"I have built some of my greatest friendships through the Benedictine Scholars program."
The third cohort of Saint Martin's University Benedictine Scholars chose to create a large mural for their collaborative cohort project. The mural was installed in the Office of Campus Ministry and officially unveiled on March 23, 2018. Morgan Olson, a senior social work major and member of Benedictine Scholars Cohort Three, wrote about her experience working on the project. A video of Fr. Kilian Malvey, O.S.B blessing the mural is available to watch on the Saint Martin's University Facebook page.
For the last four years, I have been a member of Cohort Three of the Benedictine Scholars, which also includes Michael Dominguez, civil engineering major; Jessica Bever, history major; Alyssa Fink, civil engineering major; Taylor Wolf, biology major; Katie Reiger, mathematics major; Belana Anderson, biology major; Matthew Ramos, biology major; and Andrew Raab, mathematics major. When I entered as a freshman in 2014, the program was only three years old and had 30 members, but during my sophomore year, the program reached its full enrollment for the first time, with four cohorts. The program was established to build bridges between the monastic community and the student body. We embody the values of community, leadership and service. In an effort to give back, we are also prompted to engage in a project that benefits the larger Saint Martin’s community. Although this sounds easy enough, it’s a difficult task to agree upon one project with nine different opinions from nine different cohort members. Each of us in Cohort Three brings something different to the group in both leadership strengths and personality traits. The process of creating something from the ground up that builds relationships and improves communication is a tall order.
The Benedictine Scholar Cohorts before us took on big and endearing projects. Cohort One (2012) created a video with interviews with staff and faculty about the Benedictine values and their implementation on campus. And Cohort Two (2013) restored the Stations of the Cross around campus, illuminating the connection our campus has to reflection and nature. During the end of our sophomore year, we began to develop a plan to create a large mural that would represent the monastic community’s importance to our history and our future. We brainstormed ideas for the subject of our mural, the material we would use, where we would place the mural, and who would create it. Many of our monthly Benedictine Scholars meetings during 2016-2017 were spent planning and executing the basis for our project.
We bought 35 canvases with the intention of creating a gridded picture that would depict the Saint Martin’s bell tower, a raven and the Saint Martin’s University logo. These three symbols were picked due to their significance on campus. The bell tower is a part of the monastic life, which rings to indicate different times of the day and the Saint Martin’s University logo is the arches of the windows in Old Main. The large raven is important because St. Benedict was fed poisoned bread by a jealous priest and he called to the raven that frequently ate from his hands. The raven came, took the bread, and flew far away so no one could be poisoned by the bread.
Once the pencil sketch was transferred to the canvases, we began planning a community event in the Trautman Union Building where students and family members could come and help paint the mural. We wanted our project to exemplify the value of community and we thought the best way to do that was by asking many people to create one piece of art. Afterwards, we refined the canvases and glazed them.
Finding a home for the canvases was more complicated than we anticipated, but Angela Carlin, director of campus ministry and advisor to the Benedictine Scholars, offered her newly remodeled office space to us. The mural is quite large and needed a large wall to be mounted upon, and the Campus Ministry Office has a suitable space and is the perfect home for the mural. This year has been about creating a joint event to celebrate the new space of the Campus Ministry Office and to reveal the mural. Again, the mural symbolizes community and monastic presence, and we wanted that to shine through at the celebration, which it most definitely did.
The celebration was the fulfillment of a long-awaited plan and it was beautiful. The support from staff, faculty, monastic community members and students was a true blessing. Being there and being able to present something that has taken nearly two years to create felt exciting and relieving. I want to thank Saint Martin’s University for creating an opportunity to leave a legacy and express what it truly means to be a part of this program. I have built some of my greatest friendships through the Benedictine Scholar’s Program. I have laughed, had adventures, gathered in community, attended Mass at retreats, and celebrated growth and love. I want to thank all those who have helped me through this program, Dr. Stephen Mead, John Dwyer, Dr. Teresa Winstead, Dr. Julia Chavez, Fr. Kilian, Br. Luke Devine, Br. Nicolaus, Angela Carlin and Dr. Floraliza Bornasal. And most importantly, my cohort, which will forever hold a big place in my heart.