The Catholic University of America

Sept. 27, 2011

CUA Theologians and Bishops Discuss New Evangelization

A symposium earlier this month brought together Catholic University theologians and members of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Doctrine for several days of discussion on intellectual collaboration as a way to support the Church’s new evangelization.

Monsignor Kevin Irwin, Catholic University’s Monsignor Walter J. Schmitz, S.S., Professor of Liturgical Studies, and Rev. Frank Matera, Andrews-Kelly-Ryan Professor of Biblical Studies, along with six tenure-track faculty from CUA, attended the symposium “Intellectual Tasks of the New Evangelization,” which was held Sept. 15 to 17 at the Washington Court Hotel in Northwest D.C.

The symposium was particularly significant for the tenure-track faculty, noted Monsignor Irwin. “The symposium was a kind of training ground for the younger professors, inviting them into a dialogue with the bishops and helping them understand their role in the Church as theologians. It gave them the chance to see the positive contribution they can make to the Church.”

The meeting of the bishops and theologians was also an important step at a time when Pope Benedict XVI has made evangelization a high priority for the Church, said Monsignor Irwin. The bishops and the Church’s theologians “together bear a responsibility for handing on the faith,” said Monsignor Irwin. “This is an example of the kind of dialogue that can take place so the bishop/theologian relationship is cooperative and productive.”

Building on the work of Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict established the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization in 2010 to reawaken a missionary spirit in the Church. At the time, the Pope said he wanted to “promote a renewed evangelization” in traditionally Christian countries that are living through a “progressive secularization of society and a sort of ‘eclipse of the sense of God.’”

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington and CUA chancellor, had invited more than 50 tenure-track theology faculty, including the CUA professors, to the symposium. Cardinal Wuerl attended the event and served as celebrant at the symposium’s closing Mass.

In a piece in America magazine this month, Cardinal Wuerl writes, “As we respond to the call for the new evangelization, there are growing signs of new, constructive cooperation between bishops and theologians at Catholic universities … I hope one of the outcomes of this multi-day meeting will be to refocus on the great mission of the church to bring Christ to the world.”

In the article, Cardinal Wuerl also notes, “When their respective contributions are ordered to the proclamation of the Gospel, grounded in the truths of our faith and the teaching of the church that Jesus founded, bishops and theologians offer a profound contribution to the new evangelization and an irreplaceable gift to our contemporaries: a rejuvenated, fruitful and faithful exposition of the good news of Jesus Christ.”

Christopher Ruddy, CUA associate professor who attended the symposium, said, “It’s beneficial for bishops and theologians to get to know each other, not just as bishops and theologians, but as fellow believers who are very much concerned about how the Church carries out its mission in the world.”

Ruddy noted that the topic of the recent symposium resonates with the University’s “integration of intellect and virtue,” the inaugural theme of John Garvey, now in the second year of his presidency.

In addition to Ruddy, the CUA tenure-track faculty included Associate Professor William Mattison and assistant professors David Bosworth, Rev. Nicholas Lombardo, O.P., Hellen Mardaga, and Chad Pecknold. Ten Catholic University alumni who have earned doctorates recently through the theology and religious studies school also attended the symposium.

At the event, Monsignor Irwin presented a paper titled "Mediated Immediacy: Liturgy and Sacramentality," and Rev. Frank Matera, Andrews-Kelly-Ryan Professor of Biblical Studies, delivered a paper titled “The Use of Scripture in the New Evangelization: Reclaiming the Narrative.”

The symposium was co-sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Doctrine and Catholic University’s School of Theology and Religious Studies. The Knights of Columbus provided funding for the event.


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