August 30, 2017
Saint John’s School of Theology students chose this school for a reason. Before entering, the students knew about the academic reputation of the institution and the prominence placed on the Benedictine values in their future studies.
Both of those were on display on the first day of fall semester classes.
SOT students gathered with Saint John’s University undergraduate students to hear a Convocation address from one of the finest examples of the Benedictine values on our campus, 2017’s Teacher of Distinction, Kristin Colberg.
Colberg’s address stressed the importance of making connections during one’s time at school, and using those connections to spark positive change.
Excerpt from Colberg’s address
“Not to get too theological here, but I am a theology professor, and we see an understanding of reality throughout the Christian tradition – in God’s nature as a Trinity of persons, in the beauty and unity of creation, and in the message of the gospels.
“For all human beings, achieving our goals and becoming our best selves is tied to our ability to connect with others. What I am talking about here is a real connection with another human being - knowing their story, understanding what matters to them and where they are coming from.
“I’m also talking about real connections with lots of human beings, with a community—becoming part of something larger than yourself – seeing the interest of the whole not just your own interests.
“I’m also talking about connections with human beings who are not exactly like you – people who have had different experiences and have different perspectives on the world – people who can stretch you to see and think in new ways.
“The Benedictine Tradition has always realized the importance of making human connections and witnessing to the interconnection of all reality. We have a great visual of this right here in the church”
She gestured to the stained glass windows in the Saint John’s Abbey.
“Look at all those hexagons – Bees make hexagons in their hives because they figured out a long time ago that hexagons are one of the strongest and most efficient structures in nature. Hexagons, honeycombs and bees are widely associated with the Benedictine tradition because they are symbols of cooperation, strength and interdependence.
The wall works together.
“It’s flexible so that it can contract and expand with the heat and the cold. The wall is a constant reminder at the center of our campus of our need for human connection and the fact that our fates an our success are bound up with one another
“Making connections often involves risk because it can pull us out of our comfort zone and give us a feeling of instability. Connections – especially the ones that involve risk – make us more flexible and therefore stronger, like the wall. If the wall were unable to move and flex – if it were bound by the concrete like the rest of the building, or was made of one solid piece of glass instead of many interconnected units, it would crack and become unstable and ultimately unsustainable.
“It’s not an exaggeration to say that the relationships you make here at St. John’s will transform who you are. It is also true that the connections you make here will ripple out beyond you and transform the world you go out into.
“We need you to help transform the world. We need the community to be a place that witnesses to the power of human connection – to the interconnectedness of all reality and the strength found in interdependence that we see represented in the wall behind you.
Colberg's final point stressed what many new students need to hear before they embark on a new chapter of their lives.
“What you do this school year matters -- It matters to your success, to the person you become, and to the future of the world around us. So, take time to enjoy the semester and to make your decisions count.”