Never Say Never
Envisioning A Just Society
as told to Stefanie Wray

Sister Maria Pascuzzi digs the Bible — literally. She spent a year in Jerusalem, as a part of her studies at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, where she learned from some of Israel’s best archaeologists, traveling to famed biblical sites such as the Sea of Galilee, Masada and Samaria to study and examine artifacts. The only woman in her class, Pascuzzi — a Roman Catholic nun and the new director of the Center for Catholic Thought and Culture — is a pioneer and fierce advocate of social justice and equality.

On women in a man’s world

It really wasn’t until about the year 1960 that people who were not priests actually were able to study theology and religious studies. The study of theology in scripture was the elite reserve of men who were studying to be priests. Rome was one of the slowest places to integrate women into the programs; school there was set up for priests.

On changing the church

Socially and culturally, there are still problems in terms of the role of women in ordained ministry. In some countries, like the U.S., people think it’s a no-brainer that women should be ordained to the priesthood, but in certain other countries around the world where women are still in more restricted positions, it’s not a big conversation starter.

On Jesus and justice

By encouraging people to read the text more critically, you challenge them to understand that this is not about plastic, blonde Jesus, that this is about a man who lived in a culture with injustices and that he sought to do something about those injustices. This was a man who had a vision for a just society, which was truly an alternative to the dominant secular society. And he wanted those who followed him to be committed to that justice. You can’t really be Catholic by just going to church on Sunday. We have an obligation to actively pursue justice, as Jesus did.

On instilling Catholic values

The influence that is brought to bear on students that makes them choose different ways of living is not the work of one teacher or one department; it’s the whole atmosphere of the University of San Diego. We are a school in the top 10 percent of schools whose students perform service, either in the university or off in [other] programs. It’s the ethos that’s created at the university by faculty, staff and students, by everybody who works here and believes that one person who’s educated and has a good grounding in justice can make a difference in the world. It’s the whole mission of the university: to go out and transform the world, to make it a better place.