New IREPM Head Chosen

New IREPM Head Chosen

By Sean Smith
Chronicle Editor

Mary Ann Hinsdale, IHM, a systematics theology scholar who has chaired the Department of Religious Studies at the College of the Holy Cross since 1995, will be the new director of the Boston College Institute of Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry.

The University announced earlier this month that Hinsdale will assume the IREPM directorship and an appointment as associate professor in the Theology Department effective Sept. 1. She succeeds Adj. Assoc. Prof. Claire Lowery (Theology), the institute's director since 1994, who is retiring from Boston College after 25 years.

Hinsdale will oversee one of the largest graduate facilities in North America dedicated to educating men and women in religious education and pastoral ministry. The 29-year-old institute serves approximately 500 students a year, offering a master of arts degree in pastoral ministry with such concentrations as spirituality, pastoral counseling, church leadership and youth ministry.

IREPM also offers a master's degree in education, a doctoral program in religion and education and continuing education opportunities, and has drawn praise for its joint degree programs in social work, counseling psychology and nursing.

"I think IREPM is arguably the best pastoral ministry institute in the English-speaking world," said Hinsdale, a member of the Michigan-based Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary order. "The quality of the faculty in IREPM, and the BC Theology Department, has always impressed me. The institute believes in the creation of community, something upon which I place great value."
Mary Ann Hinsdale, IHM

"Mary Ann brings some very notable strengths and experience to the job, as the chair of a respected religious studies department and as a noted systematics theologian," said Vice President and Assistant to the President William B. Neenan, SJ, who led the search committee for the IREPM director. "She also has taught at a major seminary [St. John's Provincial Seminary in Plymouth, Mich.] and is secretary of the Catholic Theological Society.

"She will provide spirited leadership to the institute, and in so doing, contribute significantly to the mission of this Jesuit and Catholic university."

Hinsdale said she sees IREPM's task of preparing men and women for lay ministerial leadership as one of great importance to the Catholic Church.

"It is clear that the future of the Church is more and more in the hands of the laity," she explained. "While the bond between the clergy and the laity will always be at the heart of the Church, the need for a theologically trained laity is unmistakable. What the institute can contribute in terms of spirituality and formation for lay ministry is vital."

Other priorities, Hinsdale said, include developing and strengthening programs aimed at young adults in the Church. "Parishes are a wasteland for 18-35 year-olds," she said. "If they have no children or if they're not married, it's often hard for them to feel a connection to the parish. There is a need to reflect theologically on the world that this particular segment of the Church inhabits and work toward engaging them spiritually."

Hinsdale cited the institute's international scope as one of its most valuable assets. "People come to IREPM from all over the world, not just the US," she said. "The potential is there for an expanded world view which can illuminate its teaching and outreach. I think this is a tremendous advantage for the institute and what it hopes to accomplish."

A 1970 graduate of Margrove College in Detroit, Hinsdale earned a master's degree in religious education from the Catholic University of America, an STL in systematic theology from Regis College and a doctorate in systematic theology from University of St. Michael's College in Toronto.

She joined the Holy Cross faculty in 1987 as an assistant professor and was promoted to associate professor in 1993. Along with her five years as an assistant professor at St. John's Provincial Seminary, Hinsdale's teaching experience has included serving as the Warren Distinguished Visiting Professor of Catholic Studies at the University of Tulsa, and as an adjunct instructor at Christian Brothers College of the Memorial University of Newfoundland.

Among her many scholarly publications, Hinsdale's co-authored work, "It Comes From the People": Community Development and Local Theology, is widely used in education and theology courses that stress participatory action research. She is currently working on An Interdisciplinary Sourcebook in Catholic Studies, a book project funded by the Louisville Institute.


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