Theology and Religious Studies Professor Catherine Punsalan-Manlimos has been named director of the new Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture at Seattle University. The institute is designed to encourage the study, development, and understanding of the Catholic intellectual tradition, both within the university and for the broader scholarly and religious communities of the Pacific Northwest. Punsalan-Manlimos will continue to teach in the College of Arts and Sciences where she directs the Catholic Studies program.
Punsalan-Manlimos started her college years majoring in physics and computer science at Ateneo de Manila, a Jesuit College in the Philippines. During those years, she gravitated towards theology and philosophy, challenging herself with “the big God questions.” When her liberation theology professor offered her a scholarship to do a master’s in theology and teach at the college, she jumped at the chance.
“I used my background in science to examine questions about the relevance of religion,” she said from her office in the Casey Building. “The chair of the physics department, a Jesuit, was my thesis advisor.”
After teaching for a few years, leading Ignatian retreats, and advising student organizations, she took some time to explore her next steps. She soon realized that teaching was where she needed to be. She earned her doctorate in Systematic Theology from the University of Notre Dame and began teaching in the College of Arts and Sciences in 2004.
As the founding director of the Institute for Catholic Thought, Punsalan-Manlimos will build on her experiences facilitating the Aruppe seminar and the Faculty Summer Justice Seminar and developing the university’s Catholic Heritage Lectures. She also co-founded the Women in Jesuit Mission.
“I want us to engage in a dialogue about real questions we have as a community and bring together scholars to think about what it means to be a Catholic university, what our responsibilities are, and how we address the tension between the Church and the academic environment,” she said.
Punsalan-Manlimos is confident that engaging in the hard questions will be rewarding though difficult.
“We can do our best with integrity to pursue knowledge and understanding,” she said. “It may be a rough ride, but a good ride.”
The next Catholic Heritage Lecture features Dr. Peter C. Phan on “What Will the Church Look Like in 2050: A Prognostication from Asia.” Dr. Phan is Recognized as one of the most important North American Catholic theological voices of our times. The lecture, which is free and open to the public, takes place on April 18 at 7 p.m. in Pigott Auditorium.