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STM Faculty Examine the Nature of ‘Hope’

Four of the School of Theology and Ministry faculty contributors to Hope: Promise, Possibility, and Fulfillment – (L-R) to Christopher Matthews, Rev. Richard Lennan, Nancy Pineda-Madrid and John R. Sachs, SJ – at the book’s launch last semester. (Photo by Caitlin Cunningham)

By Kathleen Sullivan | Chronicle Staff

Published: Jan. 16, 2014

A recently published faculty book from the School of Theology and Ministry examines the promise, possibility and fulfillment of Christian hope — a collaborative project that itself is a testament to the possibilities that were envisioned when Boston College and Weston Jesuit School of Theology reaffiliated in 2008.

Seventeen members of the STM faculty, from both the ecclesiastical faculty and the Department of Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry, came together to write original essays for Hope: Promise, Possibility, and Fulfillment, co-edited by STM Professor Rev. Richard Lennan and Associate Professor Nancy Pineda-Madrid.

Fr. Lennan, who had the idea for the book, said the project “gave [the STM faculty] an opportunity to come together to talk about theology in a way we don’t usually do when we are working on our own separate projects. It really led to some great lunchtime conversations.”

Added Pineda-Madrid, “The book is a work of our combined scholarship and represents the integration of the school as a whole. It’s a symbol of the STM.”

Hope presents a theology of hope, connecting it to the principal themes of Christian faith, the revelation of God in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. The authors each approached the topic of hope from their academic specialty, from liturgical theology to biblical studies to systematic theology to moral theology, and beyond. In their essays, they describe hope found in a variety of contexts, from the liturgy to migration and from the Gospel of John to St. Paul and Thomas Aquinas.

“Hope is a word we all use, but what does it mean?” said Fr. Lennan, who described two extremes common to human experience: despair and denial, or an optimism that is blind to anything bad. “Christian hope lives in the space between. It is clear-eyed. It is knowing that things are not perfect but having the belief that God will come to meet us. That trust is hope. It’s what sustains us and allows us to keep moving.”

In the opening of the book, hope is described as both a gift and a choice. Hope is not a matter of temperament, according to the editors, but is about choice and practice.

Pineda-Madrid, who authored a chapter on “Hope and Salvation in the Shadow of Tragedy,” says that hope is fragile. “Evil is quite real in our world and nothing challenges hope more than the presence of tragedy and intense suffering. But we are challenged to come to terms with the suffering and resist the temptation to despair.”

While it is an academic study, Hope is not something reserved for a scholarly environment, according to Fr. Lennan, who noted that the volume is dedicated to the students of STM, past, present and future. He says the book is suitable for reading and discussion among parish groups and families.

In addition to Fr. Lennan and Pineda-Madrid, the STM faculty members who contributed to Hope are: John Baldovin, SJ; Francine Cardman; Dominic Doyle; Christopher Frechette, SJ; Colleen Griffith; Thomas Groome; Daniel Harrington, SJ; Philip Browning Helsel; Christopher Matthews; Hosffman Ospino; John Sachs, SJ; Thomas Stegman, SJ; O. Ernesto Valiente, and Andrea Vicini, SJ. Another contributor is former STM faculty member Thomas Massaro, SJ, now dean of Santa Clara University’s Jesuit School of Theology.