theology matters: A View From the Chair

Bernard Brady, Chair

The phrase "Catholic intellectual tradition," found in the university’s mission statement (along with the mission statements of about 40 percent of Catholic colleges and universities in the U.S.), is somewhat confusing. The Catholic intellectual tradition is a strange "tradition." Contemporary sociologist Hans Joas tells us that “traditions generate nothing,” yet the Catholic intellectual tradition has, from its very origins, been generative. It has produced a canon of classic works in theology, philosophy, spirituality, poetry, fiction and biography, as well as music, art and architecture. It is a tradition that has its source, of course, in the Bible, a book that itself that has an "Old" and a "New"! Indeed, the structure of our THEO 101 course is nothing but a testament to the growth and development of this tradition.

From the Bible, the Catholic intellectual tradition finds its two grounding ideas: the first is an understanding of all persons as relational, physical and spiritual beings created in God’s image; the second is that Jesus, the son of God, is the fullest revelation of God and God’s intentions for us. As sources of reflection, prayer and theology, both of these realities are dynamic. Quoting Pope Francis from his America magazine interview, "human self-understanding changes with time and so also human consciousness deepens." And, "God is to be encountered in the world of today. God manifests himself in historical revelation, in history. Time initiates processes, and space crystallizes them. God is in history, in the processes."

The Theology Department at St. Thomas both is inspired by and contributes to this tradition. No one did this better than our former chair, Dr. Terry Nichols. Over his 27 years here, he taught a variety of courses, and he published essays, articles and books on an even wider set of topics  from transubstantiation, to the soul and the afterlife, to hierarchy and participation in the church, and Muslim-Christian dialogue.

Yet Nichols did not stand alone; he was surrounded by an active and engaged faculty, who were productive in the last academic year, publishing seven books, 17 articles in scholarly journals, six chapters in books, as well as a number of reviews and essays. Along with this, our faculty gave 16 papers at scholarly conferences, many interviews and a very large number of presentations in the local community, particularly in area churches. All of this can be described by St. Anselm’s famous dictum: "Faith seeking understanding."

Sherry Jordon, Assistant Chair

As assistant chair of the Theology Department, one of my responsibilities (and joys!) is advising our majors. We currently have 15 majors and they are a varied and dynamic group. Most of our students are double majors and two of them are triple majors. The most common double major is Catholic studies but other majors include information security, communication and journalism, Spanish, philosophy, history, classical languages and psychology.

We have two major programs, one in general theology and the other a lay ministry concentration. Four of our majors are specializing in lay ministry. "The Lay Ministry Concentration is a specialization within the undergraduate theology major. It combines academic study (KNOW), observation of working ministers (SEE), and internship opportunities (DO), in order to provide students with the theological foundation, pastoral skills and spiritual formation necessary to assume entry-level positions in lay ecclesial ministry. Opportunities include pastoral ministry, youth ministry, religious education and faith formation, as well as a variety of support services for church and faith-based organizations." Read more about Theology Department majors.

Of course, we would like to see the number of majors grow, and we encourage students who love to study theology but who are concerned about prospects for jobs after college to visit this website and to come to speak with me  as I would love to work with you to see the possibilities before you with a theology degree. Learn more from Why Study Religion.

From "theology matters," a newsletter of the Department of Theology. Subscribe here.