Bishop David Ricken, a founder of the Wyoming Catholic College, blesses the Broken Anvil Ranch. The ranch will eventually be the site of the college’s campus.(Kelsey Dayton photo)
(Lander, Wyo.) – Bishop David Ricken, a founder of Wyoming Catholic College, flicked holy water across the prairie as a horse drawn cart took him over a portion of the 600 acres that will one day be the college’s home Sunday. Ricken is the former Bishop of the Diocese of Cheyenne. He now serves as the Bishop of the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin.
The Broken Anvil Ranch has long been the future site of the campus- even before the college itself fully existed, said Joseph Susanka, director of media and advancement operations at Wyoming Catholic College. When the ranch was proposed as a site in 2004 it seemed ideal, he said. The gift of a substantial portion of the ranch to the college by Francie Mortenson-Perkins led to Lander being chosen as the site for the new private institution. The college was incorporated in 2005 and had its first class of students in 2007.
People gathered and celebrated Mass outside on the prairie before the blessing Sunday.
The ceremonial blessing coincided with the start of the new school year and the inauguration of the school’s second president, Dr. Kevin Roberts who replaces college co-founder Father Robert Cook. The incoming freshman class has 34 members this year, Susanka said. It also marks the start of the college beginning to use the property, he said. The ranch will eventually house dorms and classroom buildings. It also will be used for school events like class camping trips, he said. There is still a lot of fundraising before the campus will move to the site. Construction costs for the campus are estimated at $180 million and a timeline hasn’t been set for when the college might break ground- it depends on the fundraising, Susanka said.
In the meantime, the college hopes to purchase cattle to put on the ranch this year and begin educating students in ranching and animal husbandry, Susanka said.
Students attending the college come from across the country and many don’t have any experience with ranching. The program will allow students to learn some basics of ranching, as well as practical skills like team work, stewardship and working outside their comfort zones, Susanka said.
“We figure we are going to embrace Wyoming in as many ways as we can,” he said.
Included in the college’s offering is a three week-long summer outdoor immersion for all freshmen, a one week winter wilderness expedition, and an Equine Studies program where all students learn to ride and care for horses.