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.