News and Updates: 2013

Friday, November 22, 2013

Fordham Faculty, Student and Alumni present at the REA Conference

Fordham and the Religious Education Association

Over a dozen current students and graduates of the GSRRE doctoral program in Religious Education , as well as three GSRRE faculty members, attended the Religious Education Association (REA) Annual Meeting, November 8-10, 2013 in the Boston area.

At the meetings:
·         Associate Professor Kieran Scott presented a paper titled “Inviting Young Adults to Come Out Religiously, Institutionally, and Traditionally;”

·         Assistant Professor Harold (Bud) Horell presented a paper titled  “On Learning to See the World Religiously: Moral Awareness, Faith, and Public Moral Discourse;”

·         Doctoral Candidate William J. Mascitello presented a paper titled “A ‘Theotic’ Religious Education for the Christian West: Orientation of the Practitioner’s Relationship with God, Self, and the Whole Created Order to the Divine Image;”, and,

·         Doctoral Candidate Kevin Sandberg presented a paper titled “Listening in Religious Education: The Gift of Self in the Face of Uncertainty.”


At the meeting Harold (Bud) Horell was elected Vice President of the REA and 2015 Annual Meeting Program Chair. Kevin Sandberg was elected to serve as the Student Representative on the REA Board. Additionally, the REA membership affirmed the recent hiring of Doctoral Candidate Mary Ellen Durante to serve as the REA Networking Coordinator.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Father Burgaleta takes part in the American Bible Society Study Week in Cuba

Fr. Claudio Burgaleta, SJ, GSRRE associate professor, will participate in a Bible Study Week in Cuba from 22-29 November sponsored by the American Bible Society and the Catholic dioceses of Eastern Cuba.  For further information, please click here


Dr. Beaudoin presents on "Deconversion and Catholic Multiplicity" at the American Academy of Religion

Dr. Tom Beaudoin, associate professor in GSRRE, will be presenting a paper at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion in Baltimore, Maryland, this week. He is co-presenting with Dr. Patrick Hornbeck, chair of the Department of Theology at Fordham. Their paper is titled "Deconversion and Catholic Multiplicity," and will be presented in a session sponsored by the Practical Theology Group titled "Beyond Single Identity Politics." Dr. Beaudoin will also serve as presider for a session sponsored by the Association of Practical Theology titled "How do Polydoxy and Theological Hybridity Matter for Religious and Theological Studies?"

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Fr. Claudio Burgaleta, SJ upcoming Latino webinars

Fr. Claudio Burgaleta, SJ, PhD, Associate Professor of Pastoral Ministry, GSRRE, will be presenting several webinars in November.  These sessions are part of the Libros Liguori's Hispanic Ministry webinar series, please follow this link for more information and to register:

http://myemail.constantcontact.com/Join-Us-for-Libros-Liguori-s--Hispanic-Ministry-Webinar-Series.html?soid=1110442875514&aid=NMFz3ntffog

Father Burgaleta has many other speaking engagements, conference and courses coming up soon, for more information those events please visit his personal web page:

Father Burgaleta's Web Page


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Harold D. Horell authors intellectual biography of James DiGiacomo, S.J., former GSRRE Adjunct Faculty Member

Harold D. Horell authors intellectual biography of
James DiGiacomo, S.J., former GSRRE Adjunct Faculty Member



James DiGiacomo, SJ served as an adjunct faculty member at the Fordham GSRRE for 28 years, from 1965 to 1983. DiGiacomo helped to re-envision religious education in the post-Vatican II church and helped to shape the development of youth ministry as an area of pastoral practice and pastoral theological enquiry.

An intellectual biography of DiGiacomo was published recently by Harold D. Horell, GSRRE, Assistant Professor of Religious Education. The biography can be accessed on the Christian Educators of the 20th Century website at: http://www.talbot.edu/ce20/educators/catholic/james_degiaccomo/#contributions

Saturday, August 24, 2013

GSRRE Alumnus Rudy Vargas to receive award

Rudy Vargas, a GSRRE graduate and GSRRE Advisory Board member, was recently awarded the William Sadlier Dinger Award for Ministry in the Hispanic Community.  The awards committee cited Mr. Vargas 25 plus years of work in Latino ministry, including:

*Work on the National Encuentros De Pastoral Hispana
*Founding membership and presidency of NCADDHM
*Participation in the National Catholic Network De Pastoral Juvenil Hispana
*Board membership at CARA
*And much more work in service to the Church and the Latino Community

We would certainly add that Mr. Vargas service to the Fordham GSRRE community on boards, committees, etc. has always been very much appreciated.  Congratulations!

Monday, August 12, 2013

GSRRE graduate Michael Robinson publishes in Religious Education


Michael G. Robinson, a Baptist Minister and graduate of the GSRRE PhD program in Religious Education, has published an article titled "Transformative Baptist Religious Education, Civic Participation, and Solidarity with the Poor." The article appears in the May-June 2013 issue of the journal Religious Education. The article explores how a progressive and prophetic model of Baptist religious education can provide a foundation for teaching about the social crisis of poverty in the United States and how persons and communities of faith can address this crisis.  Here is a link for further information.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Fordham GSRRE Graduate is the New Pastor of Second Baptist Church of Santa Ana, CA


Earlier this Rev. Ivan Pitts became the pastor of the Second Baptist Church of Santa Ana, CA. For Ivan, this is a return to his native Los Angeles. From 2002 to 2013, he served as pastor for New Hope Baptist Church in Danbury, Connecticut.

Ivan holds an MA in RE with a concentration in Pastoral Studies from the GSRRE. He has also earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from San Diego State University in Social Science, and a Master of Arts degree in Counselling Psychology from Clark Atlanta University, Atlanta, GA. Ivan is currently completing a Doctor of Ministry degree in Pastoral Care and Counseling at New York Theological Seminary.


In a recent conversation with Fordham GSRRE faculty member Harold (Bud) Horell, Ivan said, “It’s great being back home again! The family is adjusting well. I am starting to gain momentum and I’m please with the progress.”

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Recent Inside Fordham article by Dr. Tom Beaudoin "Spiritual Sleeper Songs: Meditations on Life and Death"

Read Dr. Beaudoin's article on "Spiritual Sleeper Songs:  Meditations on Life and Death" here on Inside Fordham.

GSRRE Graduate Hinton named VPAA at Mount Saint Mary College

GSRRE PhD in Religious Education graduate Mary Hinton was named Vice President for Academic Affairs at Mount St. Mary College in Newburg, NY, on June 10, 2013.

Dr. Hinton has served the Mount since 2011 as vice president for strategic planning.

In his announcement of the appoint, Fr. Kevin E. Mackin, OFM, President of Mount St. Mary College, said that “Mary Hinton has focused us on new ways to pursue planning and informal events…  During her two years at Mount Saint Mary College, she has overseen strategic planning, academic assessment, institutional research and retention efforts. She has overseen the development of the Center for Student Success, focused on college-wide retention efforts including academic coaching, advising, developmental courses, tutoring and the Higher Education Opportunity Program.”


In the announcement, Mackin also points out that: “Prior to serving at Mount Saint Mary College, Mary was at Misericordia University where she held multiple positions including associate VP of academic affairs, assistant professor in religious studies, and chief planning and diversity officer… Dr. Hinton has taught in the graduate programs at Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry and in the University of Pennsylvania’s Executive Doctorate in Higher Education Program. Hinton serves on several national boards including the Association for General and Liberal Studies; the Religious Education Association; and, is the Regionally Elected Coordinator of the American Academy of Religion Mid-Atlantic Region where she has also served as president.”

Monday, June 3, 2013

Summer 2013 is under way! Still time to enroll in GSRRE on-line and intensive on campus courses



The Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education is in the midst of another record Summer for enrollment and course offerings.  Our on-campus courses are only one week intensives.  There is still time to enroll in courses coming up in June and July - including the upcoming course on the New Evangelization with Dr. Tom Beaudoin and Dr. C. Colt Anderson.  For more information, click here.

Dr. Tom Beaudoin presents at the College Theology Society



GSRRE's Dr. Tom Beaudoin presented a paper on his ongoing research at the annual meeting of the College Theology Society this weekend at Creighton University, in Omaha, Nebraska. His paper, "Teaching Theology in an Atmosphere of Deconversion," was presented in tandem with a paper by Fordham's Dr. Patrick Hornbeck of the Department of Theology. It is part of their ongoing research project, "Varieties of Deconversion in Roman Catholicism."

New Article on Liturgical Reform by Fr. John Baldovin, SJ - GSRRE visiting professor for Spring 2014

A great article by Fr. John Baldovin, SJ, just appeared in America on "The Progress of Reform:  The Liturgy since 1965" America 5/27/13.  Fr. Baldovin will be teaching a course for us in GSRRE in The Spring 2014 semester entitled:  Liturgical Theology.  Registration for Spring 2014 will open in October of this year.  Enjoy the article here


Friday, May 10, 2013

The Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education Launches New Scholarship Program for Latino Students


GSRRE announces The Novak Scholarship Program launching in the fall of 2013, which will support students of Latino origin who excel academically. The program is named after the Rev. Vincent M. Novak, S.J., the founding dean of the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education, and the Rev. Joseph Novak, S.J., a long-time faculty member and interim dean.

“Our mission is to provide financial support and mentoring to Latino students with a desire to minister to and serve as leaders within the community as religious educators, pastoral ministers or counselors and spiritual directors,” says C. Colt Anderson, dean of the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education. “The Novak Scholarship Program will provide an added incentive that channels students to strive for academic excellence and encourages the Latino community to participate in Fordham’s high-quality programs that cater to distinctive and diverse viewpoints.” 

For more information or to learn how to apply GO HERE>>>

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Evangelization: Faith and Culture - join us this Summer!

Dr. C. Colt Anderson, Dean

Dr. Thomas Beaudoin, GSRRE

Expanding on their recent presentations on the New Evangelization at our April conference, GSRRE Dean Colt Andersona nd Professor Tom Beaudoin will teach a course entitled Evangelization:  Faith and Culture in a one week intensive format this Summer(the week of June 17th).  Click here to find out more about joining our Summer Session.
 
Here is the course description:  This class is meant to provide you with a new perspective on the intersection between evangelization,faith, and culture by drawing on methods of and findings from historical theology, practical theology,
and rhetorical analysis. The primary objectives ofthe course are to afford: an appreciation for different meanings of evangelization and their practical significance; an understanding of practical and theoretical complexities in the relationship between faith and culture, and how they matter for questions of evangelization today; tools you need to analyze the contextual setting of your audience; awareness of strengths and weaknesses of various mediums for evangelization; and concrete strategies for effective communication. The course will consider how the church is perceived,the role of tradition in forming ecclesial identity, personal identity formation in relation to religious outlook,the challenge of widespread detachment from official expectations about church teaching and practice (also known as “deconversion”), and the influence of popular and new media on the effort to evangelize in a U.S. context.

Secular Music and Sacred Theology, a new book by Dr. Tom Beaudoin has just been published

GSRRE's Prof. Tom Beaudoin's latest book, Secular Music and Sacred Theology, has just been published by Liturgical Press. Prof. Beaudoin edited the book and wrote one chapter about theological approaches to popular music. The book was generated by contributors to the Rock and Theology Project, a blog and collaborative research project on religion and popular music that Prof. Beaudoin directs, under the sponsorship of the Catholic academic publisher Liturgical Press. A recent interview with Prof. Beaudoin about his research on music can be found here

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

GSRRE Conference Discusses Movement to Revitalize Church

GSRRE Conference Discusses Movement to Revitalize Church



Contact: Joanna Klimaski
(212) 636-7175
jklimaski@fordham.edu
 
 
The Most Rev. Frank J. Caggiano, S.T.D., said in his keynote address that the shifting cultural andscape will require the Catholic Church to find new ways to communicate with its members.
Photo by Dana Maxson
With roughly 68.5 million members, the largest single Christian denomination in the United States is Roman Catholicism.

The third largest group, if it were a denomination unto itself, would be ex-Catholics.

In response to a net loss of roughly 20 million members over the last decades, the Catholic Church has launched the New Evangelization movement, a comprehensive effort to reach out to members who have become alienated from the faith.

On April 20, Fordham’s Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education (GRE) hosted a daylong conference, “Taking It to the Streets: The New Evangelization,” which examined the movement’s efforts to revitalize the Catholic community.

The Most Rev. Frank J. Caggiano, S.T.D., vicar general and moderator of the curia in the Diocese of Brooklyn, said the key to reversing the decline is to evangelize—or, proclaim the good news—in a way that makes people feel welcomed. In his keynote address, “The New Evangelization: Our Journey Home,” Bishop Caggiano said that the church community should be like a home to parishioners.

“The image of home is at the heart of all we do in the New Evangelization,” he said. “The image conjures up… welcoming and belonging, a place of community, of relationships, of love, and also a place where we are nourished.”

Many Catholics no longer feel welcomed, he said, sensing a disconnection between their own lived experiences and what they hear at Sunday Mass. As a result, church leaders must find new ways to engage with contemporary parishioners.

“A growing number of individuals do not find the proclamation of the community to be credible—and that’s the great challenge in the New Evangelization,” he said. “The content is the same, but the context has changed. So the New Evangelization is about making the content available in this new context.”

In his presentation, “Changing Their Minds About the Faith and the Church: Why Are So Many Catholics Opting Out,” Tom Beaudoin, Ph.D., associate professor of theology at GRE, illuminated the staggering statistics that precipitated the New Evangelization.

Beaudoin and J. Patrick Hornbeck, D.Phil., assistant professor of theology, are concluding a study funded by The Louisville Institute on why so many Catholics are either leaving the religion or radically redefining their beliefs—in a word, “de-converting.” Since 2011, the team has collected more than 300 survey responses and interviewed dozens of people on why and how their relationship to Catholicism has shifted.

“Deconversion is changing one’s faith-mind—that is, beliefs and/or practices—in relationship to normative, or official, Catholicism,” Beaudoin said. “According to this definition, you can deconvert and be out the door, or you can deconvert and stay, even go to Mass every week.”

Feeling a disconnect between what one hears at Mass and what what one experiences in everyday life is one reason that some people "deconvert," said Tom Beaudoin, Ph.D.
Photo by Dana Maxson
The team found certain themes among the participants’ reasons for distancing themselves from Catholicism. First, participants said that the church has failed to modernize, and thus cannot respond to the challenges that modern Catholics face. Second, many participants say church rituals are prosaic. Third, participants cited detrimental relationships with church leaders or communities.

Beaudoin added that an overall cultural shift has also prompted many deconversions—not only within Catholicism but in other religions as well.

“The cultural landscape is changing profoundly about religious identity itself,” he said. “People are feeling more agency about religious identity, and they’re also trying to find a way on the ground to make sense of the fact that they live in a religiously pluralistic world. They want to take what’s good from the many things they’re learning. In general, they don’t feel that they have to be in church all the time to be a good Catholic, or a good Methodist, or otherwise in the mainline.”

A deeper understanding of the data is critical for any work within the New Evangelization movement, Beaudoin said. Moreover, church leaders must cultivate a curiosity about deconversion, rather than a condemnation.

“What is sacred for people in real life, and why are those things sacred?” he said. “For me, that’s got to be part of the New Evangelization.”

Other presentations included:
  • C. Colt Anderson, Ph.D., dean of GRE, “A New Rhetoric for the New Evangelization”;
  • Claudio M. Burgaleta, S.J., associate professor at GRE, “Four Popes and the New Evangelization”;
  • Harold “Bud” Horell, Ph.D., assistant professor of religious education, “The Challenges of Evangelization and Two Views of Catechesis”; and
  • Monsignor Michael Hull, S.T.D., pastor of the Church of the Guardian Angel in the Chelsea section of New York City, “What’s the Good News about the New Evangelization?”
Founded in 1841, Fordham is the Jesuit University of New York, offering exceptional education distinguished by the Jesuit tradition to more than 15,100 students in its four undergraduate colleges and its six graduate and professional schools. It has residential campuses in the Bronx and Manhattan, a campus in West Harrison, N.Y., the Louis Calder Center Biological Field Station in Armonk, N.Y., and the London Centre at Heythrop College, University of London, in the United Kingdom.
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Saturday, April 20, 2013

Recent Popes and the New Evangelization

Father Claudio Burgaleta, SJ, GSRRE faculty member, reflected on the Evangelization movements and recent Popes at today's New Evangelization conference. Father Burgaleta highlighted the creative work of movements like Focolare and Community and Liberation under recent Popes. Videos will be posted here in the coming weeks.

Deconversion and the New Evanglization

Dr. Tom Beaudoin, GSRRE, spoke at today's Evangelization conference at Fordham. Dr. Beaudoin shared his Lilly Foundation funded research on deconversion and also shared lessons pastoral ministers can learn from that research to inform their evangelization efforts. Check back here next for videos and more reporting.

Bishop Caggiano opens conference on the New Evangelization

Bishop Francis Caggiano of Brooklyn opened the GSRRE conference on the new evanglelization today with a talk entitled "The New Evangelization: Our Journey Home". Please check back next week for more on this event.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Dr. Marybeth Werdel appears on Busted Halo tonight.......

 Dr. Marybeth Werdel, GSRRE Assistant Profess of Pastoral Counseling, will appear on "Busted Halo" on Sirius XM Satellite Radio, Catholic Channel 129 at 6:20PM tonight.  She will be discussing her new book,   As Faith Matures: Beyond the Sunday God.

From the publisher's description of As Faith Matures: "Life is filled with entryways to the sacred: a conversation with a child, recovery from illness, and the gentle embrace of a close friend," Mary Beth Werdel wisely suggests in her book As Faith Matures: Beyond the Sunday God. She asserts that our deepest experiences can be simple or even life-altering. These moments are often doorways or an invitation into a more adult relationship with the God we encountered in our childhood or continue to encounter on Sundays.

Dr. Mary Beth Werdel, PhD, is an assistant professor of pastoral care and counseling in the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education at Fordham University. She earned her doctorate from Loyola University Maryland. She has both a master’s degree in counseling and a a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of new Hampshire. Dr. Werdel writes and lectures on the relationships found in spirituality, trauma, and growth. She is co-author of the book A Primer on Posttraumatic Growth: An Introduction and Guide (2012) published by Wiley. She is also published in the journals Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion, Alcohol Treatment Quarterly, and Human Development. Dr. Werdel is a licensed professional counselor and most recently worked as a family therapist with primarily Spanish-speaking immigrant families from El Salvador and Mexico. She has traveled extensively in Central America and has done volunteer work in Honduras.

Professor Tom Beaudoin will be giving two lectures at Mercyhurst University in Erie, PA on Tuesday 16 April. His talks will focus on the widespread disaffiliation, or "deconversion," among Catholics and on the importance of popular culture for the spiritual lives of younger generations today. More info at the Mercyhurst website here.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Radio/TV Interview with Dr. Werdel on her new book - As Faith Matures


 
Dr. Marybeth Werdel, GSRRE Assistant Profess of Pastoral Counseling, will appear on the Son Rise Morning Show tomorrow, Thursday March 28th at 7:45AM Eastern Time.   She will be discussing her new book:  As Faith Matures:  Beyond the Sunday God.  The show also appears nationally on the EWTN Network.

From the publisher's description of As Faith Matures:  "Life is filled with entryways to the sacred: a conversation with a child, recovery from illness, and the gentle embrace of a close friend," Mary Beth Werdel wisely suggests in her book As Faith Matures: Beyond the Sunday God. She asserts that our deepest experiences can be simple or even life-altering. These moments are often doorways or an invitation into a more adult relationship with the God we encountered in our childhood or continue to encounter on Sundays.

Dr. Mary Beth Werdel, PhD, is an assistant professor of pastoral care and counseling in the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education at Fordham University. She earned her doctorate from Loyola University Maryland. She has both a master’s degree in counseling and a a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of new Hampshire. Dr. Werdel writes and lectures on the relationships found in spirituality, trauma, and growth. She is co-author of the book A Primer on Posttraumatic Growth: An Introduction and Guide (2012) published by Wiley. She is also published in the journals Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion, Alcohol Treatment Quarterly, and Human Development. Dr. Werdel is a licensed professional counselor and most recently worked as a family therapist with primarily Spanish-speaking immigrant families from El Salvador and Mexico. She has traveled extensively in Central America and has done volunteer work in Honduras
 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

New Evangelization Conference at GSRRE April 20th - free admission



The New Evangelization: Obstacles and Opportunities
Saturday, 20 April 2013 | 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
McGinley Center | Rose Hill Campus
The New Evangelization: Obstacles and Opportunities is a conference that will provide current Fordham students, alumni, and other religious educators and pastoral ministers an opportunity to gather together and discern the New Evangelization movement in light of Church teaching and current cultural trends.

Keynote Speaker:  Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of th Brooklyn Diocese 
Presentations by: Tom Beaudoin, Phd; Harold Horell, PhD; Dean Colt C. Anderson, PhD; Claudio Burgaleta, SJ, PhD; and Monsignor Michael Hull of the Archdiocese of NYC 
At the end of the day, there will be a panel discussion and an opportunity for all participants to ask questions and respond to the days presentations.
This event is hosted by the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education.  Click here to register and see speaker profiles.

This event is open to all those interested. There is no fee to attend.
For more information, contact Jodi Hunt at 718-817-5966 or jhunt18@fordham.eduwww.fordham.edu/gre for updates.

 

Beaudoin and Hornbeck publish an article on Deconversion

GSRRE's Dr. Tom Beaudoin, and the Department of Theology's Dr. Patrick Hornbeck, have just published a chapter titled "Deconversion and Ordinary Theology: A Catholic Study," in Exploring Ordinary Theology: Everyday Christian Believing and the Church, edited by Jeff Astley and Leslie J. Francis (Ashgate, 2013). For more information:  http://www.ashgate.com/default.aspx?page=637&calcTitle=1&isbn=9781409442578&lang=cy-GB

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Rock and Roll and Religion: Theologian to Present at Music Festival

FRIDAY, MARCH 8, 2013

Rock and Roll and Religion: Theologian to Present at Music Festival

Tom Beaudoin, Ph.D., associate professor of theology
at the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education
Depending on the faith tradition you belong to, the words “religion” or “spirituality” might lead you to think about music, for instance, hymns.

But if given the word “music,” would as many people think of the spiritual?

According to Tom Beaudoin, Ph.D., the link between music and spirituality is perfectly reasonable—and he’s headed to the biggest musical festival in the South to explain why.

Beaudoin, an associate professor of theology at the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education (GRE), will travel to Austin, Texas next week to take part in the South By Southwest musical festival. The annual gathering features more than 2,000 bands and attracts tens of thousands of fans that gather to hear live music, learn about film and technology, and network with prominent music industry members.

“It’s several days of an alternative universe where the only things that exist are great new music, a few classic older bands, and lots of enjoyment,” Beaudoin said.

Beaudoin will join Monica Miller, Ph.D., visiting assistant professor of religious studies at Lewis & Clark College, and David Nantais, director of University Ministry at the University of Detroit Mercy, on one of the many panels that occur over the weeklong festival.

Their presentation, “Into the Mystic: Secular Music as a Quest for More,” will examine how fans and musicians alike use popular music for their personal and communal spiritual quests.

“In everyday life, music often plays an important piece in people’s spiritual lives, however they define spirituality and whatever their music taste is,” Beaudoin said. “The purpose [of the panel] is to think out loud, ask about this relationship between what we value most in our lives and what we listen to.”

A bassist in two rock and roll bands, Beaudoin is also the head of the Rock and Theology Project, a forum for people with both theological interests and musical zeal to discuss how the two worlds inform one another.

“I think the basic connection between the two is that music helps people explore feelings, commitments, and questions that people might have no other way of accessing—and that are related to people's relationship to ultimate reailty,” he said.

This deep, spiritual experience of music can come in the form of connecting with the lyrics and message of a song, but it also goes deeper, he said. For instance, music can conjure certain feelings or images that help listeners to connect with themselves, others, or even God on a new level.

Which, incidentally, is also an important goal of theology.

“I believe that theology has to speak to the experience of being human as such, which is far bigger than the experience of being in a church. And so I want to try a way of doing theology that can speak to people who find themselves either religious or nonreligious,” Beaudoin said.

“Good theology can do that—can learn to speak in ways that are accessible to religious and nonreligious people. And not only accessible, but informed by church experience and experience from beyond the church—for example, in the larger worlds of the enjoyment of popular or secular music, worlds that cross religions and cultures.”

— Joanna Klimaski

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Conference Offers Pastoral Counselors Tools to Help Victims of Trauma

Conference Offers Pastoral Counselors Tools to Help Victims of Trauma



Contact: Joanna Klimaski
(212) 636-7175
jklimaski@fordham.edu
 
 
Rabbi Stephen Roberts, president and chief executive officer for Clergy for a Healthy America, Inc., describes how pastoral care workers can help trauma victims regain some control in an uncontrollable world.
Photo by Michael Dames
For the person, family, or community that undergoes a traumatic event, life is changed forever. Beliefs that sustained a secure worldview can shatter, leaving victims with a fractured sense of themselves, others, and even God in the aftermath.

And with more than 60 percent of those who suffer a trauma choosing to seek help from their faith communities, religious leaders need to understand how to respond, said Rabbi Stephen Roberts, president and chief executive officer of Clergy for a Healthy America, Inc.

Rabbi Roberts gave the keynote address at “Reflecting in the Aftermath: The Ministry of Spiritual Care for Trauma Victims and Spiritual Care for the Self.” The two-day symposium, which was co-sponsored by Fordham’s Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education (GRE) and the National Association of Catholic Chaplains (NACC), took place Feb. 28 and March 1 on the Rose Hill campus.

Rabbi Roberts highlighted spiritual tools that people use—whether consciously or unconsciously—during challenging periods of their lives. These can range from praying and reading Scripture, to practicing hobbies and spending time in a supportive social group.

The job of spiritual leaders, Rabbi Roberts said, is to bring these resources to the forefront and help people recognize which tools can help them cope.

“Our job is to take it from the unconscious to the conscious, because in the consciousness is the control, and in the control is resilience. That’s what trauma and disaster take away—control,” he said.

“The question becomes, ‘What can I do to control my life in an uncontrollable world?’ Often, what we offer somebody is that ability—the knowledge that there are things we can control, [for instance,] these spiritual tools.”

C. Colt Anderson, Ph.D., dean of GRE, said that, when helping others through the darkness of trauma, clergy and pastoral caregivers will eventually confront the classic problem of evil: How can an allegedly good God permit suffering?

The question, Anderson said, leads many victims of trauma to question whether God is trustworthy, or whether God has abandoned them. Moreover, in the aftermath of trauma, victims and caregivers alike are tempted to try to make sense of random and senseless suffering, particularly when it is the result of cruelty or violence.

In the end, can we really make sense of such a thing?

“You can never make sense of evil, and you shouldn’t tell people to try,” Anderson said. “You’re leading them down a path that ends in bitterness. And bitterness is death in life—the loss of trust.”

C. Colt Anderson, Ph.D., dean of GRE, discusses whether it is possible to make sense of evil.
Photo by Michael Dames
Instead, those who counsel in a pastoral setting need to reflect mercy and compassion, and to offer hope that life after trauma can be good nonetheless.

“Being compassionate means opening yourself up to suffering. You have to undergo it with them—but not fully—so that you can help lead them to see a way out,” he said. “That’s what we as Christians are called to look at—the promise that something good can still happen, . . . that even in the midst of feeling forsaken, we have the promise of the resurrection.”

Also presenting were assistant professors of pastoral counseling Lisa Cataldo, Ph.D., and Mary Beth Werdel, Ph.D. Speaking from the standpoint of clinical and research psychologists, each told audience members to be mindful of the unique psychological needs of trauma victims—including making room for difficult religious questions.

“In the aftermath of trauma, a person’s experiences are so fragmented that they don’t feel connected to parts of themselves,” Cataldo said, explaining that trauma often causes victims to dissociate from parts of themselves that are too painful to experience. “From a religious perspective, these different parts of ourselves have different God-images… The hurt and damaged parts of you hold a different image of God than the parts of you that feel secure.”

While questions about God’s goodness may be difficult for religious leaders, it is critical that they consider them.

“If we don’t, we risk a kind of spiritual bypassing, when you use your spirituality to avoid pain,” she said. “Ultimately, for a mature faith that can help you live for the rest of your life with the trauma that will never go away, we have to include all the parts.”

According to Werdel, this is especially important in light of the fact that positive religious coping is one of the key factors related to posttraumatic growth, i.e., the potential for trauma victims to gain new, positive understandings of themselves and the world following disaster.

“This is not pollyannish thinking and not denial, but a paradox,” Werdel said. “And we as pastoral care counselors need to be able to hold that paradox.

“[Moreover], there’s been a lot of research lately about how important the work of spiritually-minded professionals is, to intentionally talk about God in moments of stress and trauma… And not just look for the positive God-image, but ask about the negative image, be wiling to travel to that darkness.”

David A. Lichter, D.Min., executive director of the NACC, opened the conference on Feb. 28 with his talk, “Chaplaincy Today: A Profession and Ministry.”

Founded in 1841, Fordham is the Jesuit University of New York, offering exceptional education distinguished by the Jesuit tradition to more than 15,100 students in its four undergraduate colleges and its six graduate and professional schools. It has residential campuses in the Bronx and Manhattan, a campus in West Harrison, N.Y., the Louis Calder Center Biological Field Station in Armonk, N.Y., and the London Centre at Heythrop College, University of London, in the United Kingdom.
03/13