The Catholic University of America

June 6, 2013

New Faculty Introduced to Catholic Intellectual Tradition


Cardinal Wuerl discusses Catholic thought and the New Evangelization with faculty new to Catholic University.

In response to the first goal of the University’s Strategic Plan — Ensure the continuance and deepening of a strong, mission-based, academically rigorous Catholic identity — recently hired tenure-track faculty are learning more about Catholic intellectual tradition this week at a conference hosted by the Office of the Provost and organized by Rev. Paul Sullins, associate professor of sociology at Catholic University.

“What do you think this world would be like if there were not voices over the millennia; if we did not hear religious tenets like ‘Love your neighbor’?” Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, and chancellor of the University, asked the faculty. “Our tradition is no longer the dominant voice [in society], but we still bring the voice of something that has to be heard.”

In past years, Father Sullins and the Society of Catholic Social Scientists hosted the Institute for Catholic Social Thought open to all professors and graduate students of Catholic universities across the United States. However, this year the event is being held exclusively for faculty members who have started teaching at CUA within the last several years. Faculty members from various schools of the University — including architecture, arts and sciences, philosophy, law, nursing, and theology — took part in the conference.

In addition to Cardinal Wuerl, speakers at the conference include University President John Garvey, Provost James Brennan and faculty from five of the University’s schools.

“Our faculty includes experts who can really talk to the dynamic, changing nature of Catholic identity in Catholic education in America,” Brennan says. He describes the group of faculty attending the conference as a homogenous group that has already been introduced to key documents such as Ex Corde Ecclesiae as part of their yearlong orientation at CUA. “They are an informed group who can have deep conversations that can advance everyone’s thinking — including my own thinking — on what our Catholic identity is and how it can grow.”

Many of the faculty present at the conference are not Catholic, but are interested in how they may contribute to the University’s Catholic identity.

“The Catholic faith welcomes the perspective of other traditions,” Father Sullins said. “There are a lot of things in common to all religions. As a Catholic university, we want to focus on these commonalities. The goal is to form people to be good neighbors, good citizens, and contribute to the good of the state.”

Rev. Robert Kaslyn, S.J., dean of the School of Canon Law, spoke on the second day about the relationship between faith and reason. “It is the essence of a university,” he said. “Both faith and reason are necessary to the academic enterprise.”


Rev. Robert Kaslyn and Rev. Mark Morozowich address the faculty.

Rev. Mark Morozowich, dean of the School of Theology and Religious studies, challenged the faculty members to “break down the silos” that can exist on a university campus and engage in dialogue with colleagues in different fields. “A university is a dynamic group of people who are devoted to the intellectual life; who utilize faith and reason and arrive at a deeper revelation of what it is to be human persons.”

Cardinal Wuerl spoke to the group about the New Evangelization and its message of not only believing in the tenets of the Catholic faith, but living them in visible ways daily. “To stand in the truth is a wonderful experience,” he said. “If you believe and are confident in the truth, then what follows is a whole different way of acting and teaching. Students come here expecting an environment rooted in this ancient tradition of faith. There is a truth, and our task is to bring that truth to the questions of today. We bring a voice that says, out of all the things that we can do, these are the things we ought to do.”

President Garvey closed the second day by discussing Catholic identity in higher education. “A recovery of a genuinely Catholic approach to higher education begins by re-evaluating the notion that a Catholic college or university ought to strive to be like a secular one. A distinctly Catholic model of education will acknowledge that a comprehensive Catholic education involves both a moral and an intellectual formation inspired by the Catholic tradition.”

Roundtable presenters represented a number of research institutes and organizations on campus and nearby, including the Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC), nearby seminaries and religious orders, offices of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies, and the Center for the Advancement of Catholic Higher Education.

The last three days of the institute featured topics related to individual disciplines, research, service, and how the faculty can incorporate what they learned during the week into their own work.

Assistant Professor of Physics Abhijit Sarkar, a Hindu, remarked that the study of physics often leads very naturally to discussions of the sacred. In studying how things are made, it is clear to him and students “how well ordered the universe is. How do you explain this order? Science makes a lot of space for conversations about the sacred.” 


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