Benedictine observatory blessing

Benedictine College conducted a ceremony blessing its new observatory Sunday evening in Atchison, Kansas.

ATCHISON, Kansas — With the protective oversight of St. Benedict and St. Dominic, Benedictine College blessed its new observatory on Sunday, less than 24 hours before a solar eclipse would pass by the campus.

College officials and special guests from the Vatican attended the ceremony in which blessed medals representing the two saints got buried in the foundation of the new facility, located just west of the campus.

St. Benedict represents the namesake of the college and, according to tradition, will help protect those who teach and study there. St. Dominic stands as the patron saint of astronomers.

Medal ceremonies like these date to the 1800s. In this case, said college President Stephen Minnis, it also shows a connection between faith and science.

Benedictine began offering science degrees in 1916, and its recently celebrated “Century of Science” goes toward recognizing the school’s commitment to STEM education, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, the president said.

He pointed to the observatory and the renovation and expansion of Westerman Hall as examples of the college’s work toward its mission of “community, faith and scholarship.”

“At Benedictine College, we believe that faith and morality and ethics are just as important in the sciences as in every other part of our lives,” said Minnis, a native of St. Joseph.

Benedictine has recently been admitted to Vatican Observatory Consortium, a network of Catholic astronomy institutions. On hand for the blessing, and the Monday eclipse, were two astronomers from the Vatican, Father Christopher J. Corbally and Father Paul Gabor

Ken Newton can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPNewton.