Lunch with Auxiliary Bishop Ron Hicks
In an attempt to build stronger and healthier dialogical bridges between the academy and the episcopal hierarchy in the Catholic Church, the Catholic Theological Society of America has sponsored an initiative to provide grants for bishops and theologians to meet for social and intellectual exchange, usually in the context of discussing a shared text.
IPS was awarded such a grant and met with Auxiliary Bishop Ron Hicks this week. IPS faculty and staff members Michael Canaris, David Dault, timone davis, Peter Jones, Heidi Russell, Bill Schmidt, Nathaniel Samuel, Deborah Watson, and John Fontana along with Bishop Hicks discussed Synodality in the life and mission of the Church, a study by the International Theological Commission, that serves in an advisory capacity to the Pope and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on current relevant topics.
Bishop Hicks, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Chicago, previously served as regional director at an orphanage in El Salvador between 2005 and 2009, and for that reason IPS chose to enjoy Salvadorian food (including the local staple — pupusas!) for this meeting. The bishop was also at one time Dean of Formation for St. Joseph College Seminary in its earlier iteration as an academic unit at Loyola.
The conversation included an ongoing commitment to mutual active listening by those seeking to live in the community of the faith at all levels. Both Bishop Hicks and the IPS professors commented on how modeling such behavior is an important antidote to the tribalism and silos of our day. Oscar Romero was frequently invoked in the discussions.
The Catholic Theological Society of America is the principal association of Catholic theologians in North America. Founded in 1946 it has over 1300 members and is the largest professional society of theologians in the world. As stated in their guiding documents, the purpose of CTSA is to promote theological research in the Roman Catholic tradition that is attentive to contemporary problems faced by the Church and the world. Obviously, this conversation and relationship-building initiative touched on ecumenical and social themes that extended far beyond the bounds of the visible Catholic Church.
As the convener of the session, Professor Canaris expressed his gratitude for the project. “It came up in my colleagues’ comments that we are in an anomalous historical and political situation where an outside grant is sometimes necessary to spur dialogue in some places between Catholic higher education and local ordinaries. We are thankfully in a much healthier context here in Chicago, where Bishop Hicks, Cardinal Cupich, and the wider archdiocesan apparatus are largely supportive of the work in which we are engaged in forming lay leaders and advocates for social justice here at Loyola in general, and in the IPS in particular. However, I remain thankful for this CTSA initiative which enabled us to deepen these relationships and plan for future collaboration and mutual support. We will be following up with our local leaders when we host some events at the USCCB meetings alongside them this November, as is our recent tradition here.”
More information about the grant initiative can be found here: https://ctsa-online.org/TheologicalGroupDiscussions