Two Catholic Studies initiatives grow in new directions with faculty member Father Austin Litke ’04, OP
When Father Austin Litke arrived as a visiting instructor in 2022, he was in many ways coming home. Litke is a 2004 graduate of Catholic Studies and Saint John Vianney College Seminary, and his connections with students and faculty grew in 2015-20 when he served as a chaplain for the Catholic Studies in Rome program while also pursuing a doctorate at the Augustinianum. Litke successfully defended his doctoral dissertation in Rome in October.
As a full-time assistant professor, Litke is giving fresh direction to two Center initiatives alongside teaching in Catholic Studies: the Habiger Institute Leadership Interns program and the “Deep Down Things” podcast.
“Deep Down Things” podcast
The “Deep Down Things” podcast is getting a reboot thanks to Litke. The hosts of the first three seasons – David Deavel and Liz Kelly – have moved on to other opportunities and Center leadership asked Litke to broaden its original scope as a podcast of the academic journal Logos to cover all things Catholic Studies.
Litke is joined by co-host Dr. Bill Stevenson, associate dean of The Saint Paul Seminary, for 20- to 30-minute discussions around topics of faith and culture, like students might experience in a Catholic Studies classroom. Litke wants a two-way conversation: both “a sustained reflection on Catholic culture” and “a Catholic reflection on broader human culture.” These podcasts will appeal to friends and alumni of Catholic Studies and help share how it enlivens the broader community.
Season four of “Deep Down Things” will be available on all major podcasting platforms in 2024.
Habiger Institute leadership interns
The interns program has taken several forms since it was founded and Litke, with the partnership of Program Manager Nancy Sannerud, is retooling the program to offer student interns chances to
grow in both leadership experience and receive spiritual formation as budding leaders.
The new emphasis begins with practical questions about those two areas. Litke asks, “What could a group of Catholic Studies students contribute to the Center but also to the campus and the local area?” Likewise, about formation: “What is it that students are not getting in their classes or formation otherwise? What does it mean to be a Catholic in the workforce? And that’s tied to all kinds of questions, like discernment: ‘How do I become more and more sensitive to the will of God and the work of the Holy Spirit here and now?’”
The group meets once a week for Morning Prayer, a meal, and planning for their events and initiatives. They begin with observing what is needed in an attitude of service. Litke said that they ask: “‘What’s missing? What’s needed?’ Which, I think, in and of itself, is its own leadership principle.”
Litke and Sannerud are planning to take the interns to New York City over spring break to meet with leaders in business, law, the arts and Catholic ministries.
This story is featured in the winter 2024 issue of Lumen.