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

He Almost Skipped the Call That Changed Everything

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.

Keenan Graef, a Mechanical Engineering major from Green Bay, Wis., is an example of how the mission of community, faith and scholarship at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, forms men and women who can then Transform Culture in America. In a video first featured by the college at the 2021 Scholarship Ball, Graef explained how the tight-knit community on campus and in his wrestling team brought him to the faith and, together with his studies, prepared him to succeed after college. Watch the video above or here on YouTube. A transcript of his words follows.

The very first tournament I wrestled here at Benedictine, I was out for a month with an injury and got cleared the day before the tournament. So I went a month with only one practice leading to my first college tournament. I basically had no chance of winning my matches, and for the very first time in my life I think I actually prayed. I sat down before my match and prayed.

Putting my trust in the God I somehow managed to win the entire tournament and pin my way through.

My name is Keenan Graef. I’m a senior from Green Bay, Wis. I’m studying mechanical engineering. I was actually recruited by Benedictine College. I kind of blew it off when I looked at this school thinking, “It’s Kansas, it’s a small school, it’s Catholic. These are all the things I absolutely don’t want.”

The coach called me and for some reason I just couldn’t not answer the phone. Wherever I was it was calling me to it. So I answered the phone and I couldn’t stop listening to what he had to say. It was just very intriguing, and I ended up setting up a recruiting trip to come down here. When I saw the campus, I fell in love. There was something that drew me here. I couldn’t figure it out.

Growing up I was baptized Catholic but it really ended there. I didn’t really believe anything or know anything about the faith. Going to Mass for the first time for the Parents’ Send-Off Mass I knew none of the words. I didn’t know what I was doing. It was very frightening but also at the same time I saw the beauty in it. It was just irresistible.

Then as I started to tell the people I was meeting on campus that I was looking to go through RCIA, everyone was so welcome. I even had friends that would join me and go to RCIA with me just to help push me to take that next step and encourage me.

I went through RCIA my freshman year up until Easter and then, on Divine Mercy Sunday, I entered into the Church and received Confirmation. And that was one of the most beautiful days I’ve ever had. After I received Confirmation, I walked out of the Abbey and just saw a beautiful blanket of white snow. For me, I saw that as starting over, a clean slate, and basically the start of my new life as a Catholic.

From there I hit the ground running.

I started leading the wrestling Bible study the next year and on top of that I lead a rosary up at the Grotto for the wrestling team after our practice every Friday, because we have competitions on Saturday. Five to 10 people coming to pray the rosary, people who have never prayed the rosary before. We’ve had a couple of guys who have never known the faith receive Baptism and Confirmation. In fact, we have had two already this year who have gone through with it. Just showing those guys the love that Mary has for them has been amazing. I’ve seen them grow so much and I’ve seen myself grow so much.

Benedictine has absolutely changed my life. From the moment I stepped on this campus I’ve been a changed man. I’ve seen differences in the way I think about life, the way I approach life, and just having the community here that allows me to do that has changed me so much. I feel so much more prepared for life after college.

I’m Keenan Graef and I am Made for Greatness.

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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.