I'm happy to share with the readers of The Catholic Astronomer that I will be presiding at Evening Vespers for Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology on November 15th to kick off a new initiative in faith and science. Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology in Hales Corners, Wisconsin, the school that educates the seminarians from my home Diocese of La Crosse who attend Saint Francis Seminary, has been awarded a major grant from The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to make education in science a part of the formation program for future priests.
The President and Rector of Sacred Heart School of Theology, Father Thomas Knoebel, stated that the purpose of this grant will be to help people come closer to God through understanding God's creation.
“This grant affirms Sacred Heart’s position in the Catholic Church as a leading seminary whose graduates serve in dioceses and religious orders throughout the United States, and is thus well-positioned to achieve its project goals.”
“Our primary job is to equip our graduates to help bring people of faith into closer relationships with God. This must take place in a context that accounts for the rich human understanding of His complex world.” (These quotes were taken from the news release from Sacred Heart School of Theology, announcing this grant on July 25, 2018.)
Jennifer Wiseman, the Director of the AAAS's Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion, affirmed the importance of bringing science into seminaries since parishioners, regardless of denomination, often seek out their Priest or Pastor for answers on questions of faith and science. "Many people look to their religious leaders for guidance on issues relating to science and technology, even though clergy members may get little exposure to science in their training." (Sacred Heart School of Theology Press Release, July 25, 2018.)
Jennifer's observation speaks true to my experience as a Catholic Priest. The lay faithful often seek their priest out with questions about creation, the age of the universe, evolution, the Big Bang, and a whole host of other questions. The presumption of the parishioner is that we, as priests, are experts on these topics since we have had advanced theological training. As I have reflected with you in the past, though my theological education was quite good, opportunities to understand this theology in light of modern science was rare. In light of this, I not only agree with Dr. Wiseman's statement of how people seek out their faith leaders for clarity on these subjects, but I see these programs as essential to ensure clergy can give the right answers, avoiding the embarrassment of harming people's faith with poorly formed responses to questions of faith and science.
As I have been in dialogue with Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology for this event, I have settled on a presentation theme of, "Attentiveness to Creation, Attentiveness to Christ." The heart of this presentation will reflect on how understanding creation can help us understand God, but also understanding God can given us insight into how we should approach creation. The presentation will touch on cosmology, ecology, sacramental theology, doctrine of God, and Christology.
If I were to present to you or an organization that would benefit from a presentation on faith and science, what would you want me to reflect on? Leave your thoughts and please keep me in your prayers as I prepare to be part of this joyful occasion for Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology, and the AAAS.
Here's a video on awe and wonder from the AAAS
A promotional video for Saint Francis Seminary