Outgoing director of the Center for Catholic Studies Don Briel and interim director Michael Naughton (right) chat in Briel's partially-packed office August 8, 2014 in Sitzmann Hall. Taken for Perspectives magazine.

20 Decisions Over 20 Years in the Development of Catholic Studies

1.  The creation of the Center for Catholic Studies, with faculty development programs opened to all faculty on campus

2.  The creation of the Department of Catholic Studies and the decision not only to include the option of the major but also to stress the importance of the double major at a time when the vast majority of Catholic Studies programs offered only a minor or concentration

3.  The development of not only an academic program of study but an ecclesial community focusing on the integration of intellectual, spiritual and human formation

4.  The creation of a freestanding interdisciplinary program rather than a program within another department, such as theology

5.  A focus not only on the humanities but also on the natural and social sciences and on the professions

6.  A focus the Center on national and international outreach

7.   The integration of the John A. Ryan Institute for Catholic Social Thought into the Center

8.   The creation of the Catholic Studies Rome program in affiliation with the Dominican pontifical university, the Angelicum

9.   The creation of a quarterly journal, Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture

10.  To make available the Catholic Intellectual Tradition seminar for new faculty

11.  The development of the Master of Arts in Catholic Studies program

12.  The development of the first joint-degree program with the School of Law

13. The creation of the Terrence J. Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law and Public Policy, another joint venture with the School of Law

14.  The 2003 acquisition and remodeling of Sitzmann Hall and the subsequent 2009 addition

15.  The development of leadership and community-living programs, which were eventually organized under the auspices of the Habiger Institute for Catholic Leadership

16. The development of the Latino Leadership Program, which assists Hispanic students in taking leadership roles within the Church and civil society

17. Strategic relations with dignitaries in Rome, most directly with the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace but also with the Congregation for Catholic Education and the Pontifical Councils for Culture and for the Laity

18. Collaboration with other Catholic universities and programs around the world, including strategic relationships with universities in Africa, South America and Europe

19. Sustained collaboration with the work of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis in education and faith formation

20. Cooperation with the Holy See Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, including an internship and research projects


“Dr. Don Briel's contributions and leadership in the advancement of Catholic higher education are really quite remarkable. Many of us have witnessed, over the course of the years, the founding and the flourishing of Catholic Studies at the University of St. Thomas, thanks to the industry, labor, perseverance and the heart and the acumen of Briel and the colleagues that he has gathered round for this work. The underlying set of principles that the project of Catholic Studies has been built upon attracts, educates and forms so many impressive young leaders. Briel has made a signal contribution to the evangelization of culture.” Monsignor James Shea, president, University of Mary

“When we founded the Augustine Institute, words that Don Briel said were foundational as to how we did it. We were talking about recruiting faculty in light of a curriculum-driven program. Don said, ‘Hire people who love Jesus Christ, are excellent teachers, superb in the intellectual life and let them do what they want.’ It's been the genius of the Augustine Institute. It was a key moment for a key apostolic work.” Dr. Jonathan Reyes, co-founder of the Augustine Institute and executive director of the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“The gold standard for Catholic Studies programs has been established. It was established by Don Briel at the University of St. Thomas where he and his colleagues, over the past 20 years, created a model of academic and formational excellence that everyone seriously committed to the Catholic Studies project at Catholic institutions of higher education would do well to emulate.”  George Weigel, Distinguished Senior Fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington, D.C., and biographer of St. John Paul II

“Few people in my life have inspired me so much as Don Briel. I revere him not only as the founder of the Catholic Studies program and for the courage and wisdom he has shown to all of us over many years in that particular role. I also revere him as a wonderful friend. Indeed, I would have to say it has been one of the more delightful and unexpected gifts of providence in my life.” Father Paul Murray, spiritual theology, Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas

“Dr. Don Briel had the vision to create a program at UST that included community, faith, the Catholic tradition and higher education. Not only did he see this vision through to its fruition, he nurtured it constantly, thus bringing this center of excellence to where it is today: a vibrant community. Briel used his time and talents to foster a program of which my parents-in-law, Tony and Cecilia Bernardi, were so pleased to be a part. The Bernardi Campus in Rome is a reflection of Tony and Cecilia's great admiration for Briel  admiration of his intellect, his passion and his commitment to the Catholic faith and higher education. He will be missed.” Nicole Bernardi, Catholic Studies Advisory Board