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Seattle University


Search for Meaning

Written by Mike Thee
February 5, 2010

Last year’s debut of the Search For Meaning: Pacific Northwest Spirituality Book Festival, with keynoter Sherman Alexie and other award-winning

Kathleen Norris and Gustav Niebuhr are the keynote speakers for this year's Search for Meaning Book Festival.

authors, is a tough act to follow. But the School of Theology and Ministry seems intent on doing just that with its second annual festival on Saturday, Feb. 13 (9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Pigott Building).

The school has again lined up an all-star cast of authors, some of them coming from SU’s faculty. Keynoting this year’s festival are Kathleen Norris and Gustav Niebuhr. Norris is an award-winning poet, writer and author of five New York Times best-sellers. Niebuhr is a former reporter for the New York Times and other distinguished papers, and is now flourishing as a leading scholar on religion and the media as associate professor of religion at Syracuse University.

Norris and Niebuhr will be joined by nearly 50 regional and national authors. Scrolling through their bios, it’s clear that their backgrounds and the subjects on which they write could not be more diverse.

“But, all of the authors are linked by a realization that as human beings we are much bigger than the things we own and do,” says Mark Markuly, dean of the School of Theology and Ministry. “We seek to understand our role in the world, and the meaning of it all. In this difficult time in human history, many of us are looking for new meaning and purpose in our existence.  Many of us are trying to re-think and re-value what is ultimately important in our lives.”

It’s only natural that an exploration of that nature would take place at Seattle University. “As a Catholic and

Jesuit university,” Markuly says, “one of the goals of our mission is to bring issues of faith and spirituality into the messy chaos of the world of ideas, especially the ideas that are shaping cultures, social institutions, and people’s lives.” 

He also sees the book festival as “an event flowing from the heart of the mission of the School of Theology and Ministry,” which since 1996 has been helping students “prepare for ministry to explore the deepest mysteries of human living.” STM strives to extend that opportunity to the wider community, and the Feb. 13 festival allows the school and university to engage the Pacific Northwest culture in a serious, civil conversation about matters of spirituality, faith, ethics and justice,” Markuly says. “We hope it begins a new kind of conversation in the region.”

Something new to the festival this year:  two presentations will be given in Spanish. Donations will also be taken for the victims of the earthquake in Haiti.

The event is free and open to the public. An RSVP is strongly encouraged.