Hope at D.C. Bishops Meeting

Bishops attend a Benedictine College convocation. Bishops attend a Benedictine College convocation.

What do the U.S. bishops expect of Catholic colleges in the New Evangelization? The U.S. Catholic bishops met with 54 non-tenured faculty of theology departments Sept. 15-17 this week. The topic: “Intellectual Tasks of the New Evangelization.” Heavy hitters were in attendance: Washington, D.C. Cardinal  Donald Wuerl, Houston Cardinal Daniel Dinardo and Vatican curial Archbishop Augustine Dinoia.

Two professors from “the flagship college of the New Evangelization,” Benedictine College were also there: Dr. Jamie Blosser and Dr. Matthew Ramage. Here is what Dr. Ramage had to say about the trip.

What are today’s young theologians like? Did the conference give you hope for the Church?

The most important aspect of the conference for me was probably the fraternity we all enjoyed — both the fraternity of junior theologians who share a common vision of our Church’s mission, as well as fraternity with the bishops who are our role models.

Every single colleague I conversed with over the weekend agreed that the conference was already yielding abundant fruits in their thought, especially with regard to the practicals of how we may demonstrate the beauty of the Catholic faith and form the faithful in today’s de-sacralized world.

It was certainly the best conference I have attended to date. To meet the bishops in this way and get to know them as fellow theologians and colleagues in the mutual quest to re-evangelize our Western world was a once in a lifetime experience.  I am grateful for Cardinal Wuerl’s inspiration in convening it as well as the Knights of Columbus for funding it.

What did you tell the bishops? 

Well, I told all of them about how much I love teaching at Benedictine College.

We are a small school not known to all of them, so I wanted to let them know that we are growing, and that we are growing precisely because of our dedication to our mission.  Not many other of my colleagues at the conference could say the same thing.  People were astounded to hear how alive our campus faith life is and how many Theology majors we have.

What did the bishops tell you?

For me, the most memorable moment of the conference came at the conclusion of Cardinal Di Nardo’s presentation that eloquently wedded elements of both modern and patristic Biblical scholarship.  Though not verbatim, this is more or less what he said: “Colleagues, now I am going to put on the glasses of a pastor and earnestly exhort you to do something: lectio divina.  No matter what method you use, make sure you have time for silence and contemplation in your life–and that you teach your students to do the same.”

For the cardinal, the most urgent point to be made about the New Evangelization was that it demands we re-educate and re-dedicate ourselves seriously to a life of deep prayer based in Sacred Scripture.  This was profoundly encouraging, because it has been part of my mission here at Benedictine College to equip students for the New Evangelization through a deep encounter with Scripture, an encounter that takes into account the greatest challenges of modern scholarship and seeks to build up the Church precisely by tackling these challenges head-on in light of our entire Catholic tradition.


Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes, author of The Rosary of Saint John Paul II and The Fatima Family Handbook, is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Kansas and hosts The Extraordinary Story podcast about the life of Christ. A former reporter in the Washington, D.C., area, he served as press secretary of the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee Chairman and spent 10 years as executive editor of the National Catholic Register newspaper and Faith & Family magazine. His work frequently appears in Catholic publications such as Aleteia.org and the Register. He and his wife, April, have nine children and live in Atchison, Kansas.