Boston theologian brings energy & insight to annual Institute

July 31, 2016 by

 

Dr. Richard Gaillardetz listens to a question from the audience during Friday's session of the 2016 Theological Institute at the Nazareth Motherhouse.

Dr. Richard Gaillardetz listens to a question from the audience during Friday’s session of the 2016 Theological Institute at the Nazareth Motherhouse.

His experience as an inquisitive 7-year-old, his wedding vows, the process of setting boundaries for four now-grown sons, stories of his students at Boston College, parables and other biblical passages, plus plot points from “The Bourne Identity” and “The Great Santini.”

Dr. Richard Gaillardetz

Dr. Richard Gaillardetz

Dr. Richard Gaillardetz wove it all together in an energetic yet thought-provoking Theological Institute that concluded this morning at the Nazareth Motherhouse. The four-day seminar that began Thursday evening was titled “Power, Authority and Freedom in a Pilgrim Church.”

Gaillardetz is the Joseph professor of Catholic Systematic Theology and director of graduate studies at the Jesuit university, as well as a prolific author. His recent books include “An Unfinished Council,” “The Church in the Making” and “By What Authority.”

His extensive background as a teacher showed as he led his audience of about 60 sisters, priests and laypeople through his series of lectures.

He began by redefining power and authority “in a culture where the default assumption is anti-institution,” moved on to a discussion of religious identity in the 21st century and then focused much of his energy on setting the historical stage for the Second Vatican Council and the changes it brought to the Catholic church.

Father Jack Schlaf, who at one time served as chaplain at the Nazareth Motherhouse, takes part in a discussion with Sisters Mary Jo Thummel, left, and Christina Brodie Saturday during the Theological Institute.

Father Jack Schlaf, who at one time served as chaplain at the Nazareth Motherhouse, takes part in a discussion with Sisters Mary Jo Thummel, left, and Christina Brodie Saturday during the Theological Institute.

“Vatican II didn’t just drop down from Heaven,” he said of the Council that began in 1962. “I was a reaction” to attitudes in the Church and the world that had been developing from the 19th century and into the first half of the 20th.

Using the metaphor of the physical rebuilding of the original St. Peter’s Basilica in the 16th century, Gaillardetz said Vatican II “was an attempt to build a new basilica, but it did not replace the old one.” The new basilica, he argued, has to include recognizing women’s contributions to the Church and redefining power, authority and freedom from a biblical perspective.

He spent the final session considering the popes since Vatican II – John XXIII, who initiated it but didn’t live to see it through; Paul VI, who allowed the Council to continue; then John Paul I, who served just 33 days; John Paul II; Benedict XVI; and finally Francis.

Fellow theologian Dr. Catherine Michard, CSJ, left, called Dr. Richard Gaillardetz "the best ecclesiologist in Catholic teaching today." With them in a small group disucssion Saturday was Sister Carm Thibault, center.

Fellow theologian Dr. Catherine Michard, CSJ, left, called Dr. Richard Gaillardetz “the best ecclesiologist in Catholic teaching today.” With them in a small group discussion Saturday was Sister Carm Thibault, center.

All of these popes have been “part of a shift that started haltingly with the Good Pope John,” Gaillardetz said, yet it’s Francis — who, ironically, is the only one of the post-Vatican II popes who was not at that Council — who is showing in a variety of ways “what a pastoral ministry looks like.”

He said the overarching goal of John XXIII in convening the Council in 1962 was to create a “listening church” that is open to the world. Francis — now in his fourth year leading the Roman Catholic Church — has emphasized pastoral ministry through his writings and his actions, Gaillardetz said.

“He makes ample and effective use of the symbolic gesture,” he noted, while also avoiding “typical church-ese” in papal encyclicals and other writings.

Francis is also committed to “decentralization” of Church authority, Gaillardetz said, which is a key element in “listening” to local and regional concerns and solutions.

Susan LeDuc of Manna House of Prayer videotapes all four days of the annual Theological Institute held at the Nazareth Motherhouse.

Susan LeDuc of Manna House of Prayer videotapes all four days of the annual Theological Institute held at the Nazareth Motherhouse.

Yet, Gaillardetz argues, “When church doctrine has changed, it has never been because of papal fiat. .. It is not the task of the pope to change the minds of millions of people; it is the task of the pope to help us be a listening church, to be among our people and to hear their voices.”

Gaillardetz’ seminar was the 26th annual Theological Institute presented by Manna House of Prayer and sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia. The congregation established the intensive summer seminar as a way to continue the sisters’ long-standing educational tradition, exemplified by the schools they founded and staffed, including Marymount College in Salina.

The 27th annual Institute next July will feature Dr. Gloria Schaab, a Sister of St. Joseph of Philadelphia and a professor of Systematic Theology at Barry University in Miami. Her topic will be “God in an Evolving Cosmos.”

 

 

 

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