Symposium on Advancing the New Evangelization to take place this weekend

Students, alumni, colleagues and friends attend a lecture by one of last year's speakers Dr. John Rziha.  Photo courtesy Benedictine College ​Ministry.

By Ellen Petersen, The Circuit.

The Benedictine College Institute for Missionary Activity is hosting this year’s sixth annual Symposium on Advancing the New Evangelization the weekend of March 31-April 1.

The Symposium will feature four keynote speakers, four invited speakers from across the country and 40 colloquium speakers.

The theme for this year’s symposium is “In the World, but not of the World: Paradigms for the Evangelization of American Culture.”

According to a press release on the Benedictine College website, the theme is “an invitation to reflect upon fundamental issues concerning evangelization in the cultural context of American life today.”

“[The theme] is taken from one of St. Paul’s letters,” said David Trotter, current director for mission and ministry. “I think that is what we are trying to do at Benedictine is have our students be witnesses. We want the light of faith to shine forth in the world in an effort to renew culture.”

Trotter founded the Symposium six years ago as a part of missionary activity.

“We had seen similar conferences being held in other parts of the country but they were purely academic based in nature,” Trotter said. “We knew that the way for Benedictine College to flourish in the New Evangelization is to have it brought to our own campus. Others have called us the flagship of the New Evangelization so we thought to bring people together to have this discussion.”

The discussion that Trotter refers to is what he calls “the interdisciplinary dialogue between theory and practice of the New Evangelization.”

“[At the Symposium] we bring together professors who teach the theory and those boots-on-the-ground professionals who know how to evangelize to others. Then we can get better at our practice,”

It is fascinating looking at each of the keynote speakers and their unique take on how to be in the world but not of the world, he said.

Junior Leah Machado, lead student coordinator for the Symposium, explained that the differences of Catholic theory making an appearance are most notably those of the “Benedict Option” and the “Augustine Option.”

The Benedict Option, as Machado explained, revolves around the belief that as Catholics, it is better to retreat from the evils of the world so as to avoid them altogether. The Augustine Option, on the other hand, follows that Catholics should “be confronting these evils on the battlefield.”

“This is a great place for students to learn how to take their Benedictine education and go into the world without becoming corrupted by [the world],” said sophomore Maureen Severance, student in charge of the Symposium’s hospitality and registration. “Students can come and have their ideas challenged and developed by these speakers.”

Both students recommend attending and believe this conference has something for everyone, scholar and humanitarian alike.

“You won’t get all of your answers here but it is a place to strike the match,” Severance said. “I am hoping my opinions can be challenged so I can come to a better conviction.”

“I think the Symposium matters because in the universal call to holiness, we are called to constantly be sharpening our theory and our practice of the New Evangelization,” Trotter said. “If we really want to be witnesses, we really need to enter into this dialogue. Rarely are [we] able to get together in the same room the types of minds and professionals as at the Symposium.”

For Benedictine students, there are no fees, however, registration is still necessary. For those interested, visit

or contact David Trotter at