Frances G. Harpst Center for Catholic Thought and Culture

Drop Shadow

Faculty Travel Immersion Seminars

Each year the Frances G. Harpst Center for Catholic Thought and Culture takes a small group of inter-disciplinary USD Faculty to a place connected in a broad sense with the Catholic intellectual and/or cultural and social traditions. The program is set around a specific theme each year which brings past, present and future discourse into relation. The theme can embrace a wide variety of foci, such as historical, ethical, social, theological, cultural and aesthetic.

The seminars are facilitated by experts in the field and involve a pre-seminar program of preparatory academic readings. The actual program consists of academic lectures, seminars and discussions with related cultural and immersion visits to sites, people and organizations. Each Faculty member selected to participate produces an academic paper upon return which is presented on campus in a series of follow-up presentations and additional collegial gatherings and discussions take place to continue the dialogue and strong links formed by the group during their trip. The program has a significant impact upon Faculty’s understanding of USD and its Catholic background and character, upon their teaching and research, and upon collegial relations.

2012 Travel Seminar - Ireland

The call for the 2012 Travel Immersion Seminars will soon go live. This is an advance notice of the theme so that Faculty can begin to consider applying. The dates for the seminar will be June 11-18, 2012 (faculty landing on 11, leaving on 18).

Saints and Scholars: Celtic Christianity

The theme for the 2012 seminar will be Celtic Christianity and the location will be Ireland, which, from the time of St Patrick’s mission and the country’s embracing of Christianity in the 5th Century, soon came to be known a land of ‘saints and scholars’. Christianity in medieval Ireland blended with the unique cultural and social tradition of that land and developed into a very distinctive and progressively inculturated form of the Christian faith, indeed into something quite distinctive from the character of “Roman Christianity’ of the era.

The USD faculty embarking on this voyage of discovery (taking the voyage in return, if legend can be believed, of St Brendan the Navigator, albeit not in a rickety boat!) will learn about ancient Irish society and the customs and traditions that were blended with the new faith brought to the land. They will visit some of Ireland’s most ancient, historic and stunningly beautiful natural sites and immerse themselves into the cultural world of those such as Saints Patrick, Brigid, Kevin and Columbanus. They will learn how Christianity flourished through the many schools of the land and how Ireland sent its missionaries far and wide across Europe, leaving a deep and lasting impression upon European culture, the impact of which can be seen to this day. They will hear about and discuss the clashes between the Celtic Christians and their ‘Roman’ counterparts and how the practices differed significantly in Ireland from elsewhere, whether this be that Irish monks wore their hair long as opposed to the Roman tonsure, to the innovation which Irish monks introduced in order to offer a process of healing and reconciliation for those troubled by their transgressions – the practice which became private confession. They will learn how women enjoyed greater freedom and opportunity in many parts of ancient Ireland and could be political (even military) as well as religious leaders, as well as having a right to education and even to practice law.

They will be immersed in the story of how, in Western Europe’s dark ages, after the final demise of the Roman Empire, Ireland’s remote location kept deep learning and scholarship alive, including as a last outpost where some of the classics of ancient Greek and Latin literature were well known and read and so how Irish scholars, ‘saved civilization’, as one study has put it. Ancient Irish is believed to Europe’s first vernacular language to have its own literary form. So, as well as an historical focus, the faculty taking part will be immersed in exploring social, cultural and indeed political issues of those times. They will see and hear how religion is always found in inculturated forms – that is to say – that a particular faith by necessity becomes refracted through and in turn changed and developed by the cultural milieu in which it is lived out and how there is a profound two-way relationship of influence between religion and the cultures in which it is practiced. The faculty will consider the implications of this for religion in differing communities in our world, as well as for the relations between differing branches of the same faith, including Christianity, today.

This seminar enhanced my understanding of Catholic thought and culture as a result of the many readings and conversations with faculty. It also motivated me to read more on the specifics of Catholic Social Teaching and how I may incorporate the different principles into my course syllabi and lectures.

Past Seminars

2010 Seminar - Dominican Republic

2010 - “Sustainability, Eco-Theology and Eco-Justice" (Dominican Republic)

2009 - "Catholic Health Care and Health Care Ethics" (Rome, Italy)