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Seattle University


Conversing on Catholicism

Written by Mike Thee
April 8, 2013

These are busy times for the Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture (ICTC). With Catherine Punsalan-Manlimos having taken the reins as its first director in the fall, the institute was already putting together a full schedule for the year. The level of activity has gone into overdrive in recent weeks, following the surprise resignation of former Pope Benedict XVI and the equally surprising election of Francis I as the first Jesuit pope and first pope from the Americas.

While the development of the institute was years in the making, it couldn't have arrived at a more fortuitous time. Speaking of this convergence, Punsalan-Manlimos says, "There's a lot of excitement around the fact that we are launching the ICTC at the same time that we have a new pope who seems to be bringing a lot of hope to Catholics and others worldwide."


You are invited to the following events taking place over the next week and a half:

“The Papacy and the New Pope” 
Fr. Tom Murphy and Professor Jeanette Rodriguez
Thursday, April 11, 5:30-6:30 p.m.
Wyckoff Auditorium

“What will the Catholic Church Look Like in 2050:
A Prognostication from Asia,” by Peter Phan
Thursday, April 18, 7 p.m.
Pigott Auditorium

“Challenges to Global Christianity in an Era of Secularism and Pluralism”
Roundtable with Peter Phan and David Kyuman Kim
Friday, April 19, 7-9 p.m.
Admissions & Alumni Building Community Room

Since former Pope Benedict announced his retirement in February, the institute has nimbly been facilitating a number of opportunities for the SU community to learn more about the change in papacy. One day after Francis' election, Rector Pat Howell, S.J., gave a talk on the change in papacy that was sponsored by the institute and the Catholic Studies program. The conversation continues tomorrow evening when Tom Murphy, S.J., associate professor of history, and Jeanette Rodriguez, professor of theology and religious studies, place Pope Francis' election within the contexts of history and liberation theology, respectively.

Then there's the Catholic Heritage Lecture Series, a key component of the institute, which brings three renowned speakers to campus annually. This year's series, which has explored the Second Vatican Council 50 years after its opening, will be capped off on April 18 by Peter Phan. The inaugural holder of the Ignacio Ellacuría Chair of Catholic Social Thought at Georgetown University, Phan will discuss the future of the Church, which certainly has become an even more compelling topic in recent weeks.

As the world of theology goes, Phan, left, is very a big deal.

"Peter Phan is the  leading Catholic Asian American theologian in the country and one of the most important North American Catholic theological voices of our times," says Punsalan-Manlimos. He is the first non-white to be elected President of Catholic Theological Society of America. He was awarded the John Courtney Murray Award, the highest honor given by the Catholic Theological Society of America for outstanding achievements in theology in 2010.

"Dr. Phan will address, in part, what can be learned from Asia, which is home to a vibrant and dynamic Catholic population despite being only three percent of the total population," says Punsalan-Manlimos.

Phan's talk will be preceded by a public introduction of the institute. Gabriella Gutiérrez y Muhs, associate professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, has written a special poem, which she will read before the lecture.

The following day Phan will also be part of a discussion, which the institute is cosponsoring with the Department of Theology and Religious Studies and the Asian Pacific American Religions Research Initiative (APARRI).

In addition to the lecture series, the institute supports faculty in researching developing coursework on subjects related to the Catholic intellectual tradition. Speaking broadly of the institute's purpose, Punsalan-Manlimos, right, says, "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."