As Rome is, in many ways, the nerve center of the Catholic Church, it is no surprise that the St. Thomas Catholic Studies Department offers a program for students to study there. Each year up to 64 graduate and undergraduate students attend the Rome program. This year the program welcomes a new academic director, Father Charles Morerod, who hopes to continue to provide an excellent educational experience for students. While Morerod is now working to become familiar with the program’s operations before setting a course for the future, “I already see a rather strong theological and spiritual dimension in next year’s program,” he states.

Morerod is originally from Switzerland and was ordained a Dominican priest in 1988. He holds doctoral degrees in both philosophy and theology and is currently serving as Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy at the Dominican Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas – the Angelicum – in addition to his responsibilities with the UST Rome program. Center director Don Briel noted that the Catholic Studies in Rome program was originally affiliated with the Angelicum’s social sciences faculty but now is broadening its relation to the university as a whole. Morerod’s responsibilities for St. Thomas include coordinating all the curricula for study. Briel will be in regular contact with Morerod as the year progresses.

Briel notes that there have been some significant recent changes in the curriculum, including the offering of a course in art and architecture each semester and changes in the theology electives. Courses in Rome are taught by Angelicum faculty and the St. Thomas faculty member who accompanies the students each semester, so students are exposed to a wide range of teaching methods and experiences. Students typically take four courses in common and then choose among several classes for an elective course.

Because it is a valuable part of their Catholic Studies degree, the Catholic Studies Department strongly encourages students to study in Rome. “Students have consistently reported that it is the most transforming experience in the program,” Briel says. In his new role as academic director, Morerod will help ensure that the Rome program is as life changing for students in the future as it has been in the past.

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