Conference Celebrates Graduate Programs in Theology

Conference Celebrates Graduate Programs in Theology

During the first week of February 2015, the Aquinas Center for Theological Renewal at Ave Maria University hosted the conference “Wisdom and the Renewal of Catholic Theology: Celebrating the Graduate Programs inTheology at Ave Maria University.” Events began on Friday, February 6, and concluded on Saturday, February 7.

Above: Audience members listen to conference speakers in AMU’s Student Union Ballroom. 

Fifteen of the speakers at the conference were alumni of Ave Maria University’s graduate program in Theology. “The alumni suggested and helped organize the conference,” said Dr. Roger Nutt, Associate Professor of Theology, “as a means of showing their gratitude to Ave Maria University and Fr. Matthew L. Lamb for his role in their theological formation and the founding of the Patrick F. Taylor Graduate Programs in Theology.”

Fr. Matthew Lamb is Cardinal Maida Professor of Theology at Ave Maria University. He came to AMU in 2004 and helped establish the graduate programs in Theology. He was previously at Boston College for twenty years and at Marquette University for ten. Before receiving his S.T.L. in Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, Fr. Lamb spent fifteen years in a contemplative monastery. After his studies in Rome, he went on to earn a Dr. Theo. from the State University of Münster, Germany, and an honorary doctorate from Franciscan University of Steubenville.

Over the course of the weekend, speakers from around the country delivered papers that celebrated and gave testament to Fr. Lamb’s achievements as a theologian, teacher and founder of the graduate programs at Ave Maria.

Above: Dr. John Froula, who earned his Ph.D. in Theology from Ave Maria in 2012, presents his paper, “Bernard Lonergan on the Esse of Christ." Froula is currently a tenure-track faculty member at St. Paul Seminary in Minnesota. 

David Tamisiea, Assistant Professor of Theology and a Ph.D. candidate in the graduate program, described the conference as “tremendous.” “For those of us who participated in the conference as speakers,” he continued, “it could be summed up by John Henry Newman’s motto cor ad cor loquitur, that is, ‘heart speaks to heart.’ There was such a deep bond of fellowship among us, united by our common love for theology and a profound gratitude to the graduate theology program, our former professors, and especially the program's founder, Fr. Matthew Lamb.”

Sr. Albert Marie Surmanski, OP, who received her Ph.D. in Theology from Ave Maria in 2014, reflected: “Even though I had not met many of the presenters at the theology conference before, I could tell that we had all benefited from our theological formation with Fr. Lamb.”

Dr. Gerald Boersma, who received his M.A. in Theology from Ave Maria and who now teaches at St. Bonaventure University in New York, stated that it was “thrilling” to return to Ave Maria after six years and “to see how the University has flourished in this short time.” Boersma went on to comment on how the high quality of the papers presented at the conference was “a testament to Fr. Matthew Lamb’s enduring legacy to the next generation of Catholic theology.”

The papers presented at the conference ranged from topics such as “Time Meets Eternity: The Theological Significance of History and Culture,” to “Authentic Humanism in Light of Truth and Goodness: Perspectives on Religion and its Practice in Nigeria,” to “Biblical Inspiration in the Theology of St. Thomas Aquinas and Fr. Matthew Lamb.” The conference events were open to and attended by students, faculty, staff and members of the larger Ave Maria community.

Above: Drs. Michael and Susan Waldstein, both of whom teach Theology at AMU, were in attendance at the conference.  

Ambassador Michael Novak wrote in a blog post adapted from the remarks he delivered at the conference’s closing dinner: “[E]ven now our graduates are giving a good account of themselves. Most are finding positions rather quickly, while the demand for them keeps growing – thanks to Father Matt’s vision, insistence, and perseverance.”

Today, these alumni teach at institutions around the country, including: St. Paul Seminary (Minnesota), University of Dallas (Texas), Benedictine College (Kansas), University of St. Thomas (Texas), St. Gregory’s University (Oklahoma), Thomas Aquinas College (California), St. Bonaventure University (New York), University of Mary (North Dakota), John Brown University (Arkansas), John Paul the Great University (California), Holy Spirit College (Georgia), and Ave Maria University (Florida).

Novak went on: “This past weekend, the mature, profound, deep, and spiritual papers presented by these…Ave Maria scholars now teaching in other universities and seminaries are a living monument, and a lasting one, to Father Lamb’s courage, depth, and wisdom.”

In addition to the fifteen alumni of the graduate program, Drs. Matthew Levering (Mundelein Seminary), Michael Dauphinais (Ave Maria University), Gregory Vall (Ave Maria University) and Robert Barry (Providence College) spoke at the conference.

Above: Dr. Matthew Levering delivers his paper, “Eternity, Time and the Doctrine of Creation." 

At the conclusion of the events, Fr. Matthew Lamb was named recipient of the Aquinas Center Veritas Medal, an award that recognizes “those who have instantiated, in their lives and work, the integration of faith and reason.” The Veritas Medal was presented to Fr. Lamb by Mr. Michael Timmis, Chairman of the Board of Trustees.

“The spirit of a common pursuit of truth and of celebration and joy,” Boersma reflected afterwards, “which animated the many discussions around the papers, during meals, and late into the evening at the pub embodies Fr. Lamb’s founding vision of the Graduate Programs in Theology at Ave Maria University.”

Below: Fr. Matthew Lamb with Mr. Michael Timmis.