A Closer Look at Catholicism

Story by Erin Hallissy

A new Catholic Tradition minor will be offered beginning this fall for students who want to delve more deeply into a critical understanding of Catholicism.

The minor builds on the two religious studies courses required of all SMC students: Introduction to Biblical Literature and an upper-division religious studies course. Students who minor in Catholic Tradition will be required to take four more courses in such areas as church history, Catholic social teaching, Christian spirituality, The Catholic Imagination and Jesus, the Man and the Myth.

"Even though we feel a student can get a good education in Catholicism, we decided maybe we needed to be more explicit," said Paul Giurlanda, chair of the Religious Studies Department.

SMC students are interested in a wide variety of religions — classes such as Intro to Islam, Intro to Judaism and Eastern Religion often have waiting lists, Giurlanda said. About 60 students minor in religious studies, and the new Catholic Tradition minor will offer students support, structure and guidance.

"By the time they graduate, they will have been taught the tools of critical analysis used in the study of Catholicism, but also helped to develop a sympathetic awareness of the beauty and importance of this tradition, so central to the College," Giurlanda wrote in the proposal to the Academic Senate. "Students see how the tradition they've learned about in the earlier courses 'plays out' in their own lives and in the life of our culture."

The new minor will have no financial impact on the College since the courses are already offered by current faculty members and the library is well-stocked in the field of Catholicism.

Giurlanda said two recently hired faculty members, Zach Flanagin and Marie Pagliarini, plan fascinating classes, including Lived Catholicism and Women, Religion and Power in America.

Flanagin is also planning a parallel faculty and staff discussion in the fall, similar to Seminar, focusing on the writings of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, an abbot from the early 12th century who was a gifted spiritual writer.