In 1995, a special task force of the United States Catholic Conference was convened to assess the quantity, quality and context of teaching on the Catholic social tradition in schools, seminaries, colleges, universities, and programs of religious formation. The task force noted that, while great strides have been made in many Catholic schools, “too often the social mission of the Church has not become an integral part of the student’s education. As a result, too many Catholics do not understand the substance of the Church’s social teaching and are unable to draw on these principles to help shape their actions in private and public life.” With the aim of fostering work that addresses this need, the group issued a document urging Catholic educators to integrate Catholic social teaching into the life of Catholic schools and parishes. Responding to the taskforce’s recommendations and goals, the John A. Ryan Institute formed the Program in Catholic Social Teaching and Catholic Education.

Deborah Ruddy began her work as the director of the program this fall. Her first effort as director involved team-teaching a course on Christian Faith and the Educational Profession, a class that examines how Catholic schools at all levels educate for justice, peace and the common good, and which seeks to help students apply the Catholic social tradition to various educational contexts.

The course has been one of many projects for Ruddy, who hopes the program will serve as a resource for local, national and international educators. Other ventures include: the development of a Web site to make training and resource materials accessible to Catholic educators and formation directors; lectures and workshops on Catholic social teaching for university faculty; summer conferences; service learning discussions; and additional courses for university students preparing for careers in Catholic education. Ruddy envisions a comprehensive program which will bring educators together, develop curricula and support initiatives that creatively integrate Catholic social teaching with an array of academic disciplines.

Ruddy sees her new position as a natural extension of her own personal desire to connect theological studies with real world issues. She brings with her a commitment to Catholic social teaching firmly rooted in a theological framework. With this framework as a foundation, the Program in Catholic Social Teaching and Catholic Education hopes to foster greater interdisciplinary collaboration and new partnerships among educators.