Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Millennium Speakers lecture series feeds people’s ‘hunger’ for discussion, information

by Bonita Lawhead, Inland Register staff

(From the Jan. 15, 2004 edition of the Inland Register)

People attend the Catholicism for a New Millennium lecture series by the hundreds. Jesuit Father Tim Clancy, who is responsible for starting it, knows the reason why.

“There’s a real hunger for this kind of information,” said Father Clancy, director of the honors program at Gonzaga University.

The series presents serious issues. Eastern Washington Catholics have responded favorably. “Some attend each session and if they miss one , they will buy a CD of that lecture,” Father Clancy said.

Father Clancy had learned of a similar series done at Boston College a couple of years ago. The Boston series focused on pedophilia by priests and on Boston’s archbishop at the time, Cardinal Bernard Law.

But beyond that single issue, Father Clancy could see that such a series “is exactly what a Catholic university should be doing. We need to help the Church think through complicated issues.”

While the issues are complicated, they are designed for a general audience, focusing on a variety of topics and giving a forum to the many issues and voices of the Catholic Church. Topics have included aspects of social justice, women, African American Catholics, and sexual abuse by priests.

Dr. Patrick McCormick, professor of religious studies at GU, is on the series’ steering committee. Dr. McCormick said the hope of the series was to “foster a thoughtful dialogue about important and controversial questions in the church.”

When the series first began in the summer of 2002, the talks were held in the auditorium in the Jepson Center at GU. Even then the auditorium, which holds about 200 people, wasn’t large enough. “We’d have to get more chairs,” said Dr. McCormick. “And they would often be placed in the aisles. We’ve burst the seams everywhere we’ve been.”

Space issues aside, the series had to be moved when GU began remodeling Jepson. The Barbieri Courtroom at GU Law holds about 300 people and it, too, has been filled for the lectures. At the end of March the series will move over to the Cataldo dining hall, a space that holds from 400-500 people.

“We’ve had a good mixture of people,” said Father Clancy, “with about half coming from the wider Spokane area. It’s been great.”

A steering committee meets monthly during the school year to take care of the many details required when the lecture series is underway. The committee also identifies possible speakers for future lectures.

The cost of bringing presenters to Spokane has been paid by various departments at GU or other outside groups such as Pax Christi, the international Catholic peace organization which has an Inland Northwest chapter. The Diocese of Spokane has also given assistance.

“Different groups are interested in having different people” speak, said Father Clancy. The organizers have been “very pleased” with the speakers they’ve had for the series, he said.

The list of presenters and dates for this, the second season, is:

• Thursday, Jan. 29, Father J. Bryan Hehir (pronounced hare) will give a presentation on “How can the Church witness for social justice?” in the Barbieri Moot Courtroom at Gonzaga University’s Law School.

Father Hehir is president of Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Massachusetts. He is a priest in the archdiocese and a renowned theologian specializing in studies on Roman Catholic social teaching. In his varied career, he served a term as chair of Harvard Divinity School, the first Roman Catholic to hold the post.

• Sister Clare Nolan of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, will speak Monday, Feb. 23, on “Trafficking in Women and Children: A Challenge for the Church.”

• Jesuit Father Thomas Massaro will give a presentation Thursday, March 4, on “Welfare Reform: A War on Poverty or the Poor?”

• St. Joseph Sister Elizabeth Johnson will come Thursday, March 25, to talk on “Our Sister, Mary: A Feminist/Theological Reading.”

• The last speaker for this session is Peter Steinfels of the New York Times. He will speak on Monday, April 19. His presentation is titled “The Crisis of the Roman Catholic Church in America.”

Most recently, he is the author of the book A People Adrift: The Crisis of the Roman Catholic Church in America.

The lectures are free and open to the public. Each starts at 7:30 p.m. A time is provided for questions and answers at the end of the lecture. Compact discs of each lecture are available for purchase.

Father Clancy said packages of CDs with the lectures have been sent to Jesuits in various areas, to be used as continuing education in theology. “This theological updating (of the series) represents a “great potential in adult education,” he said.

Persons who would like to be on an e-mail list to get advance information about the series can send an e-mail to Father Clancy.

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