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.