A Year of Blessings: Exodus 90

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A Year of Blessings: Exodus 90


Forty students, both Catholic and Protestant, entered more deeply into the penitential season of Lent by participating in the Exodus 90 program. Exodus 90 was created five years ago by a priest and a group of seminarians at Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary. The program is a 90-day period of prayer, fasting, and penance, supported by a community of like-minded friends.

Exodus 90 began on Ash Wednesday and came to an end on Pentecost. The program is demanding: students prayed for at least 20 minutes a day, took cold or cool showers, fasted twice a week, refrained from frivolous internet use, and committed to regular and intense exercise as well as sleeping seven hours a night.

“Making room for Christ in our hearts required clearing other things out,” Fr. Nick said.

An important aspect to Exodus 90 is that no one does it alone. Participants were divided into six groups which met weekly. Additionally, they were assigned accountability partners with whom they were to check in daily. For many, having this community to grow with made all the difference. One student said, “Sometimes it was hard to fit into my schedule and I was annoyed I had to come. But I was thankful after each group meeting for that time to reflect and hear how others were doing.”

At the end of the program I felt like I had fallen in love with Jesus.
— Anonymous Student

“If you choose to do this program,” Fr. Nick said at the beginning of Lent, “then give it your all, knowing that Jesus will not be outdone in generosity.”

Throughout the semester, the fruits of this commitment became increasingly evident to the students. “I have never understood more deeply than now the necessity and benefits of prayer,” one said. “More so, I have a desire to develop the true faith aspect of my relationship instead of only the academic one.”

Another said, “I was rather resentful at first and really wanted to give up on it, but after the first month I really reveled in it and began to love the changes that it brought into my life.”


The program aims to replace bad habits with holy ones. One student shared about her transformative experience, “ I have become more calm and patient. I struggle with anxiety, but Exodus 90 helped me find tools to change my thought patterns. When my body was tempted to become stressed, I started to learn to breathe, quiet my heart, and focus on God for joy.”

Ultimately, though, the goal of the Exodus 90 is union with God. “At the end of the program,” one student related, “I felt like I had fallen in love with Jesus.” Deo gratias.

A Year of Blessings: Campus Ministry


A Year of Blessings: Campus Ministry


“Fr. Nick has helped me grow in my faith.” “Fr. Nick helped me in my daily prayer.” “Fr. Nick challenges me to apply the teachings of the Bible to my own life.”

These are just a few of the things students are saying about Fr. Nicholas Monco, O.P., who recently completed his first year as the Saint Benedict Institute chaplain to Hope College.

When the Saint Benedict Institute set out to hire a chaplain, we said we wanted someone who “could build a credible Catholic witness on Hope’s campus, one which strengthens the faithful Catholic students, draws in the lapsed Catholics, and embraces the non-Catholic students in ecumenical friendship.” Fr. Nick has done this with grace and tact.

“He always makes himself available to students and is great at reaching out to anyone in need. He is also great at relating to the average college student, both through personal anecdotes and analogies in his homilies.”
— Anonymous Student
Fr. Nick speaks to Hope students in Dimnent Chapel.

One students humorously relates, “Fr. Nick has given me faith that not all priests are old and boring. He brings enthusiasm to Catholic students and has great homilies.”

Fr. Nick has established a rhythm of Catholic activities aimed at cultivating a deeper faith and Christian friendships. These included daily Mass, regular confession, spiritual direction, and an open offer to go out to coffee. He also launched men’s and women’s prayer groups along with the very successful Exodus 90 program.

Cultivating habits of prayer and Christian friendship has been of particular importance. “My goal,” Fr. Nick said, “is to provide a regular sacramental presence and be someone students can talk to, to develop their faith.”

Fr. Kyle Kilpatrick and Fr. Nick Monco prepare for Mass.

“He always makes himself available to students and is great at reaching out to anyone in need,” one student said. “He is also great at relating to the average college student, both through personal anecdotes and analogies in his homilies.”

We feel particularly blessed to have had Fr. Nick this year and to see all the good things that God has done through him. Please pray for his ministry and for our students! 

The Christian Resistance to Communism in Cuba

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The Christian Resistance to Communism in Cuba

Monday, April 16, 2018

7:00PM - 8:30PM

Winants Auditorium

On Monday, April 16, 2018 the Saint Benedict Institute co-hosted The Christian Resistance to Communism in Cuba with Hope College student group, Markets and Morality. The event was held at 7:00PM in Winants Auditorium at Hope College.


The evening included personal testimonies from Miguel Abrahantes and Amaurys Rodriguez-Matos. The testimonies were followed by a lecture from John Suarez.

John Suarez is a human rights activist and a program officer of the Washington D.C. based Center for a Free Cuba. He holds degrees from Florida International University and Spain’s Universidad Francisco de Vitoria. He has hosted the radio program Valores Humanos (Human Values) for the Cuban Democratic Directorate's radio station, Radio Republica. 

Suarez has spoken on various occasions before the United Nations Human Rights Commission, before the current UN Human Rights Council, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to denounce human rights abuses. He is the author of monographs published by the Center of Studies for a National Option and reproduced in both El Nuevo Herald and in The Miami Herald. Additionally, he has had opinion pieces published in Florida Today, Fox News Latino, Panampost, The Daily Signal, Dissident and Newsweek. 


Cuban-native Miguel Abrahantes is an Associate Professor of Engineering at Hope College. He received his engineering doctorate in control systems from the Universidad Nacional del Sur in Argentina in 2000 and has been a teaching at Hope since 2003.

Amaurys Rodriguez-Matos, a university professor from Cuba, arrived in the USA a little over 1 year ago with his wife and four children. The Rodriguez-Matos family came into the U.S. just in time to qualify under the Cuban Haitian Entry Program for refugees from these countries. The family is being sponsored by St. Francis de Sales Church in Holland while Grace Episcopal Church is providing them with a home.

Markets and Morality is 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. The group aims to support students as they examine the interplay of market forces through the lens of moral thought, including the precepts of the historic Christian faith, and facilitate a rigorous conversation about whether markets can contribute to human flourishing.

Fr. Nick's Dimnent Debut

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Fr. Nick's Dimnent Debut

On Wednesday, March 7, 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. This worship service includes a short message. 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 chaplain, Fr. Nicholas Monco OP.  Listen to the talk here

Fr. Nick was introduced by his friend and dean of the chapel, Rev. Trygve Johnson. He then began with a word from 1 Peter 5: 1-7 which says,

"So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ as well as a partaker in the glory that is to be revealed. Tend the flock of God that is your charge, not by constraint but willingly, not for shameful gain but eagerly, not as domineering over those in your charge but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd is manifested you will obtain the unfading crown of glory. Likewise you that are younger be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that in due time he may exalt you. Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you."

Fr. Nick explained a bit about his life as a Dominican highlighting the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Through the practice of poverty, Fr. Nick says, he detaches from his material possessions. By practicing chastity he detaches from his own body. And through the practice of obedience, the final and perhaps most challenging of the vows, he detaches from his own will. 

Likewise you that are younger be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
— 1 Peter 5:5

For the remainder of his time on the Dimnent stage Fr. Nick focused on the blessings of the virtue of obedience. In his life these blessings have included the opportunity to do things that he would not have chosen for himself, like working as a chaplain at Hope College, a lasting peace about the future and a certainty in following God's will through the direction of his superiors. 

Recovering Biblical Christianity: Roman Catholic and Reformed Perspectives

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Recovering Biblical Christianity: Roman Catholic and Reformed Perspectives


On Monday, March 12, 2018 and Tuesday, March 13, 2018 the Saint Benedict Institute joined with Western Theological Seminary to co-sponsor the Osterhaven Lecture Series on Recovering Biblical Christianity: Roman Catholic and Reformed Perspectives. The event consisted of two lectures and a panel discussion in Mulder Chapel at Western Theological Seminary. 

Matthew Levering, Chair of Theology at Mundelein Seminary at the University of St. Mary of the Lake, gave the first lecture which was titled "What Counts as a Biblical Doctrine? Exploring the Biblically Warranted Modes of Biblical Interpretation."


Matthew Levering is widely recognized as one of the leading Roman Catholic doctrinal theologians today. He is the author or co-author of over 20 books, including Scripture and Metaphysics, Biblical Natural Law, Engaging the Doctrine of Revelation, Proofs of God, and most recently, Was the Reformation a Mistake? He serves as coeditor of the journals Nova et Vetera and the International Journal of Systematic Theology and has served as Chair of the Board of the Academy of Catholic Theology since 2007.


The second lecture was given by Kevin VanHoozer, Research Professor of Systematic Theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. His lecture was titled, "Mere Protestant Christianity: Sola Scriptura and the Comic Possibility of Reformation."

Kevin VanHoozer is one of the most prominent Protestant systematic theologians writing today. Much of his work focuses upon the intersection of Christian doctrine with hermeneutics. His book, Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible earned Christianity Today’s award for best biblical studies book in 2006. He also serves on the editorial board of the International Journal of Systematic Theology and the Journal of Theological Interpretation.

The two lectures were followed by a panel discussion where the keynote speakers, Kevin Vanhoozer and Matthew Levering, were joined by Sue Rozeboom, Associate Professor of Liturgical Theology at Western Seminary, and Jared Ortiz, Assistant Professor of Religion at Hope College.


Sue Rozeboom teaches students how to unwrap God’s gracious gift of worship. Her reading, research, and teaching interests are in the areas of the history of Christian worship, the work of the Spirit and Christian worship, and enriched sacramental theology for refreshed sacramental practice. She is the co-author, with Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., of Discerning the Spirits: A Guide to Thinking about Christian Worship Today. She been active in official Roman Catholic - Reformed dialogues for many years.

Jared Ortiz teaches Catholic studies at Hope College, where he founded and directs the Saint Benedict Institute, the Catholic spiritual and intellectual center that serves Hope College. He teaches courses on the Incarnation, church history, Catholic Christianity, theological hermeneutics and early Christianity. He specializes in early Christian theology, especially St. Augustine, and he has scholarly interests in liturgy, Latin patristic thought and disability.

Audio: Music of Silence

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Music of Silence: Music of Federico Mompou

Sunday, February 25, 2018 at 3:00 p.m.
Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts
John and Dede Howard Recital Hall

“...the silent music, the murmuring solitude...”
— St. John of the Cross

Guest pianist Stuart Leitch performed “Música Callada” (“Music of Silence”) by Federico Mompou on Sunday, Feb. 25, at 3 p.m. at Hope College in the John and Dede Howard Recital Hall of the Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts.

Mompou (1893-1987) was a composer and pianist most celebrated for his solo piano music.  His work, influenced by his Catalan heritage and the French modernists, is often described as delicate and intimate.

Comprised of 28 short piano pieces, “Musica Callada” is a meditation on St. John of the Cross that creates an atmosphere of stillness and inwardness.  Mompou once wrote of the work that “its mission is to reach the profound depths of our soul and the hidden domains of the vital force of our spirits.  This music is silent (‘callada’) as if heard from within.”  Its performance at Hope, co-sponsored by the Saint Benedict Institute and the college’s departments of music, Spanish, and religion, was scheduled as a time of reflection.


“It is important to recover a sense of silence; the silence of God because our world is full of noise,” said Dr. Jared Ortiz, assistant professor of religion at Hope and director of the Saint Benedict Institute.  “Therefore, this is an opportunity for the community to practice religious silence.”

From 1962 to 1965 Leitch was a performing member of the legendary ONCE Group in Ann Arbor. ONCE was an early locus of the musical and theatrical avant-garde, presenting works by co-founders Robert Ashley and Gordon Mumma, with guest appearances by national and international figures including John Cage, Morton Feldman and Luigi Nono.

In New York from 1965 to 1970, he transcribed books of country blues in collaboration with the guitarist Stefan Grossman. He also worked with a rock band, Children of Paradise, touring, recording and creating music for Brian De Palma’s early film “Hi, Mom!”


Leitch moved to the Chicago area to work in opera, coaching singers privately and accompanying rehearsals for Lyric Opera of Chicago and Chicago Opera Theater. He founded Chamber Opera Chicago and directed it for three years. He was staff accompanist for a year at Northern Illinois University, and then shifted his focus to solo piano and chamber music. In Chicago he played in the Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts, in Schubertiade Chicago and in broadcasts by WFMT-FM.  Leitch studied at Oberlin College, Valparaiso University, and studied under several private teachers in Chicago.

He continues to teach and perform Chicago, Western Michigan and Southern California. 

The Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts is located at 221 Columbia Ave., between Ninth and 10th streets.

Exodus 90: Fellowship - Prayer - Sacrifice


Exodus 90: Fellowship - Prayer - Sacrifice

The Exodus 90 program is built on the pillars of fellowship, prayer, and sacrifice.  It is for those who are looking to seriously live their faith, to encounter Christ in a new way, and to overcome sinful habits. The program is demanding and that is point.  To make room for Christ in our hearts requires clearing other things out.  If you register for this program please know that it is a serious commitment to a weekly group meeting, to daily accountability, at least 20 minutes of daily prayer and a serious regimen of ascetic practices.  If you are not interested then please do not sign up.  If you do then give it your all, knowing that Jesus will not be outdone in generosity.  The fun starts Ash Wednesday (first day of Lent) and ends on Pentecost Sunday. Several non-catholics have already decided to join - all are welcome.  Sign-ups end at 11:59 PM on Sunday, Feb 11.  Digital program materials provided free of charge to all participants by Exodus 90.

Information on the Program Structure & Commitments

Link to Register

Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory: Dinner and Seminar

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January 19, 26, and February 2 (Fridays)

5:00 P.M. - 7:00 P.M.

Cook Lounge

Current students are invited to participate in a three-week dinner and workshop on Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory with Dr. Jack Mulder, Associate Professor of Philosophy and author of What Does It Mean to Be Catholic? Each week is devoted to a different possibility for your future destiny. All participants will receive a free book (and free meals). 

Registration required and attendance is expected at all three seminars. Limited seating. 

Community in Christ

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Community in Christ

By Josh Bishop

The muffled tap of felt-bottomed pieces on a chessboard. Queen to king’s rook 3. Knight’s pawn captures pawn. And then a mistake. An unnoticed piece slides diagonally to take the queen, and one of the players quips with a grin, “You Protestants — always forgetting about the bishops.”

Sure, it sounds like the punchline to a joke (“A Reformed pastor and a Catholic priest… ”), but it’s straight out of one of the good-natured weekly chess matches between Father Nicholas Monco, O.P., the new priest who’s known around campus as “Father Nick,” and Rev. Dr. Trygve Johnson, the college’s Hinga-Boersma Dean of the Chapel and minister of the Reformed Church of America (RCA). Enjoying friendly games marked by no small amount of laughter, they are modeling to students what unity in Christ looks like — and showing them that, in Johnson’s words, “conflict doesn’t have to be contentious, and differences don’t have to mean divisions of friendship.”

Fr. Nick arrived at Hope in August, when he was hired as the chaplain of the Saint Benedict Institute, an outreach of St. Francis de Sales Parish that serves Hope’s Catholic students, who make up 19 percent of the student body. The parish is one of Campus Ministries’ six covenant partners — local congregations that have agreed to provide spiritual care for Hope students. It’s within the framework of this covenant partnership that Fr. Nick has been invited to minister on campus.

The addition of Fr. Nick reflects the college’s increasing overall diversity. Roman Catholics now comprise the largest of the several Christian denominations at Hope, with students from the RCA, the college’s founding denomination, representing about 10 percent.

While remaining committed to its historic affiliation with the RCA, Hope is equally committed to providing both a welcoming, supportive environment and a rich opportunity for students to explore their Christian faith in a thriving ecumenical community in which many voices are in conversation. 

“The Christian family has a large circumference, and we’re trying to pay attention to the center that calls all Christians together,” Johnson said. “The center is the Triune God. Followers of Jesus come to the center from different parts of the circumference, but we come together because we confess Christ as Lord and we confess that the Trinity is one God in three. I do that self-consciously from my own tradition just as others do from theirs.”

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Fr. Nick is grateful to be at Hope, which he calls a “rare college” where the faith commitment is structurally built in. He remembers what it was like to attend a secular university, where it felt as if being a Christian was like “sneaking in a Trojan horse.” He isn’t trying to sneak around Hope College, though, and a good thing, too: With his white habit, its robes down to his ankles, and a long rosary at his side, he sticks out at Hope like a Muggle at Hogwarts.

Perhaps because of his conspicuity, Fr. Nick is something of a visible encouragement — if not a rallying point — for Hope’s Catholic students. “I think he kind of normalized Catholicism a little more,” said Alejandra Gomez, a senior from Rochester, Michigan.

Fr. Nick celebrates Mass at 5 p.m. on Sundays in Winants Auditorium and at noon every weekday in Harvey Chapel. Daily Mass lasts about 25 minutes, and Harvey Chapel in the Bultman Student Center is otherwise available to the entire campus for individual or group prayer. Fr. Nick also provides the sacrament of confession throughout the week and Eucharistic adoration in Schoon Chapel in Graves Hall on Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m.

“Eucharist is food for the soul,” Fr. Nick said. “It allows Catholic students to encounter Christ in that sacramental way.”

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For senior Jonathan Bading, it’s no surprise that the Catholic community is being built up around the Eucharist. Bading is a music performance major from Chantilly, Virginia, who serves on the leadership board of the Hope Catholics student group. “You can’t have a strong Catholic community without being connected to the Mass,” he said. “We often speak about the Mass and the celebration of the Eucharist as the source and summit of the faith, so when you have a community removed from that central element, it’s very difficult to be in communion with each other.”

“At its most basic,” said Father Nick, “my goal is to provide a regular sacramental presence and be someone students can talk to to develop their faith.”

Gomez is one of several students who meets regularly with Fr. Nick. “He’s very willing to listen without making judgments and always makes sure I’m comfortable to say what I want to say,” she said.

“I’m very happy to have someone who can relate to students, someone who’s younger and energetic and lively,” said Catherine Coddington, a senior from Grand Rapids, Michigan, and treasurer of Hope Catholics.

Although he’s relatively young (Fr. Nick is 34 years old and was ordained a Dominican priest in 2013), he has plenty of academic, spiritual and practical experience under his cincture. Fr. Nick received master’s degrees in theology and divinity from the Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis, Missouri, where he also earned a Certificate in Thomistic Studies.

Before coming to Hope, Fr. Nick taught theology at Fenwick High School in Oak Park, Illinois, for four years. That experience with students has helped him build relationships and provide spiritual care at Hope College.

“He knows the age group very well,” Bading said. “I think he understands young adults, our strengths and our weaknesses. He’s a very personable man, the type you can talk to about anything.”

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When he’s not meeting with students or fulfilling the role of a priest, Fr. Nick can be found swimming at the Dow, playing chess, participating in “caffeinated evangelization” at a downtown coffee shop, or driving to and from Grand Rapids, where he lives with two other Dominican priests on the grounds of Aquinas College.

Hope College is a bit of a drive, but it’s worth it. “I’ve been very moved by how welcoming people have been,” Fr. Nick said. “From the administration trying to accommodate our needs to campus ministers, faculty and students, everyone has been very nice, welcoming and friendly.”

“I want to promote a college where as many Christians as possible can link arms and talk to each other,” Johnson said. “I would love to see continued conversation and collaboration to promote Christ. I want the Saint Benedict Institute to feel like it’s flourishing, and I want Nick to feel his pastoral and priestly identity is bearing fruit. I want students to grow. I want real friendship and partnership together.”

In that sense, at least, ecumenism at Hope looks a little bit like two friends laughing together from the opposite ends of a chessboard. After all, they’re both playing the same game.

This story originally appeared in Hope College's News from Hope Magazine in the Winter 2017 edition. You can read the article and the rest of the magazine here.

Preparing for Christ: Advent 2017

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Preparing for Christ: Advent 2017

At Christmas, the God who became man is born at Bethlehem.  Advent is the time to prepare ourselves to welcome Jesus into this world and into our hearts.  That journey is one Christ invites to make not alone, but with others.  The Saint Benedict Institute hosted a retreat December 1-2(Friday to Saturday) at Camp Geneva.  Fr. Nick will led the retreat which began with fellowship and dinner. The retreated continued through the night with spiritual talks and discussions, silence and adoration, mass and confession.