“Creating a Dynamic Vision of Catholic Mission and Identity” is the title of a lecture that will be given by Father James Burns, interim dean of Boston College’s Woods College of Advancing Studies, at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 22, in Woulfe Alumni Hall in the Anderson Student Center. The center is located on the St. Paul campus of the University of St. Thomas.

Father James Burns
(Photo courtesy of Boston College)

Free and open to the public, the lecture is sponsored by several St. Thomas departments and centers: Center for Catholic Studies, John A. Ryan Institute for Catholic Social Thought, Terrence J. Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law, and Public Policy, School of Law, Holloran Center for Ethical Leadership in the Professions, Koch Chair in Business Ethics, Center for Ethical Business Cultures, and Veritas.

Prior to joining Boston College in 2010, Burns served as co-chair and associate professor of St. Thomas’ Graduate School of Professional Psychology. He earlier had taught counseling psychology and religion at Boston University, and psychology at Harvard Medical School.

Burns has worked with Boston College’s faculty to incorporate the school’s Jesuit, Catholic mission and identity into coursework and research.

His lecture is one in a series on Catholic mission and identity that are being held at St. Thomas as it conducts a search for its next president. Father Dennis Dease is retiring next June after leading St. Thomas for 22 years.

Burns believes that formation of character is an essential task of the Catholic university, not to be pushed aside for, or replaced by, academic instruction.

He said that in studies on the perceived value of higher education, “a critical and common finding is that recent graduates lack a certain dimension of personal character, especially qualities that allow people to work well with others and contribute to the good on multiple levels.

“Interestingly, Catholic colleges and universities stand in a unique place to address this concern. Through their religious heritage and spiritual traditions, these institutions are called to cultivate such important qualities through a focus on character development in their students.”