our desk can be an altar and our study a prayer to truth."

One encounter with the wellsprings of truth, discovered in the great texts handed down through the Church, can impact a student for a lifetime. Just as the Lumen Christi Institute had a great impact on Dr. Ortiz during his undergraduate years we, at the Saint Benedict Institute, hope to offer students a way into the great tradition of the Catholic Church. 

In the News: Catholic Faith at Hope College

In the News: Catholic Faith at Hope College

Father Bill VanderWerff joins Hope College students for dinner before an annual blessing of dorm rooms. Photo by Aaron Estelle.

Father Bill VanderWerff joins Hope College students for dinner before an annual blessing of dorm rooms. Photo by Aaron Estelle.

As the St. Benedict Institute seeks to add a chaplain to its ranks, the leaders of this campus Catholic center at Hope College, a Christian institution of higher education in the Dutch Reformed tradition, know the ideal candidate will be someone who can form relationships with students and engage the academy in ecumenical discussion. He also should have a strong background in Scripture.

“We are guests on a Protestant campus that loves the word,” said Jared Ortiz, a Catholic assistant professor in the religion department at Hope and co-founder of the St. Benedict Institute. “And we need someone who loves Protestants.”

Read the rest at Our Sunday Visitor.

(VIDEO) "Gold Out of Egypt": Christian Art and International Influences with artist Daniel Mitsui

"Gold Out of Egypt":
Christian Art and International Influences
with artist Daniel Mitsui

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The Saint Benedict Institute hosted, “‘Gold out of Egypt’: Christian Art and International Influences,” a lecture by artist Daniel Mitsui, on Thursday, April 20, at 7 p.m. in the Fried-Hemenway Auditorium of the Martha Miller Center for Global Communication at Hope College.

The Apostles of Jesus were instructed to go teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. In every nation, Christianity has encountered a different culture, and worked to establish its own belief with it. Catholic artist Daniel Mitsui discussed the ways in which the conflicts and concords between religions, cultures and nations are expressed in Christian religious art. 

Mitsui examined the ways, historically, in which Christian artists have claimed elements of Classical and Islamic art as their own; will argue the necessity of their continuing to seek inspiration from foreign art; and discussed the dangers of treating the art of a single nation or culture as the basis of Christian aesthetic identity. 

Daniel Mitsui specializes in ink drawing and his meticulously detailed creations, done entirely by hand on paper or vellum, are held in collections worldwide. He is especially inspired by medieval illuminated manuscripts, panel paintings, prints and tapestries; as well as by the Arts & Crafts movement, biological illustration, Japanese woodblock prints and Persian art. Mitsui lives in Chicago with his wife and family. More of his work can be seen at

The event was co-sponsored by the Departments of Religion, Art and Art History, Asian Studies, International Studies, and the Center for Ministry Studies at Hope College.

On April 20, 2017, Daniel Mitsui presented "Gold Out of Egypt: Christian Art and International Influences" at Hope College as part of the Saint Benedict Institute Catholic Speaker Series.

“Voices from the Global Church”: Upcoming Panel Discussion with Berta Carrasco, Miguel Abrahantes, and Marissa Doshi

“Voices from the Global Church”

Upcoming Panel Discussion with Berta Carrasco, Miguel Abrahantes, and Marissa Doshi

"Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ" (1 Corinthians 12:12). The Saint Benedict Institute is hosting a panel discussion, “Voices from the Global Church,” followed by a festive evening of fellowship on Tuesday, March 14, at 7 p.m. in the rotunda of the Martha Miller Center for Global Communication at Hope College, Holland, MI.

Hope College has many Christian professors from all around the world who share their experience and unique perspective on what it means to live the Gospel from within their own cultures. Professors Berta Carrasco, Miguel Abrahantes and Marissa Doshi will tell stories of faith, persecution, interreligious communities, and what it means to grow up Christian in Spain, Cuba and India.  Dessert with coffee and tea will be served.

The public is invited. Admission is free.

Berta Carrasco de Miguel is an assistant professor of Spanish. After completing her undergraduate degree from the University Antonio de Nebrija in Madrid, Spain, she earned her master’s and Ph.D. at Western Michigan University in Spanish women’s writings, focusing on the testimony of women who were in prison during the Spanish Civil War. Related to this topic, she researches how the change of generations affects the way women define themselves. Besides her interest in women’s writings, Carrasco also conducts research on hybrid learning and teaching.

Miguel Abrahantes is an associate professor of engineering. His fields of interest include modeling, simulation and control of systems in areas of robotics and mechatronics. Abrahantes’ current research includes non-wheeled rovers and autonomous multi-unit robot systems. He is originally from Cuba where he received his undergraduate degree in electronic engineering from the Universidad Central de las Villas. He went to Argentina for his graduate studies and finished his Ph.D. in control systems at the Universidad Nacional del Sur in Bahia Blanca before coming to the U.S.

Marissa Doshi is an assistant professor of communication. She holds a Ph.D. in communication and a master’s in science and technology journalism from Texas A&M University, and a bachelor’s in life sciences and biochemistry from St. Xavier’s College in Mumbai, India. Doshi's research draws on feminist perspectives to examine the creative and cultural dimensions of the media and technology practices. Her work has been published in journals such as Journal of Communication Inquiry, Communication Research, and Journal of International and Intercultural Communication.

The event is being co-sponsored by Campus Ministries, the campus-wide GROW (Growing Relationships through diverse Opportunities to strengthen involvement in an ever-changing World) initiative and the communication, engineering, modern and classical languages, and religion departments at Hope.

The Martha Miller Center for Global Communication is located at 257 Columbia Ave., at the corner of Columbia and 10th streets.

In the News: SBI and Restorative Justice Conference Featured in Holland Sentinel

It's going to be a bit of an unusual conference. The public can attend, but the organizers cannot.

"Hope for Restoration: Radical Hospitality and Prison Reform" was conceived and organized by inmates from the Richard A. Handlon Correctional Facility in Ionia. Although they cannot be at the conference, the Calvin Prison Initiative Students from the R.A. Handlon Correctional Facility will have a chance to watch recordings of the proceedings later. 

The Saint Benedict Institute is hosting "Hope for Restoration: Radical Hospitality and Prison Reform," a daylong conference on restorative justice, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, March 4, in the Maas Center at Hope College.

The conference developed after Eric Boldiszar connected with Jared Ortiz, Ph.D., of the Hope religion faculty and executive director of the Saint Benedict Institute.

"He read an interview with me in the FAITH Grand Rapids magazine a few years ago," Ortiz said. "He invited me to the prison to speak to his restorative justice reading group. I did and was very blessed by the exchange. We kept up a correspondence."

Read the rest at the Holland Sentinel.

Jared Ortiz Discusses Upcoming Restorative Justice Conference with Catholic Radio's Al Kresta

Hope College professor and Saint Benedict Institute director Jared Ortiz was a recent guest on Ave Maria Radio's Kresta in the Afternoon show with Al Kresta. Dr. Ortiz spoke about the Saint Benedict Institute's upcoming conference "Hope for Restoration: Radical Hospitality and Prison Reform."

Listen to the audio archive here.