BC Professor to Head Catholic Theological Society

BC Professor to Head Catholic Theological Society

Copeland just one of many ties between University and CTSA

By Mark Sullivan
Staff Writer

With its next two presidents currently teaching at Boston College and a distinguished line of officials and honorees from the Heights, the Catholic Theological Society of America might readily go by the initials BCTSA.

M. Shawn Copeland will assume the presidency of the Catholic Theological Society of America next month, while her Theology Department colleague Roberto Goizueta will become president-elect. (Photo by Gary Gilbert)
M. Shawn Copeland, Ph.D.'91, a systematic theologian and scholar of African-American Catholicism who taught at BC this year as Joseph Visiting Professor of Catholic Theology, is to become president of the CTSA at the close of its annual meeting in June. Copeland recently accepted a permanent position in the BC Theology Department.

Meantime, Prof. Roberto Goizueta (Theology) is to become president-elect, in line for the leadership next year.

They continue a strong tradition of Boston College involvement in the CTSA, the nation's premier professional association for Catholic theologians [http://ctsa.bc.edu/ctsa/].

"It does say a lot for our Theology Department that there are a lot of leaders here," said Goizueta, currently vice president of the society. Assoc. Prof. Mary Ann Hinsdale, IHM, director of the Boston College Institute for Religious Education and Pastoral ministry, is secretary, and Prof. Francis X. Clooney, SJ (Theology), is a member of the board.

Past CTSA presidents with BC ties include Monan Professor of Theology Lisa Sowle Cahill (1992-93), Canisius Professor of Theology Michael Buckley, SJ (1991-92), and former IREPM director Rev. Richard McBrien (1973-74), who now holds the Crowley-O'Brien-Walter Chair in Theology at Notre Dame.

Past winners of the society's John Courtney Murray Award for excellence in Catholic theology include Fr. Buckley (2000), Flatley Professor of Theology David Hollenbach, SJ (1998), Adj. Prof. Francis Sullivan, SJ (1994), the late Edward Kilmartin, SJ (1978), Fr. McBrien (1976) and the late Bernard Lonergan, SJ (1973). A number of BC theologians have served on the society's board.

"It's a tribute to Boston College that so many of its board members and officers have come from BC over the years," said Sister Hinsdale, who described the CTSA as a continuing "force for vital inquiry" in Catholicism.
Three-hundred members of the CTSA will gather at their annual meeting in Cincinnati June 5-8 to reflect on their vocation as theologians.

The theme was chosen by president-elect Copeland. A sense of calling, she said, has long been central in her own life, as a black Catholic inspired by a devout grandmother and by the teaching sisters of her Detroit parochial school days in the era of Vatican II; as a Dominican nun herself for more than 25 years, and now, as an academic theologian.
"Vocation is listening to God within your own life," said Copeland, who came from the theology faculty at Marquette University to serve as the Joseph Chair at Boston College. "Our fundamental vocation comes at our baptism: as Ephesians puts it, to live a life worthy of our calling as Christians."

She described her agenda as CTSA president thus: "We're going to continue constructive relations with the bishops. I would be concerned we continue to support due process for victim survivors of clergy abuse and for accused clergy. And we will seek clarification of what a 'just war' is."

Copeland specializes in systematic theology, with particular attention to theological anthropology, liberation and political theologies, and African-American religious experience and culture. She currently is preparing a book titled Suffering, Solidarity, and the Cross.

Fr. Clooney, who is completing his term on the CTSA board, described Copeland as "a solid and sensible Roman Catholic theologian with a solid grasp of the Catholic tradition and Catholic teachings on various theological issues."

He cited her experience as a theological educator in the African-American community. In addition to teaching as an associate professor of theology at Marquette, Copeland has served as an adjunct professor of systematic theology at the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University in New Orleans.

"She knows the American Church from the perspective of African-Americans, men and women," said Fr. Clooney. "She is also therefore sensitive to ecumenical issues, and also to the wider range of social issues affecting theology and the Church in today's American cities."

He expressed hope her agenda as CTSA president would include "ensuring that new voices are heard in American Catholic theology, that theology, Church, and the many different ways of being American Catholic are all woven into an ongoing conversation."


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