Archive for the ‘Theology’ Category
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Mosaic by Jesuit Father Marko Rupnik
Jesuit Brother William Rehg has been named the new dean for Saint Louis University College of Philosophy and Letters, a program for young Jesuits studying philosophy and theology during their first years of study after the novitiate.
The dean of the College of Philosophy and Letters has the authority to adapt curriculum to meet each individual’s needs, which is important because Jesuits have a broad range of academic experience. Some men enter the Society of Jesus with a college degree, perhaps even an advanced degree; a few come right out of high school.
Br. Rehg brings a vast amount of experience to the position. After graduating with a bachelor of science from Wright State University, Br. Rehg came to SLU to earn his master’s and licentiate in philosophy. He then went on to earn his master’s of divinity from Weston School of Theology and his doctorate in philosophy from Northwestern University.
With more than 20 years of experience teaching at SLU, as well as Rockhurst and Northwestern, Br. Rehg has also served as a visiting scholar or professor at Georgetown, Berkeley, Jesuit School of Theology, Loyola and Goethe-University in Frankfurt, Germany.
He has also been granted a variety of awards and has a lengthy publishing record. Rehg is a past president of Philosophers in Jesuit Education as well as Jesuit Philosophical Association and serves on the Board of Directors for Theological Studies.
Br. Rehg is looking forward to the opportunity of leading the College of Philosophy and Letters, “I would like to express my gratitude to Fr. Michael Barber for his tremendous service as dean of Philosophy and Letters. And I hope that I can continue in that spirit of service.”
Born in Pennsylvania to Polish immigrants in 1904, Jesuit Father Walter Ciszek’s life as a priest was anything but ordinary. And now this remarkable Jesuit is one step closer to canonization as the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints has agreed to review and examine his life.
Originally assigned to Poland in the late 1930s, Father Ciszek fled to Russia when the Soviet Army invaded Eastern Poland during World War II. Hoping to serve exiles as a priest in disguise, Father Ciszek entered the Soviet Union under an assumed name.
In 1941, Father Ciszek was arrested by the Soviet Secret Police, who claimed he was a Vatican spy. He spent 23 years as a prisoner in the Soviet Union, including 15 years of hard labor in Siberia and five years of solitary confinement. According to Jesuit Father James Martin, Father Ciszek performed many ministries, even under the harshest of circumstances: “During the time, he secretly served as priest to his fellow prisoners, risking his life to offer counseling, hear confessions, and–most perilously—celebrating Mass.”
Father Ciszek himself described the brutal conditions, “We said Mass in drafty storage shacks, or huddled in mud and slush in the corner of a building site foundation of an underground. . . . Yet in these primitive conditions, the Mass brought you closer to God than anyone might conceivably imagine.”
By 1947, both Father Ciszek’s family and the Society of Jesus presumed he was dead; the Society even sent out a death notice. Eight long years later – in 1955 – Father Ciszek was finally allowed to write his first letter to his family, although his joyful reunion would have wait until 1963 when Father was finally returned to the United States after a complicated diplomatic prisoner exchange.
Fr. Ciszek’s cause will now undergo an examination by nine theologians to determine if he exhibited in his life the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, and the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance to a heroic degree. If the theologians agree that his virtue was indeed heroic, the Cause will be passed on to the Bishops and Cardinals, who are members of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, for their study. If their judgment is favorable, the results will be sent to the Holy Father for his consideration. If the Holy Father gives his approval, Fr. Ciszek will be declared a Servant of God or “Venerable.”
While the candidate for canonization who is declared venerable has no feast day, the faithful are encouraged to pray for his intercession. If it is proven that a miraculous cure has been granted in response to those prayers, the “Venerable” will be declared “Blessed.” Finally, if an additional miracle through the intercession of the Blessed is verified, the Church will formally declare Father Ciszek a saint.
Materials and documentation bolstering Father Ciszek’s cause include testimony from 45 witnesses, Father Ciszek’s published and unpublished works, and transcription of hundreds of his handwritten documents.
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.”
Before a date is set for the canonization ceremonies, there must be an “ordinary public consistory,” a formal ceremony opened and closed with prayer, during which cardinals present in Rome express their support for the pope’s decision to create new saints.
Pope Benedict recognized the miracles attributed to their intercessions, which paves the way for them to be declared saints. They are:
Blessed Jacques Berthieu, a French Jesuit priest who was martyred in Madagascar in 1896. Berthieu was a diocesan priest for nine years before he decided to enter the Society of Jesus at age 35. He was appointed to the Madagascar mission even before he finished novitiate. He died while he was accompanying refugees who were trying to avoid attacks from another tribe. His attackers stripped him of his cassock and beat him with clubs before forcing him to walk in the cold rain to the village where their chief lived. Berthieu refused to accept that man’s offer of becoming a counselor to his tribe, promising to spare his life if he would renounce his faith. Berthieu replied that he would rather die than abandon his religion. Several men attacked him with clubs; a blow to the head killed him. His attackers then dumped his body into the river from which it was never recovered.
Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, known as the Lily of the Mohawks, was born to a Christian Algonquin mother and a Mohawk father in 1656 in upstate New York along the Hudson River. She was baptized by a Jesuit missionary in 1676 when she was 20, and she died in Canada four years later. In June 1980, she became the first Native American to be beatified.
Blessed Peter Calungsod, a lay Catholic from Cebu, Philippines, who accompanied Jesuit missionaries to Guam as a catechist and was martyred there in 1672 while he was in his late teens.