An interview with Fr. Stephen Boguslawski, O.P.
Father Steven Boguslawski, O.P. is President of the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception at the Dominican House of Studies. As such, he is one of the principal architects of the formidable intellectual project that formally gets underway April 18-19, 2009.
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What is the mission of the ‘new’ Dominican House of Studies (DHS)?
More aptly said, there is a renewed mission of the faculty which focuses upon an “open-Thomism,” a dialogue with contemporary as well as historical theology. We are building upon the sure foundations entrusted to us—what we develop now is inextricably linked to our past. The brilliance of St. Thomas Aquinas was to appropriate the truth by critical engagement with philosophy, Sacred Scripture, as well as theological and patristic sources. The renewed challenge is to similarly appropriate his methodology in a contemporary frame of reference. That is the “niche” or the branding we want to accomplish in the academic marketplace. However, it must also be said that Dominicans were founded for service to the Church—especially her mission to evangelize through preaching and teaching. That remains our primary focus: service to the Word in the midst of the world. And, of course, vocations are the life blood of this mission.
What is the significance of the new Academic Center and Theological Library?
The expansion to new facilities has been paralleled by a dramatic expansion of credentialed Dominican and non-Dominican professors. These professors received their training at an array of prestigious universities: Oxford, École Pratique des Hautes Études (Paris), Drew University, Fribourg, the Australian Catholic University, the Pontifical Biblical Institute (Rome), just to name a few. More Dominicans are scheduled to arrive in the years ahead, being specially trained for service in Washington, D.C.
The building expansion and the increase in full-time faculty are aimed at serving the academic and ecclesial communities of metro-Washington, as well as the Dominican Order and Province at-large. Our renewed emphasis upon Thomism, evangelization and the dialogue between faith and contemporary culture sets us apart.
What does the project offer the broader Church community? Can it help change the tone, the substance of the dialogue between the Church and contemporary secular culture?
The Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception at the DHS is convinced that training in a solid Thomistic core produces competent clerics and laity in service of the Church by instilling an intellectual rigor that critically appraises competing truth claims in society. The ability to engage cultural trends and legitimate questions arising from ministerial experience requires a suppleness of mind which appropriates the truth wherever it is to be found—always given norms, however, by Sacred Scripture, tradition, and magisterial teachings.
That is not always an easy task—indeed, it is rarely an easy task! Evangelization and re-evangelization depend upon individuals being conversant with those who have been predominantly formed by the culture-at-large—unafraid to bring the fullness of the Gospel to them, because good evangelizers or preachers are able to articulate the internal intelligibility of the faith here and now, and with a good measure of joy. More simply put, our students can explain the reasons for their hope. Dominicans do not subscribe to the modern artificial divide between doctrine and pastoral practice.
The new academic center and theological library mark an “inflection point” in the history of ‘487’ (Michigan Avenue) and I see the Providence of God at work presenting us with new opportunities and new responsibilities. If we do what the Lord asks us to do, we will thrive.
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