The late Stephen Duffy, a former Loyola New Orleans religious studies professor, believed systematic theology to be immensely important, and that it should be kept at Loyola. This fall, his wish will be granted.
The two-year search for the Stephen Duffy Endowed Chair in the Religious Studies department has finally ended. Jesuit Father Edward Vacek will be assuming the chair in the fall semester.
“We had 40 applicants, and that’s a great turnout because this is a very high-level position, and there are few people qualified enough to take on this role,” said Denis Janz, religious studies professor and chairman of the search committee. “A person at this level has a great many options, and we’re very lucky to have someone of Fr. Vacek’s caliber. This is a victory for us.”
Vacek will teach systematic theology and give public lectures, as well as involve himself in the Loyola community.
“Systematic theology is organized critical thinking about God and Christian life,” Vacek said in an email. According to Vacek, it evolved naturally from theology as humans tried to account for what practices led them to a closer relationship with God and came to organize their thoughts.
Vacek taught at Boston College from 2008 to 2011 and spent last year working at the Woodstock Theological Center in Washington, D.C.
“I taught for 33 years in a pontifical seminary,” Vacek said. “A big part of my job was to do the research and writing that would help the church’s theology evolve. Furthermore, I have been very interested in issues of social justice, so a fight against racism and sexism deeply ingrained in me. All of that has prepared me well, I think, for making a significant contribution to Loyola.”
Janz said he is pleased to have Vacek in the position, “He is really one of the best in his field, so we’re lucky to have him.”
Vacek said he looks forward to his time at Loyola, “Loyola very ably serves important needs in the region and in the church. I consider it a real privilege to serve here. I love being a teacher, and I love being a Jesuit and I love being a priest. So here at Loyola I will get to do what I love. I wish everybody would be so fortunate to be able to pursue their deepest commitments.”