Students Receive Grant to Attend Conference on Beauty and the Catholic Imagination

Students Receive Grant to Attend Conference on Beauty and the Catholic Imagination

Dr. Michael New, Visiting Associate Professor of Economics, received a grant from the Center for Ethics and Culture at the University of Notre Dame to bring a group of Ave Maria Students to attend the Center’s 17th Annual Fall Conference, “You Are Beauty: Exploring the Catholic Imagination.”

Last Thursday, the group of eleven AMU students departed campus, guided by Dr. New, and set out for South Bend, Indiana. When they arrived on Notre Dame’s campus, they barely had time to settle in before the weekend packed full of papers and presentations began.

The Center for Ethics and Culture’s annual fall conference is an interdisciplinary event, featuring speakers on topics that span the spectrum of disciplines—from history and economics to philosophy, theology, science, and art. Each year, the conference draws over six hundred participants, and more than one hundred papers are presented. The primary focus of the gathering is to raise and begin to answer difficult questions regarding ethics, culture, and public policy.

[Above, eight of the eleven AMU students take a break from the conference to pose for a picture outside.]  

This year, the theme of the gathering was on beauty and the Catholic imagination. The eleven AMU students in attendance were able to hear from speakers such as Etsuro Sotoo, Alisdair MacIntyre, Mary Ann Glendon, Roger Scruton, Elizabeth Lev, and Monsignor Timothy Verdon. Two Ave Maria University professors also  presented papers at the conference. Dr. Helen Tintes-Schuermann, Visiting Associate Professor and Chair of Music, gave a paper on “St. Teresa of Avila and Her Influence Upon 20th–21st Century Vocal Music.” Sr. Albert Marie Surmanski, OP, Instructor of Theology and Research Fellow, presented on “The Eucharist as a Locus of Beauty in Albert the Great’s de corpore Domini.

AMU senior Betsy Peloquin, who is majoring in Literature with a minor in Educations, shares how much she enjoyed attending the conference. “It was a wonderful opportunity to spend some time thinking about beauty, the third and least understood Transcendental,” she says. Betsy’s favorite part of the weekend was hearing Dony Mac Manus speak on “The Timeless Relevance of Sacred Art.” Mac Manus is an Irish contemporary artist who focuses on figurative art. He has a workshop in Florence, where he trains apprentices and students while he works on large international commissions. “It was very moving to see how his work attempts to uncover the beauty of God and His creation, Man,” Betsy goes on. “I was very blessed to have the opportunity to meet him briefly as well, which I felt was a great pleasure and honor.” She jokes afterwards that, from all the paper presentations she heard over the weekend, she now has material to dwell on for at least a month—if not a lifetime.  

John Coffey, a junior who is majoring in Humanities, with a minor in Theology, says that attending the Center for Ethics and Culture fall conference was a “highlight” of his semester. He had the opportunity to meet other Catholic students and professors from various universities, and to hear lectures from renowned Catholic thinkers. “At an event like this,” he remarks, “one experiences the Catholic Intellectual Tradition in it’s revival. The question of Beauty is a perennial one, but one our age often doesn’t pursue. Beauty has always moved Humanity, especially to her Creator. Therefore it is crucial to experience and try to understand Beauty so as to lead souls to Christ through her.” John concludes by expressing great gratitude to the Center for Ethics and Culture for enabling him—and his fellow AMU students—to attend the conference.

Dr. Michael New is a key player in arranging for this opportunity that AMU students received. He has collaborated with the Center for Ethics and Culture since 2009, and he is on the faculty of the Center’s Vita Institute, a weeklong intensive interdisciplinary training offered every summer to leaders in the pro-life movement. At this annual academic pro-life instruction, New gives two talks: one on current social science research, and one on sanctity of life issues.

Groups of AMU students have attended the Center for Ethics and Culture’s fall conference in the past, which is what gave New the idea to contact the Center for scholarship support. “Our students had the opportunity to hear presentations on a wide variety of topics, including the history of the Vatican museum, the works of C.S. Lewis, the meaning of wine, and the poetry of Aleksander Solzhenitsyn,” New says about the conference trip. “All in all, everyone had a positive experience and the University was represented well.”

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this post incorrectly identified the artist whom Peloquin spoke with as Etsuro Sotoo, the sculptor of the Nativity Façade on Sagrada Família Basilica in Barcelona, Spain.