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

COVID Vaccine Educator’s Journey to Citizenship


The Benedictine mission of community, faith and scholarship transformed culture in Europe at the dawn of Western Civilization and Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, believes it can do the same in America today. To Transform Culture in America, Benedictine College plans to Form its students deeply in the mission, Advance its mission through alumni in every walk of life, and Extend its mission regionally and nationally.

“Forward, always forward.” The Benedictine College motto struck a chord with Arturo Hernandez-Villa.

It described the attitude that his father taught him on a small farm with no electricity or running water in Mexico — an attitude that drove him to become a Benedictine College Raven, an American citizen, and one of the organizers of a conference on the COVID-19 vaccine that is of international significance.

Last Fall, Arturo helped organize a conference on campus called “The COVID-19 Vaccine: A Discussion of the Ethical Considerations.”

“The information that came from that conference was presented, by Dr. Calva, to the Mexican congress and other entities throughout Latin American,” he said. “The recorded video from that event is currently being translated into Spanish and it will be broadcasted throughout Mexico.”

According to Hernandez, this was the first such conference in the United States. Kansas City, Kansas, Archbishop Joseph Naumann who is the U.S. bishops’ pro-life leader, participated. So did Dr. Pilar Calva, a medical doctor specializing in Human Genetics with a Cytogenetics subspecialty from The University of Paris, France; and author Stacy A. Trasancos who teaches at Seton Hall University and is a fellow at Bishop Robert Barron’s Word on Fire Institute.

The event put Hernandez in touch with a group of doctors and theologians that are “navigating the information regarding all things COVID-19.” Now, Hernandez is kept busy translating documents from Spanish to English and vice versa.

“We wanted to understand how to look critically at the complex questions and factors that surrounded the effects of the COVID vaccine,” he said. “The amount of support that our team received from the Benedictine community was astounding.”

A Father’s Advice

Hernandez credited his father, who passed away when he was a child, with giving him the drive to succeed.

He remembers bike racing with his father, and constantly looking back to see how he was doing.

“Stop looking back,” his father told him. “If you lose sight of what is in front you because you keep looking back you are going to fall and hurt yourself. Just keep going forward, always forward.”

“His philosophy and God’s grace has kept me going even in the most difficult times of my life, especially when school gets a little tough,” said Arturo.

Hernandez is the first in his family to attend college. “But I hope I am not the last,” he smiles.

“Benedictine kept showing up when I was looking for colleges to attend,” he said. “My main criteria for choosing a college was one that would foster community, faith, and scholarship so that I could continue in my honest pursuit of the truth.”

He transferred to the college after getting an associate’s degree from Donnelly College in Kansas City, and now studies Theology and Secondary Education with a minor in Spanish. He also serves as a Junior Senator in the Student Government Association.

Citizenship

But the big news in Hernandez’s life is his new status as a U.S. citizen.

“After almost 10 years in the waiting, I took my citizenship test,” he said. “I had to study 100 questions, but I only had to answer 6 out of 10 correctly. I was a nervous wreck.”

He passed, and was sworn in as a citizen of the United States on Wednesday of Holy Week.

“I am beyond excited, and blessed, to become a citizen of one of the greatest countries in the world. Sure, it is not perfect, but the freedom that we have here is not found anywhere else in the world.”

He particularly looks forward to exercising his right to vote and to serve on a jury.

What drove him to want to be an American?

“Easy,” he said. “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”


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Benedictine College

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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.