Santa Clara University

Religious Studies department

News & Events


Religious Studies News & Events

Religious Studies News & Events

  •  Welcome Roberto Mata

    Wednesday, Sep. 9, 2015
  •  AIMES Banquet

    Monday, Jun. 15, 2015

      On May 28, a banquet and reception were held in honor of students enrolled in AIMES (SCU's interdisciplinary program in Arabic, Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies). Attendance at this evening event (which welcomed students and faculty from across campus) was good; enrollment in AIMES has now reached a total of 20 students.

    Elijah Reynolds and David Pinault present Arabic studies award to AIMES graduating senior Dale Taylor

      Falafel (the best in the Bay Area), hummus, and tahini provided sustenance; undergrad Yasmeen Wanees D.J.'ed a brilliant master-mix of music by the likes of Fayrouz and Umm Kulsoom. Enough to bring back long-ago memories, all this, for anyone who's ever spent a hot summer night sipping mint tea outside Ali Baba's café in the dirty neon glow of Cairo's Tahreer Square.

      Program director David Pinault (Religious Studies) and AIMES faculty colleague Elijah Reynolds (Modern Languages) presented certificates (lettered in Arabic calligraphy) and book awards to five graduating AIMES seniors: Rachel Axelrod (Excellence in Middle Eastern Studies); Alex Bittner (Excellence in Islamic Studies); Yasmeen Wanees (Excellence in Advanced Arabic Studies); Dale Taylor (Excellence in Intermediate Arabic Studies); and John Lund (Recognition of Service Abroad in the Middle East). Upon graduation in June, Dale and John will also be commissioned as 2nd lieutenants in the US Army. Lieut. Colonel John Tiedeman and other officers in the teaching cadre of SCU's ROTC program attended our AIMES event to applaud what these students have achieved.

      Recognition was also given to AIMES students who will be traveling abroad this summer: Ashraf Hammad (Arabic language study in Morocco); Dale Taylor (a home stay and Arabic language study in Jordan); and Lindsey Allen and Brooke Latham (both of whom will be serving in Tanzania and Uganda as fellowship recipients in affiliation with SCU's Global Social Benefit program). Our prayers go with them all for safe travels this summer.

  •  Sister Helen Prejean Visit

    Monday, Jun. 15, 2015

    On April 13, Sister Helen Prejean visited the department's "Catholic Social Thought" section during the course of her stay for the second annual Dean's Leadership Forum. To make the most of her visit, the class read several articles on capital punishment and the Catholic tradition, including some essays Sr. Helen had authored connecting the death penalty to societal wounds such as racism, poverty and a culture of violence. Sr. Helen shared her personal journey of involvement very candidly with the class, tracing the narrative recounted in the award-winning Dead Man Walking and the recalling her visit with Pope John Paul II to discuss Catholic teaching on capital punishment.

    Sister Helen Prejean speaks to class on capital punishment and the Catholic tradition.

    She captivated the students with her insights and courage, and they seemed delighted and a bit surprised by her thoroughgoing warmth, humor and no-nonsense approach. Sr. Helen spoke directly about the Dzhokhar Tszarnaev trial then underway, which she would go on to testify at regarding her impressions of Tszarnaev's remorse several weeks later in light of her visits with him.

    The most memorable line she delivered was to caution that no one should be "freeze framed into the worst act they ever committed." This was a fitting note to sound for themes of the Catholic social thought course and Jesuit education more broadly. Sr. Helen delivered a public campus lecture that evening and had conversation with Paul Crowley, S.J. during the Q&A that followed, and she joined Martin Sheen in conversation with the campus community the following night.

  •  Annual Spring Reception

    Monday, Jun. 15, 2015

      The Religious Studies Department gathered in Adobe Lodge for the annual spring reception on Wednesday, May 20. As always, it was a relaxing and enjoyable pause in the rush towards the end of the school year.

    Jonathan Homrighausen ('15) receives an award during the annual reception.

      We celebrated the near-completion of another year, honored our graduating majors and minors, welcomed the new members of Theta Alpha Kappa, presented awards, and enjoyed an Italian-themed dinner and conversation with one another. Beyond the general celebration, two highlights characterized the evening. The first was Sally Vance-Trembath's musings on her vocation as a theologian.

      In a beautifully evocative reflection, Vance-Trembath spoke of growing up on the prairie--the simple but lush grasslands that cradled the Mississippi River in Iowa and framed the important places she knew as a child: parks, the cemetery where her father was buried, and the outdoor theater where she came to know and love Shakespeare. The strong prairie grass, Vance-Trembath shared, is a metaphor for her vocation: "a sturdy creature that took a long time to bloom and that survived many attempts to crowd it out and even kill it." she related the power of liturgy, of community, and of mystery that guided and sustained her vocation, nurtured in her family and its own story of loss and hope. A similar power was in the theater, which nurtured her desire to learn and her path to college and the professorate. In each place, a strong sense of community carried her along.

    Amia Nash, Professor Teresia Hinga and RS guest attend the spring reception.

      The other highlight was the reflections of graduating majors and minors, who spoke movingly about their experiences in the department. Many spoke of their unexpected turn to the department, swayed by a transformative classroom experience with an inspiring teacher who taught them to think in new ways and sustained by mentors who shepherded their growth and curiosity as majors and minors. In a time when it is easy to be cynical about higher education, especially in the Humanities, this year's graduates reminded faculty why they teach and provided evidence that the future is in good hands!

  •  Kudos to our Majors and Minors

    Monday, Jun. 15, 2015

    Religious studies Majors and Minors are out accomplishing amazing things. Here are some examples of what they have been up to this spring:

    Jonathan Homrighausen presented a paper on the significance of Francis' famous encounter with Sultan al-Kamil in Egypt during the fifth crusade at the spring meeting of the Western Region of the American Academy of Religion, which Santa Clara University hosted. Homrighausen was the only undergraduate who presented a paper at the meeting.

    Regina Fields directed and had a lead part in a staged reading of the play "The House That Will Not Stand," which included a conversation with the playwright, Marcus Gardley.

    Ian Layton was a leader of the Immigration Week activities, including the Border Wall, which highlighted the issue of immigration for the campus community.

    Gina Pasquali had her artwork featured at the Senior Art Show, titled "Realms of Intimacy: Personal Introspections of Briar Wren and Gina Pasquali" at the University Fine Arts Gallery.

    Three students also won awards for the most outstanding essays in their Pathways:
    Amia Nash in Global Health
    Susan Lewin in Paradigm Shifts and the Nature of Human Knowing
    Anthony Ferrari in Sustainability

  •  Beatification of Oscar Romero

    Monday, Jun. 15, 2015

    Ana Maria Pineda, R.S.M. attended the beatification of Oscar Romero last month. Here are her reflections on that momentous event:

      The long awaited beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador took place on Saturday, May 23, 2015 in San Salvador, El Salvador. The event was monumental, historical, and of incredible significance for this beautiful and still suffering country. After the tragedy of 12 years of civil war and its after affects, it was one glorious day when El Salvador could be confirmed in the fact that Archbishop Romero had truly lived a life in defense of the poor and most vulnerable and was doing it in the spirit of the Gospel. He was a man who saw the injustices and spoke out against them. He used the power of the word during his Sunday sermons and whenever the opportunity and need presented itself. But, aside from speaking out against the injustices suffered by many in El Salvador, his life was also a witness to the power of love.

      The joy and pride in the crowd was palpable. A round of "Viva Romero!" kept resounding at different moments until it seemed like a chorus. From all sides of the crowd this triumphant shout could be heard. The aerial view of the plaza was unimaginable. People were streaming from all directions converging on the plaza of El Divino Salvador (The Divine Savior, patron of El Salvador). It was estimated that 300,000 would attend, but the latest estimate was beyond that number.

    Portrait of Oscar Romero at his beatification.

      Others watched the 3 1/2 hour event on TV. The bells rang gloriously several times; the music was magnificent with touches of "pueblo" music combined with classic church songs. Throughout it all people joined in the singing. The Gospel was beautifully sung as a proclamation announcing this truly good news. Beato Oscar Romero of the Americas...The papal representative said, "Monseñor, you belong to us, but now you belong to the world." The shirt that he wore that day that still has the bullet hole and is stained by his blood was presented as a relic during the ceremony.

      The most talked about moment was the appearance in the sky of the circular rainbow. At the moment that they finished reading the proclamation by Pope Francis to have Romero included in the list of martyrs, a circular rainbow appeared right above the crowd. It was a moment of amazement as the crowd looked up to the heavens to see this gift of a rainbow. It stayed there for almost the duration of the ceremony.

      Ultimately, there are not words to describe this event. But, I for one felt that as a native Salvadoran, I was included in a historic event that will remain with me for a lifetime.

  •  Rutilio Grande Sermon

    Monday, Jun. 15, 2015

      When many hear the name Rutilio Grande S.J., they often think of Oscar Romero. Knowing Grande as the friend of Romero does not even begin to describe how important Grande was; prior to his assassination of 1977, Grande was an advocate for the poor and a warrior for social justice. In his ministry program, he taught the campesinos (peasants), empowered them with the teachings of the Gospel, and encouraged them to organize and advocate for their human rights. In addition to this, Grande was an incredible speaker who wrote powerful homilies that demanded justice.

      While in the class Salvadoran Martyrs, taught by Ana Maria Pineda, R.S.M., I learned how important Grande was as an innovator and a martyr, a person whose love cannot be measured. Thus, I wanted to learn as much as I could about Grande. I wanted to hear his words in order to be further inspired. I looked to find anything that he had written, something that would allow me to further encounter him. Although many of his sermons were likely destroyed by the government, I learned that there are a few of his sermons that have been saved. I was particularly interested in the "Apopa" sermon, the sermon that likely provoked his death. Immediately, after reading it in Spanish, I was amazed by the inspiring and powerful words of the sermon. And yet, I was even more surprised that the sermon had never been translated into English. I couldn't believe it. Instead of waiting for a publishing company to realize their mistake, I decided to spearhead a translation project myself. I consulted my professor, Ana Maria Pineda R.S.M., and she helped me brainstorm ways to make this idea a reality. I contacted the Ignatian Center and they were interested in publishing the sermon on their website. With their help, we contacted the Universidad Centroamericana in order to receive permission to do the translation. Thus, we could begin the project. My Modern Languages professor, Irene Bubula-Phillips, was the primary translator of the project. In addition, Carlos Duran, S.J., Olga Pavisich Ryan, and Jake Schneider assisted as additional translators, review the initial translation. With all of their work, we were able to publish the first section of the sermon on the anniversary of Oscar Romero's death, in honor of Rutilio Grande and Oscar Romero's friendship. I invite everyone to read Rutilio Grande's "Apopa" sermon; his critique of oppression and inequality is still very relevant to our world. After praying and reflecting on his words, we can participate on his mission of building a world where love and justice reign.

  •  Faculty Updates

    Monday, Jun. 15, 2015

    This quarter, Paul Crowley, S.J. published "Mystagogy and Mission: The Challenges of Nonbelief and the Task of Theology" in Theological Studies.

    James Bennett published a book chapter titled "Pseudo Religion and Real Religion: The Modern Anticult Movement and Religious Freedom in America" in the book The Lively Experiment: Religious Toleration in America from Roger Williams to the Present (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015). He also hosted a gathering of the Bay Area American Religion Group at Santa Clara on May 29.

    Oliver Putz established a collaboration with the Institute of Advance Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam, Germany, on the theological dimensions of climate change in general, and in particular, theological positions on climate engineering as a response to climate change. In March of this year, Putz visited the IASS to give a lecture and plan future shared projects. He will return to Potsdam for a month during the summer for further work. Together with the work group of Dr. Mark Lawrence, Putz is planning a symposium on the issue to be held in the summer of 2016. On June 9, Putz presented a paper at a symposium on Astrotheology in Berkeley, CA, where he presented a theological argument for the likelihood of extraterrestrial intelligent life.

    David Gray is currently finishing the second volume of his translation of Tsong Khapa's Illumination of the Hidden, an important work in Tibetan Buddhist scriptural hermeneutics. He will also be working this summer on editing the translation of Abhidnãnottaratantra, an Indian Buddhist scripture that he has been collaboratively translating over the past three years with a group of three other colleagues, with the support of 84,000 foundations.

    Phillip Boo Riley participated in a panel on "The Art of Interreligious Dialogue" at USF on Sunday, May 17, 2015, presenting a comparison of two artists who have represented the Christian cross through symbols and narratives of non-Christian traditions: Marc Chagall's "White Crucifixion" (1938) and Blake Debassige's "Tree of Life" (1984). The panel was convened by USF's Manresa Gallery in conjunction with an exhibit titled, "Undercover: Liturgical Garb as Investment in Mystery," which featured objects used in rituals, including vestments, drawn from Bay Area Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, Hindu and Muslim faith communities.

    Under the guidance of David DeCosse, the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics received a second substantial grant to continue work in the area of conscience and Catholicism. This second grant will support a conference (and, he hopes, a book to come out of the conference) in February 2016 on the theme of conscience and Catholic health care. The conference will be co-sponsored by the Ethics Center and by the Catholic Health Association of the United States. DeCosse will be co-organizing the conference and editing the resulting volume. Margaret McLean and Lisa Fullam of JST will be contributing essays. The first grant supported a conference held in September 2014 on the theme of conscience and Catholicism. The proceedings from that conference, co-edited by DeCosse and Kristin Heyer, will be published this fall by Orbis with the title Conscience and Catholicism: Rights, Responsibilities, and Institutional Responses.

    Elizabeth Drescher was a guest on the DRex show on KGO radio discussing the trend of "Nones" or those who do not identify with an established religion. She wrote an article in America magazine on the Scriptural practices of "Nones."

    Other News

    Joseph Alexander-Short, a 2014 Religious Studies major (and an International Studies, Communications and Political Science minor) was selected as alternate for a Fulbright Scholarship for a project in El Salvador on unaccompanied minors. Joe will receive a scholarship for his project if others are unable to accept their award. Congratulations Joe!

    The most recent issue of Explore, the journal of Santa Clara University's Ignatian Center, features several members of the Religious Studies Department: Faculty member Sally Vance-Trembath and major Ian Layton both had articles along with Gina Pasquali having an art piece featured.

    A group of 47 Religious Studies faculty, staff and friends attended the 16th annual trip to AT&T Park to see the world champion San Francisco Giants. Everyone had a great time seeing the Giants shut out the Miami Marlins, 6 to 0. Along with our usual crowd of RS Department attendees, we had College of Arts & Sciences friends from Art/Art History, Environmental Studies/Sciences, and Math/Computer Science.

    Religious Studies Faculty and staff share what books they have been currently reading:

    James Bennett
    Damned Nation: Hell in American from the Revolution and Reconstruction, by Kathryn Gin Lum. A fascination and readable account of changing ideas about hell and their influence on events such as abolitionism and the Civil War.

    David Gray
    Sarah Jacoby's book Love and Liberation: Autobiographical Writings of the Tibetan Buddhist Visionary Sera Khandro (2014) and Jesper Sörensen's A Cognitive Theory of Magic (AltaMira Press 2006). For fun, I'm reading Kazuo Ishiguro's novel The Buried Giant (Knopf 2015).

    Jan Giddings
    Neither Beast nor God: The Dignity of the Human Person by Gilbert Meilaender. Superb writing! The author considers human dignity and personal dignity in light of his critical consideration of the 2008 President's Council of Bioethics.

    David Pleins
    Philip Goldberg, American Veda: From Emerson and the Beatles to Yoga and Meditation--How Indian Spirituality Changed the West. (New York: Harmony Books, 2010). The title says it all! From the mystical to the zany, this book opens reader's eyes to the varied ways Hinduism has shaped American religious consciousness.


    The end of this year brings a number of transitions for the Religious Studies faculty:

      Akiba Lerner received tenure and has been promoted to Associate Professor. He will be on a well-earned sabbatical for 2015-2016.

      Kristin Heyer has accepted a position as Professor of Ethics at Boston College, where she earned her Ph.D.

      Jim Bennett has accepted a three-year term as Associate Provost of Undergraduate Studies. He will continue to teach courses periodically in the department.

      After four years of outstanding service, Gary Macy is stepping down as chair to become the full time director of the Graduate Program in Pastoral Ministries.

      In the most anticipated news for faculty members, it was just announced that David Gray has been appointed Chair of the Religious Studies Department. Department members are excited about having David as their leader for the next few years.

    Best wishes to each of these in their new roles!

  •  Fr. Salvatore A. Tassone, S.J. Retires

    Monday, Jun. 15, 2015

    By James Reites, S.J.

      Salvatore A. Tassone, S.J. came to Santa Clara in 1968 and has taught in the department ever since--47 years! I don't know if anyone has been on the Religious Studies faculty longer. This year, he is retiring from his position as Senior Lecturer.
      Father Tassone's expertise is in the study of the New Testament and his main area of academic interest is New Testament Christology. He is an active member of the Historical Jesus task force of the Catholic Biblical Association of America.
      In his field, he has been the authoritative Wikipedia on these issues for many of us in the department. Ask him any question in his area, and it is clear he's read everything available on the subject and judiciously shares with you his encyclopedic knowledge and critical reflections.
      I asked members of the department to send me a few thoughts on Sal's importance to them and I'd like to quote from a few of them:

      "Sal has been a great resource of the years to many of us, not only teaching key courses in New Testament, but also as a resource for faculty in other areas with questions about texts and scholarship related to his field."

      "I rely on him implicitly for all things in the area of New Testament Christology. I can ask him any question and he has a clear, thoughtful answer. It is absolutely true, I teach Christology from the bottom up and that's what Sal is an expert in."

      "What I love about him when you ask for help, is that he assumes you are as learned in the subject as he is! He asks your view on the issues, even though he is the one who knows the most about it."

      "I can't tell you how much students have named Fr. Tassone as one of their favorite teachers. He really has led students to a deep understanding of the Bible."

      Perhaps even more important is the esteem Sal's colleagues have for him as a caring person. One colleague writes: "I always appreciated his keen interest to move students to a more thoughtful view of the Bible. And over the years we've had many such chats that I've enjoyed. But I also have to say that I especially appreciated his always asking about the family. Such a down-to-earth and humble person!"
      Another writes: "When I think of Sal that is how much I think of him: alert and present with kindness and care." And still another: "When I was brand new to the department, Sal learned my name and always had time to chat in the hallway. He has always been welcoming and inclusive of everyone."
      And finally, to sum up, one last quote. High praise from another New Testament scholar, who puts him in the league of the great New Testament scholars:
      "Sal's nearly 50 years of teaching about Christ in the four Gospels makes him one of that great generation of Catholic New Testament scholars entering the field in the '60s, in the wake of Divino Afflante Spiritu and Vatican II. Like Ray Brown, he dedicated himself to gospel study, like John Meier, he seemed to have read every book and article, but unlike either of them, he taught undergraduate students for 47 years."
      Salvatore A. Tassone, S.J., we wish you all goodness and happiness in your retirement. Know that we are grateful Sal, for all that you have done, for all that you have meant to your students, and to us over these many years.

      Ad Multos Annos

  •  2015 Award Recipients

    Friday, May. 22, 2015

    Student Awards

    Several prizes and honors are awarded by the University and the various undergraduate colleges each year for exceptional research and service by Santa Clara students. We would like to honor and acknowledge those religious studies majors and minors who have earned the high regard of the department and the University.

    Religious Studies Prize - Jonathan Homrighausen

    Theodore J. Mackin Senior Paper Award - Gina Pasquali

    Tennant C. Wright, SJ Award for Outstanding RS Minor - Amia Nash

    Catherine Bell Award - Gus Hardy

    Joseph A. Grassi Social Justice Award - Ian Layton

    Chair's Recognition Award - Anthony Ferrari


    Graduating Majors:

    Marianna Allen Jonathan Homrighausen
    Tyson Dethlefsen Ian Layton
    Lindsay Fay Susan Lewin
    Anthony Ferrari Gina Pasquali
    Regina Fields Samuel Reigel


    Graduating Minors:

    Nikita Amundsen Claire Ingebretsen
    Brenda Arellano Christian Kenney
    Jessica Farran Amia Nash
    John Gotcher Alejandra Ruiz
    Catherine Rose Grimes Bertha Uribe
    Araceli Gutierrez Eric Wu


    New Theta Alpha Kappa Honor Society Members:

    Nikita Amundesen Christian Kenney
    Brenda Arellano Blair Libby
     Jessica Farran  Jenna Lipman
     Regina Fields  Sophia Lyon
     Analisa Fuentes  Samuel Riegel
     Gus Hardy  Alejandra Ruiz
     Christopher Iliff  Bertha Uribe
     Claire Ingebretsen  Eric Wu


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