What would it be like to spend five days together discussing, debating, laughing and even enacting some of the great texts of the Catholic intellectual tradition?

Well, according to the faculty members who did this last summer, it was wonderful.

From May 29-June 2, 2002, 16 faculty and administrators from law, business, education and theology met at the Gainey Conference Center in Owatonna, Minn., to discuss some of the great texts of the Catholic intellectual tradition (CIT). Seminar participants read from famous Catholic authors such as Augustine, Dorothy Day, Aquinas, John Henry Newman, E.F. Schumacher, Josef Pieper, John Paul II, as well as critics of the tradition such as Frederick Nietzsche, Nicolo Machiavelli and Karl Marx. This unique combination of provocative readings and an open collegial atmosphere fostered a rich interdisciplinary conversation, respectful debate, and a refreshing look at topics such as:

  • Catholic university identity
  • The relationship between liberal and professional education
  • The nature of human happiness, property, integrity and spirituality
  • The meaning of the Sabbath

 One of the highlights of the seminar was a guest appearance by Father Michael Joncas, who teaches in the Catholic Studies department. Joncas provided a PowerPoint presentation titled “Taste and See That the Lord is Good – Eucharistic Theology in Visual Art.” Joncas reminded the group that the Catholic intellectual tradition cannot always be captured by words; like art and music, it often moves us to silence.

Participants found the seminar especially helpful in affording the space and time to reflect on their own vocations as teachers and administrators at a Catholic university. The seminar called for devoted work on intellectually challenging readings. This led to dialogue from both head and heart over issues that were sometimes troubling, and called for reaching out in community to each and every member of the group. Finally, participants were challenged to go forward with an attitude of hope for the future and a desire to make a difference.

The CIT seminar is organized through the John A. Ryan Institute for Catholic Social Thought and financially supported by the Lilly Endowment.