Saint Vincent College was founded in 1846 by Benedictine monks led by Boniface Wimmer, who became the first Archabbot of Saint Vincent Archabbey, now the largest Benedictine archabbey in the world.
Place is important to Benedictines, who profess vows of stability, or remaining within the same religious house for life; obedience to their Archabbot; and conversatio, or continual transformation, as they strive to draw closer to God.
One of the most striking features of our campus is Saint Vincent Basilica, which in its own beauty reflects the beauty and richness of our Catholic faith. The Basilica, completed in 1905 and renovated for Saint Vincent’s sesquicentennial in 1996, is also a place of community and honor, where our students receive honors during our annual Academic Convocations, where cellist Yo-Yo Ma gave a powerful recital when he received our first Fred Rogers Legacy Award, where thousands gathered to honor golf great and Latrobe native Arnold Palmer after his death on Sept. 25, 2016.
An expression of how the beautiful spaces touch the lives of our students is touchingly expressed at about the 3:30 mark by in this video of a speech by Michael Bartkowski, who won Saint Vincent’s highest student honor, our President’s Award, in 2012.
Beneath the Basilica is the Crypt, which was renovated in 2010, with striking stained-glass windows and numerous eclectic pieces of art.
The Mary, Mother of Wisdom Student Chapel, built during a 2004 renovation of the Robert S. Carey Student Center, provides a home for Catholic student life on campus. It offers three weekend Masses, daily Masses and Compline, or night prayer, as well as numerous opportunities for Reconciliation.
Both within and without are opportunities for prayer, reflection and community. Melvin Platz, German for Melvin’s garden, is a green, leafy space in the center of campus, lying between the administrative offices and classrooms of Alfred Hall and the student gathering spaces of the Carey Center. It was planned and planted by Fr. Melvin Rupprecht, O.S.B., a monk who had been diagnosed with cancer, who foresaw the beauty that would result from his work even though he would not live to see it come to fruition.
But Benedictine life is not centered in buildings, but in people, and expressed in how they live their lives. Benedictine values have taken shape in a number of initiatives that reflect the Benedictine value of stewardship, or care for the earth and all of God’s gifts. Several of these initiatives, ranging from a 20-plus-year commitment to abate abandoned mine drainage to campus construction to water bottle refilling stations, are documented on our Green Campus initiatives page.
One of the ways in which Saint Vincent and its students are connected with the larger Church is Saint Vincent’s participation as a Global Campus with Catholic Relief Services, the global outreach and development arm of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Being a Global Campus involves a commitment to partner with CRS through education, prayer and action for justice, peace and human dignity around the globe. CRS asks for a three-pronged commitment: faculty engagement, student involvement and institutional commitment.
Faculty brought Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ into the curriculum as the shared reading for all first-year seminar students, and CRS staff have spoken at the College, including an address to all first-year students at the start of classes in fall 2016.
Students have become engaged in fundraising for needs such as Operation Rice Bowl and for victims of natural disasters, and raised awareness of current issues such as human trafficking.
Campus Minister Fr. Killian Loch, O.S.B., chairs the advisory committee and coordinates campus efforts, beginning new initiatives and building on existing efforts. He sees it as an opportunity to incorporate Catholic, Benedictine values throughout the campus community. “It’s not only doing projects; it’s doing things and living life in a way that reflects Catholic values,” he said.
Another opportunity for growth and understanding of Benedictine values is the Benedictine Leadership Studies program, which invites applications from freshman students of all majors who have an interest in the study of leadership principles and a desire to experience followership and leadership roles through their years at Saint Vincent College.
The Rule of Saint Benedict serves as the cornerstone leadership model, exposing students to a deeper understanding of leadership in their personal and professional lives and in service to the local, national and global community. The purpose of the BLS program includes the analysis of who we are as individuals, how we serve and influence our communities and the development of a meaningful understanding of God’s purpose for our lives.
Freshman students also have the opportunity to get to know members of the Benedictine community on a more casual basis through the Neighborhood to Neighborhood program, in which they share Evening Prayer, or vespers, and a meal with the Benedictines.
Community, another Benedictine value, truly is the key at Saint Vincent. As one of our student leaders, Peter Santiago, advised freshman students: “You should find one monk, one teacher and one older student that you can go to for advice. We’re all here to help you.”