The Practical Side of Studying Theology
The Theology Department is rich in faculty members committed to applying their specific discipline practically in the light of the vision and mission of the department. This vision and mission statement outlines several objectives, which inform professors’ pedagogy, university service, and engagement of the local community and world at large.
The promotion of peace and justice is important. In response to Cincinnati’s civil unrest (spring, 2001) due to the shooting of an unarmed African American male, Dr. Sarah Melcher introduced to the university curriculum Theology 267 – African American Biblical Interpretation. She hopes that this class fosters dialogue which might lead to greater peace and justice.
Dr. John Sniegocki directs Xavier’s Peace Studies Minor, many classes of which are theology. The relationship between this minor and the Theology Department bears witnesses to the department’s commitment to cultivate a peaceful, just, and ecologically sustainable world.
Healing and meditation are specialties of Sister Rosie Miller, O.S.F., who has taught to hundreds of students methods of meditation, self growth, and healing, which employ experiential methodology grounded in the mystical theology of the tradition. Further, Care of Creation as a part of incarnational theology is a passion of hers; her classes highlight practical ways students can steward creation in their daily choices.
Dr. Jennifer Beste’s expertise is Christian ethics. Awarded 2009 and 2010 Xavier University Women of Excellence grants and a 2010 Xavier University Conway Fellowship, Dr. Beste collaborates with and interviews students extensively about hookup culture, healthy relationships, and sexual justice to raise questions for undergraduates about what kind of relationships they desire and what kind of persons they really wish to be. She also has organized an Ignatian spirituality and sexuality retreat for undergraduates to foster students’ ability to integrate spirituality and faith with their choices regarding sexuality and relationships. The ultimate aim of such research is to cultivate an environment in which Xavier undergraduates resist dehumanizing tendencies of contemporary secular sexual culture and envision and create a more sexually respectful and just culture on Xavier’s campus.
Known for her solidarity with the poor and efforts to end modern slavery, Dr. Gillian Ahlgren provides many opportunities for students to experience the practical side of theology, by bringing the mystical tradition to life through engaged experience. For example, Assisi, Italy is the destination of her Theology 337 – Franciscan Spirituality class. This course sensitizes students to some of the theological, spiritual, and ethical challenges of medieval Christianity, by exploring on site the lives and messages of Francis and Claire and their spiritual legacy for today. For those who prefer to stay closer to home, Dr. Ahlgren provides a dose of nature by conducting her Theology 111 (Theological Foundations) students down a local river in order to discuss stewardship of the creation.
Ethicist Kenneth Overberg, S.J., has many opportunities to instruct students on ethical issues. For instance, he initiated Theology 304 – AIDS: An Ethical Inquiry, which explores the ethical dilemmas rooted in the medical, social, political, and economic reality of this pandemic.
Dr. Chris Pramuk (systematic theology) is passionate about Jesuit education and employs a variety of techniques to teach students to evaluate issues from a Catholic, ecumenical, cross-cultural, and inter-religious perspective. For example, showcasing pop culture music or performing his own are helpful tools. He also facilitates an immersion experience for students by taking members of his Theology 295 – Senior Seminar (Ideas and Methods) class to the Abbey of Gethsemani Monastery (western Kentucky), former home of Thomas Merton.