Friday, November 14, 2003

A Reason to Write: Four Catholic Novelists

Flannery O'Connor once wrote, "I feel that if I were not a Catholic, I would have no reason to write, no reason to see, no reason ever to feel horrified or even to enjoy anything." Inspired by this passage, the Center sponsored a lecture series this November on the work of Flannery O'Connor and her fellow Southern Catholic writer, Walker Percy. The lecture series was conceived and organized both by and for Notre Dame undergraduates, spearheaded by the Center's undergraduate assistant, Jennie Bradley. The series, entitled "A Reason to Write: Two Catholic Novelists," was held November 10-13 in Debartolo Hall at Notre Dame.

Ralph Wood, professor of theology and literature at Baylor University, kicked off the weeklong series with a talk on "Why Jesus Throws Everything Off Balance: Flannery O'Connor and Catholic Culture." Professor Wood recounted a number of anecdotes about O'Connor's life and cited passages from her letters to fans and friends to give an insightful reflection on her works of fiction. It was a great introduction to O'Connor for many in the audience who were unfamiliar with her, and it shed new light on her fiction for those already well-versed in her works.

The second lecture, "Just Another Wednesday Afternoon: Walker Percy and the Faith," was delivered by Benjamin Alexander, professor of English and the humanities at Franciscan University of Steubenville. Prof. Alexander came to Notre Dame straight from Percy's hometown of Covington, La., where he had just spoken at the 12th Annual Walker Percy Symposium. Professor Alexander gave a biography of Percy and examined the literary and philosophical influences of his works, in particular Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus and James Joyce.

Larry Cunningham, John A. O'Brien Professor of Theology at Notre Dame, delivered the third talk on Flannery O'Connor: "Fiction as Theology," in which he discussed some of the theological concepts that shaped O'Connor's sacramental imagination. The week closed with personal reflections from Robert Ellsberg, editor in chief of Orbis Books, in a talk entitled, "Strangers and Pilgrims: Spiritual Travels with Flannery O'Connor and Walker Percy." Mr. Ellsberg recounted his time spent working in New York City with Dorothy Day and his awakening to the Catholic faith through his reading of O'Connor and Percy. The lecture series was a great success, well-attended by undergraduates.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Making the Tough Decisions: Ethical Dilemmas in Guardianship

On November 10th, the Center and LOGAN Community Resources, a South Bend organization for the developmentally disabled, collaborated to sponsor a daylong conference entitled "Making the Tough Decisions: Ethical Dilemmas in Guardianship." The conference took place at the Notre Dame Center for Continuing Education. The conference drew over fifty participants from across the Midwest to look at case studies that addressed topics ranging from decisions about the necessity of guardianship, to the restriction of family involvement in the life of a protected individual, to defining quality of life and examining that definition's influence in guardianship decisions. The conference also included an open forum session in which participants could ask a panel of legal, medical and protective- services experts questions regarding clients they are currently helping.

The conference keynote address was given by Rhonda Williams, president of the National Guardianship Association. Other conference speakers and panelists included John Dickerson, executive director of the ARC of Indiana; Eileen Doran, deputy prosecuting attorney for the St. Joseph County Prosecutor s Office; Kevin McDonnell, Edna and George McMahon Aquinas Chair of Philosophy at St. Mary's College; Carol Ann Mooney, vice president and associate provost at Notre Dame; Bonita Raine, executive director of United Health Services; Margot Reagan, president of the Logan Protective Services Board; Dr. Jan Richard Reineke of OB-GYN Associates of Northern Indiana; and John Robinson, associate dean and associate professor in the Notre Dame Law School.

Sunday, October 5, 2003

Fourth Annual Fall Conference: Formation and Renewal

On October 2-4, 2003, at Notre Dame's McKenna Hall, the Center held its fourth annual fall conference, a conference series sponsored by the Maas Family Excellence Fund. Like its three predecessors, this conference was a huge success, involving over 400 participants and over 100 p r e s e n t a t i o n s . The theme of this year s conference was Formation and Renewal. Its chief aim was to identify and explore significant sources of moral and spiritual renewal, reform and formation available to individuals and institutions in a culture marked by the loss of meaning and direction. This conference was itself an encouraging sign that the renewal of culture is already happening in our midst.

The conference keynote was delivered on Thursday evening by Francis Cardinal George, OMI, archbishop of Chicago and a member of the Center s Advisory Board. Speaking on The Legacy of Pope John Paul II, Cardinal George approached his topic through the intriguing lens of the Holy Father s drama and poetry. The conference participants were welcomed that evening by the Center s W.P and H.B. White Director, David Solomon. Rev. Edward A. Malloy, CSC, president of Notre Dame, introduced Cardinal George.

Ralph McInerny, the Michael P. Grace Professor of Philosophy at Notre Dame, gave a talk on The Road Not Taken, exploring the question of why proposals for renewing Catholic higher education offered by the neo-scholastic revival in the 20th century came to so little, even at Notre Dame. Meanwhile, Gilbert Meilander, the Phyllis and Richard Duesenberg Professor of Christian Ethics at Valparaiso University and a member of President Bush s Council on Bioethics, talked about sacrifice as essential to following one s vocation in his talk entitled The Infinite Horizon of Vocation. At the same time, Paul Sigmund, professor of politics at Princeton University, spoke about Rev. Gustavo Gutierrez and his role in the development of liberation theology.

This summary, of course, does not mention the numerous other brilliant presentations at the conference. And it does not even attempt to capture sufficiently the special conviviality that characterized both this and our previous fall conferences. The Center structures the conference to include meals and time for social gatherings in order to cultivate an atmosphere of friendship and to allow participants from all over the country to meet one another. Even when discussing conflicting views, there is among the participants of our conferences a shared general understanding of where our culture is and where it ought to be going that makes our gatherings especially congenial and constructive. We are also proud of the way in which our conferences attract a wide variety of participants: from high school students to world-class scholars, from undergraduates from across the nation to professionals in every walk of life. Even babes in arms! We thank our participants once again for helping make our conference on Formation and Renewal so successful.