The Gregorian Institute Shield, composed of the crossed gold and silver keys of the Papal Insignia, an open book with the words 'Via Veritas Vita' ('The Way, the Truth, and the Life') written on its pages, three golden six-sided stars on a red banner, and a Germanic cross.

at BENEDICTINE COLLEGE

A Study in Friendship: Ravens’ Notre Dame Trip

Gregorian Fellows with conference leader Carter Snead.

The Gregorian Fellows Leadership Program at Benedictine College promotes Catholic identity in public life by forming a new generation of leaders who unite faith and reason in their work. On Fellows Fridays, the Gregorian Institute will introduce you to some of these extraordinary students.

Gregorian Fellows learned classical and contemporary ideas about friendship and became better friends on a trek to Notre Dame Nov. 7-10.

The de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture hosted its 20th annual Fall Conference, November 7–9, 2019. This year’s conference theme was”I Have Called You Friends.”

“Students really love to opportunity to see intellectual discussion at a very high level,” said Dr. Joseph Wurtz, Director of the Gregorian Fellows Leadership Program. He has been organizing the trip for 10 years.

Students bonded over deep thoughts and 18 hours in a van from Atchison, Kansas, to South Bend, Ind., and back. The Gregorian Fellows trip brought a group of 19 to the conference.

A constant presence throughout the conference’s 20-year history has been Scottish-born philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre (pictured). Samantha Lehman, class of 2022, from Irving, Texas,  said MacIntyre was a highlight, linking “friendship and the necessity for sincerity.”

Several presentations at the conference focused on 21st century challenges to friendship.

Philosophy and Biology double major JohnPaul Stedwill of Peoria, Ill., a member of Benedictine College’s pre-med program, said he learned “the importance of prioritizing a small number of close friends before initiating a more expansive network of friends. Focusing on expansive friendships before tight-knit friendships can actually lead to a loss of one’s identity instead of finding it.”

Julia Fassero, a Theology and History double-major from Effingham, Kansas, agreed. A member of the class of 2021, she learned, “If your friends do not challenge you to change, if they accept you as you are, they are not true friends.”

The Center for Ethics and Culture’s description of the conference said that it engages each theme many perspectives, “including theology, philosophy, political theory, law, history, economics, and the social sciences, as well as the natural sciences, literature, and the arts.”

Students appreciated the different perspectives. Gregorian Fellow Joseph Tynan of Denver, Colo., said “My biggest takeaway from the weekend was learning about how the idea of friendship can be incorporated into design and artwork.”

Tynan plans to graduate with a Civil Engineering degree and Art minor in 2020 but, “I also enjoyed learning about how literature can inform our idea of friendship,” he said. “Pride and Prejudice, The Picture of Dorian Gray and Winnie the Pooh, were some of the literature discussed.”

“At the conference, they see top scholars disagree and argue passionately, but always with respect,” Wurtz said. “This event prepares our Gregorian Fellows to be able to hold their own in the very best intellectual company.”

Wurtz said the Gregorian Institute’s Symposium on the New Evangelization is modeled on the conference. “It was great this year to see so many familiar faces of speakers who present at both Notre Dame and Benedictine College each year.”

This school year’s symposium will be held March 20-21. This year’s theme is “Destroyer of the gods: Christian Culture vs. the Idols of Secularism.” Ross Douthat of The New York Times; Mary Rice Hasson of the Ethics & Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. and author Robert Louis Wilken will be the keynote presenters.

For more information or to register for Benedictine College’s symposium, click here.


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Founded in 1858, Benedictine College is a Catholic, Benedictine, residential, liberal arts college located on the bluffs above the Missouri River in Atchison, Kansas. The school is proud to have been named one of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report as well as one of the top Catholic colleges in the nation by First Things magazine and the Newman Guide. It prides itself on outstanding academics, extraordinary faith life, strong athletic programs, and an exceptional sense of community and belonging. It has a mission to educate men and women within a community of faith and scholarship.