Catholic Studies Showcased at Chicago Symposium – Seton Hall University

Catholic Studies at Seton Hall was well represented at the Catholic Studies Consortium Annual Symposium at Loyola University Chicago in September. Seton Hall University served as a co-sponsor of the symposium, along with Duquesne University. Ines Murzaku, Ph.D., Professor of Religion and Director and Chair of the Catholic Studies Program and Department, and Reverend Gerald Buonopane, Ph.D., Minister to the Priest Community and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, as well as a member of the Board of Regents and Board of Trustees, delivered talks at the symposium, highlighting the interdisciplinary nature of Seton Hall’s Catholic Studies curriculum.

“It was exciting to participate in this weekend with leaders in Catholic Studies from around the United States and beyond,” said Dr. 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.”

Dr. Murzaku gave her talk about Seton Hall’s interdisciplinary Catholic Studies curricular model in a panel titled “Ad Urbem et Mundem: A Sacramental Vision of Education.” Addressing the topic of mission vision and integration, Dr. 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. Dr. Murzaku 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.

Fr. Buonopane’s talk, delivered in the panel titled “Practices in Faith, Reason, Justice,” showcased a practical application of the integration of Catholic Studies into cross-university disciplines and into various facets of intellectual inquiry and human experience. He showed how his course Science and Theology of Food, a Catholic Studies cross-listed with CORE 3 and Chemistry, invites 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. This inquiry leads students from theory into practice, 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. Fr. 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,” said Fr. 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. I was particularly interested to learn of the study abroad programs that have been established by many of the representing institutions. Such worldwide exposure highlights the unlimited opportunities for students studying Catholic Studies. I feel ever more strongly now in stating that all Catholic institutions of higher education must give special importance and support to their Catholic Studies programs.”

As Seton Hall was a co-sponsor of the weekend, Gregory P. Floyd, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Catholic Studies, welcomed participants. Also representing Seton Hall was Matthew Higgins, Ed.D., Director of Programs for the Center of Catholic Studies.