Visit scholar focuses on Catholic Social Teaching and Vatican II anniversary

Visiting scholar Father John Pawlikowski was scheduled to arrive Wednesday as a collaborative effort of National Catholic Center of Holocaust Education (NCCHE) and Seton Hill University’s (SHU) Mission and Identity Committee. Pawlikowski visited classes, worked with SHU staff and will present a public lecture tonight at 7 p.m.

“The Committee wanted to sponsor a program related to Catholic Social Teaching. As for the Holocaust Center, we’ve been highlighting whenever possible the 50th Anniversary of Vatican II. This was a perfect opportunity for cooperation,” said Wilda Kaylor, associate director of the NCCHE.

Pawlikowski, professor of social ethics at the Catholic Theological Union (CTU) of the University of Chicago, lecture is focused on the 50th year of Vatican II and specifically Gaudium et Spes, “one of the charter documents of Vatican II” according to Fran Leap, associate professor of religious studies and theology.

“First of all, Gaudium et Spes deals with the dignity of the human person. The document also stresses that the Church must relate to the modern world. This means examining social realities such as the condition of labor, the global economy, racism, the environment and war and peace. These are social, cultural and political realities that should concern all of us,” said Kaylor.

Sessions for faculty and staff included “Energizing a New Generation for Social Responsibility” an “Transforming Catholic Social Thought into Student Commitment.” He spoke to a wide variety of classes including Environment and Society, Religion in America and Third World Theologies.

“Fr. John is an excellent scholar.  It is exciting to have him here to share his insights with the Seton Hill community.  I am encouraging all my classes to attend his lecture.  Even if some of what he says is outside of the immediate understanding of some students, simply encountering such a fine scholar is an inspiration in itself,” said Leap, who teaches Religion in America.

Leap said the CST was an essential part of America’s religion. “The Catholic population in America has been steadily comprised of immigrant peoples; different countries of origin over the centuries, but always a steady flow of Catholic immigrants to America.  In a very real way Catholics have been aware of the social teaching of the church because they have often been living embodiments of the need for it and the struggle to see it applied,” she said.

According to Kaylor, Sr. Lois was inspired to bring Palikowski to SHU by an article she read about his recent lecture tour on Vatican II in Chicago. CST, she said, is an important part of SHU’s liberal arts education.

“The Vatican II documents were very forward-thinking because even after 50 years the issues described still concern us today. It provided a paradigm shift in that the Church now looks outward rather than inward only. The concerns of our society, and indeed the world, are the concerns of the Church,” said Kaylor.  “CST provides a moral framework for considering issues like the environment and deciding what to do to solve problems and make the world a better place for all human beings.”

Not only did this align with SHU’s focus on CST but also with the NCCHE’s mission to “counter antisemitism and to foster Catholic-Jewish relations.”

“ It’s important to understand that WWII and the Holocaust were fresh in the minds of those Church leaders who met during Vatican Council II,” said Kaylor. “Seton Hill’s Holocaust Center promotes Christian-Jewish relations through Holocaust education. Both Nostra Aetate, another important Vatican II document, and Gadium Et Spes provide the theological foundation for our work.”

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