On September 8-10, attendees representing Catholic Studies centers and programs from over a dozen colleges and universities came together in the spirit of collaboration and scholarship during the National Catholic Studies Consortium’s second annual Symposium held at Loyola University Chicago.
The three-day event was hosted by The Hank Center for the Catholic Intellectual Heritage and co-sponsored by Seton Hall University’s Center for Catholic Studies and Duquesne University's Catholic Studies Program. Throughout the symposium, faculty and administrators from all universities shared common ideas, visions and best practices in Catholic Studies. The diversity of institutions, disciplines and structures provided rich and thought-provoking discussion.
Four members of the Seton Hall community participated in the symposium including Reverend Gerald Buonopane, Minister to the Priest Community and Professor of Chemistry; Ines Murzaku, Ph.D., Director of the Catholic Studies Program and Professor of Religious Studies; Gregory P. Floyd, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Catholic Studies and University Core Fellow; and Matthew Higgins, Ph.D. Director of Programs at the Center for Catholic Studies.
Presentations Highlighted Best Practices in Seton Hall’s Programs
Murzaku and Father Buonopane both delivered presentations to the consortium as part of the program's many discussion sessions. Murzaku presented twice: ffirst on the International Federation of Catholic Universities and then on "Mission Integration and Innovation: Teaching Catholic Studies." In her second presentation, she highlighted the various successes of the Catholic Studies Program, including the newly formed Catholic Social Thought in Action Academy.
Addressing the topic of mission vision and integration, Murzaku used visuals to demonstrate how Seton Hall's cross-curricular approach to integrating Catholic Studies, which includes students from majors across the University taking courses together in the Catholic Intellectual Tradition, is an integral part of the fulfillment of Seton Hall's mission. She explained the ways in which Seton Hall's interdisciplinary model is faithful to the root word of "Catholic"—"katholou," implying the ideas of integrality and moving toward wholeness.
Murzaku further tied in St. John Henry Newman's The Idea of a University, and she showed the ways Catholic Studies at Seton Hall leads to mission integration, building bridges among disciplines and areas of practice.
"It was exciting to participate in this weekend with leaders in Catholic Studies from around the United States and beyond," said reflected Murzaku. "This was the second annual meeting of the group, and we can already see an increase in collaboration among the universities. I was also happy to see a substantial increase in the number of women administrators in key Catholic Studies and mission- and identity-related positions. This was a great step forward in letting the genius of women be more fully expressed, as St. John Paul II said in his Letter to Women."
Father Buonopane later presented as part of a panel titled "Practices in Faith, Reason, Justice," where he showcased a practical application of the integration of Catholic Studies into cross-university disciplines and into various facets of intellectual inquiry and human experience.
Specifically, he outlined how Seton Hall’s course titled "Science and Theology of Food" invities students to engage in serious theological and scientific inquiry, starting with their own experiences with food. Students in the course examine the scientific, theological, cultural and ethical dimensions of food while leading them from theory into practice and deepening their commitment to treating food as a gift from God — one that nourishes us on physical and spiritual levels, and one that ought to be accessible to all.
Father Buonopane described the strong course outcomes he has observed in his five semesters of teaching this course that he developed: students embrace the relationship between faith and science; they have evaluated food security and sustainability plans in countries around the world; and students' individual and group work for the course has shown strong potential as a starting point for innovations in future research and practice.
"Attending the annual symposium of the Catholic Studies Consortium at Loyola University Chicago was an extraordinarily inspiring and enlightening experience," commented Father Buonopane. "My eyes were opened ever more so to the vastness of the field of Catholic Studies and the variety of courses and activities offered in departments and programs at the many universities represented. The gathering at LUC of such amazing scholars demonstrated the universality of the Church and what it truly means to be Catholic and how the Catholic Intellectual Tradition is applicable to all disciplines, including those in the arts, literature, sciences, philosophy and religion, and law."
An Opportunity to Exchange Experiences, Best Practices and Challenges
As Director of the Center for Catholic Studies, Floyd emphasized the many benefits of Seton Hall's membership in the Catholic Studies Consortium, noting "To learn from the successes and challenges of faculty and administrators from the nation's top Catholic colleges and universities over three days in a spirit of genuine collaboration and mutual encouragement is as rare as it is helpful. We at the Center are grateful to be able to support this growing movement which is positioned to do much good for Catholic higher education."
The first Center for Catholic Studies was founded at the University of St. Thomas, Minnesota, in 1993 followed by Seton Hall University in 1997. These universities were at the forefront of a national initiative that has given rise to over 50 centers, programs, and initiatives in the intervening decades.
Faculty and Administrators from over a dozen Catholic colleges and universities attended the symposium
Seton Hall's support for this national network has been enhanced by its recent Porticus Grant, which seeks to support and revitalize the identity and mission of Catholic colleges and universities by developing a network of faculty leaders within institutions and across institutions who are at the service of the local church and community.
Looking ahead, Seton Hall looks forward to participating in the next two annual symposia, which are scheduled to take place at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut in Fall 2023 and in the fall of 2024 at Seton Hall itself.