News and Updates: March 2013

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 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:

Thursday, March 14, 2013

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


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
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.