Local News Archive
Print Issue: September 5, 2002
Aquinas Center Is Growing Catholic Presence At Emory
By Gretchen Keiser, Staff Writer
ATLANTA - The Aquinas Center of Theology serves as a Catholic influence at Emory University and also as a touch-point where Catholic scholars and students, of all ages and all denominations, can intersect.
Now more than 15 years old, it is a link between Catholic scholars and parishes, a sponsor of annual Catholic lectures in philosophy, spirituality and theology, and a source for university faculty, teaching in Catholic studies at Emory College, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and the Candler School of Theology.
The director of the Aquinas Center, Victor Kramer, Ph.D., also makes links among those who share various interests: Catholics who teach at universities in and around Atlanta; medievalists; those interested in the writings of Thomas Merton; and businessmen and women interested in Catholic ethics.
Upcoming events include participation in a four-day September program at Emory on "Companions for the Journey: Spiritual Guides, Past, Present and Future," in which Catholic scholars will include Kramer speaking on Merton, and Dean Dana Greene of Oxford College speaking on Evelyn Underhill.
Also in September the Aquinas Center will sponsor a book discussion by three Catholic authors from Emory at St. Thomas More Church in Decatur. (See story page 19)
In February 2003 the Aquinas Center will co-sponsor lectures and workshops on social justice with Immaculate Heart of Mary and Our Lady of Lourdes parishes in Atlanta at IHM. The lectures will be focused around the Dominican St. Martin de Porres who served the poor.
Dominican Father Brian J. Shanley, an associate professor of philosophy at the Catholic University of America, will teach a specialized course for theologians and philosophers at Candler this year on St. Thomas Aquinas. He will reside at St. Thomas More Church, and will participate in other programs while here.
For the last two years, the visiting scholar teaching in Atlanta under the auspices of the Aquinas Center has given a workshop for permanent deacons of the archdiocese, who are required to have continuing education for their ministries.
In April 2001 Father Gerard Austin, OP, spoke on the theology of the Eucharist. In April 2002 Father Mark Wedig, OP, spoke on the liturgical context of preaching. A program for next April is in the planning stage.
Deacon Alfred Mitchell, director of deacon personnel, said most diaconate programs around the country have a relationship with a local Catholic college or university, which provides continuing education opportunities. "Not having a Catholic college here has been something of a drawback to say the least," he said.
The Aquinas Center, however, is helping him to meet that need.
"Over the past two years we have developed a pretty good relationship with Dr. Kramer," he said. "Having a source of Catholic scholarship close at hand is definitely a benefit."
Lloyd Sutter, senior administrator of religious education, said he invites the Aquinas Center director to general networking meetings for religious educators held twice a year, includes their programs in mailings and continues to explore "what we can do together."
"We've been trying to find common ground where whoever he might invite would have a topic of common interest either as an adult education speaker" or a Theology on Tap speaker for young adults.
"He has a good reputation and he will work with our department from time to time," Sutter said.
This fall, a connection has been established with the Spring Hill College extension program in Atlanta, which operates out of Holy Spirit Church and provides master's degree programs in Catholic theology. Kramer will be teaching a course on Merton.
The Aquinas Center is an official affiliate of Emory, which provides office space on Clifton Road, but the center is independent and nonprofit with a volunteer board of directors.
Kramer, professor emeritus of English literature at Georgia State University and a Merton scholar, said the Aquinas Center, originally envisioned as a Dominican house of studies, has evolved into a growing presence in the Emory community, on the Emory and Candler faculty, and in the archdiocesan community.
The Southern Province of the Dominican order planted the seed when a Dominican house of studies was established in Atlanta for the order's novices in 1984. In 1987 the affiliation with Emory was formalized and the center named. Founder Father Bob Perry, OP, directed its first years, followed by Anne Mayeaux, Ph.D., and Roberto Goizueta, Ph.D., and then Lyndon Reynolds, Ph.D., who now holds a tenured position as Aquinas associate professor of Catholic theology, teaching in the Candler School of Theology, and as a senior fellow of Emory's Center for Interdisciplinary Study of Religion.
The current director of the Aquinas Center, Kramer edited the fourth volume of Merton's personal writings, published in 1996 as "Turning Toward the World," and is a founding member of the International Thomas Merton Society and editor of "The Merton Journals." He helped found the Atlanta chapter of the International Thomas Merton Society, a reading and discussion group.
Emory can only estimate the percentage of students who are from any religious denomination because providing the information is optional. But based on self-identification, Emory believes at least 20 to 25 percent of the student body is Catholic, and Catholics are now believed to be the largest Christian denomination on campus.
The Aquinas Center of Theology at Emory University is located at 1703 Clifton Road, Suite F-6, Atlanta. For information call (404) 727-8860. For more information on "Companions for the Journey: Spiritual Guides Past, Present and Future" being held Sept. 16-22 at Emory visit http://www.candler.emory.edu.