Santa Clara University

Religious Studies department

News & Events


Religious Studies News & Events

Religious Studies News & Events

  •  Film & Discussion: Pray the Devil Back to Hell

    Tuesday, Apr. 14, 2015

    When: Thursday, April 23, 2015; 7:00-9:00 PM
    Where: Wiegand Room, Vari Hall 102

    Sponsored by: SCU Anti-Human Trafficking Study Group & Local Religions Project (Both of the Religious Studies Department)

    The film documents Christian & Muslim nonviolent actions of Liberian women striving for sustainability & peace. Discussants include: Prof. Harry Odamtten (History); SCU Anti-Human Trafficking Group & YOU.

    In compliance with the ADA/504, please direct your accommodation requests to: Religious Studies Department at 408-554-4547 or by email

  •  Celebrating Teilhard de Chardin

    Monday, Apr. 13, 2015

    Santa Clara University Announces

    Celebrating Teilhard de Chardin

    Pioneer in the Dialogue between Religion and Science

    by Dr. Ursula King (University of Bristol, UK)

    Sixty years after the death of the great Jesuit paleontologist and theologian, these lectures undertake an examination of the roots of his life and thought, his evolutionary mysticism, and a spirituality for our time.

    Ursula King, STL (Paris), MA (Delhi) PhD (London), FRSA, is Professor Emerita of Theology and Religious Studies and Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies, University of Bristol. She has published numerous books and articles, especially on gender issues in religions, method and theory, modern Hinduism, interfaith dialogue, spirituality, and on the thought of Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin.

    These lectures are sponsored by Santa Clara University:  Office of the President, Jesuit School of Theology, Religious Studies Department, Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education, Program in Catholic Studies, Santa Clara Jesuit Community; and by the Catholic Community at Stanford.

    Tuesday, April 28
    7:00 PM, Gesu Chapel, 1735 LeRoy Avenue, Berkeley, California 94709

    “Following the Road of Fire”: The Emergence of Teilhard de Chardin’s Panchristic Mysticism during the First World War. 

    Wednesday, April 29
    7:30 PM, Santa Clara Mission Church, Santa Clara University

    Searching for an Evolutionary Spirituality and New Mysticism in a Global World:  A  Dialogue with Teilhard de Chardin.

    Thursday, April 30:
    7:30 PM, Memorial Church, Stanford University

    The Universe as Epiphany: Teilhard de Chardin’s Discovery of the Heart of God in all Creation.

  •  Searching for an Evolutionary Spirituality and New Mysticism in a Global World

    Thursday, Apr. 9, 2015
    Dr. Ursula King

    Searching for an Evolutionary Spirituality and New Mysticism in a Global World

    A dialogue with Teilhard de Chardin

    Sixty years after the death of the great Jesuit paleontologist and theologian, Dr. Ursula King examines his roots, mysticism and importance for contemporary issues of science and religion.

    Dr. Ursula King, STL (Paris), MA (Delhi) PhD (London), FRSA, is Professor Emerita of Theology and Religious Studies and Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies, University of Bristol. She has published numerous books and articles, especially on gender issues in religions, method and theory, modern Hinduism, interfaith dialogue, spirituality, and on the thought of Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin.

    Wednesday, April 29 at 7:30 PM.
    Santa Clara Mission Church


    In compliance with the ADA/504, please direct your accommodation requests to: Religious Studies Department at 408-554-4547 or by email at

  •  Piecing Together the Past: Collaborating to Rebuild a Biblical Manuscript

    Tuesday, Mar. 24, 2015

    Jonathan Homrighausen (with contributions from Dr. Catherine Murphy)

    When I first came to SCU, I had studied biblical Hebrew for a year under a rabbi. Since SCU doesn’t offer regular courses in Hebrew, Dr. Murphy took me under her wing, spending three quarters helping me with the language and eventually preparing me to take Advanced Hebrew at the GTU. Now, as the culmination of our work together, I am helping her put together a critical edition of a two-thousand-year-old manuscript of twelve prophetic books found among the Dead Sea Scrolls (4QXIIg). Even though it’s a relatively complete manuscript of these prophets (Hosea, Amos, Jonah, etc.), it’s so fragmentary  and so hard to read that one of the first scholars to work on it called it the “dirty little XII” (or “the Dirty Dozen”). The inside of the scroll is still bound together, unable to be unwrapped without completely disintegrating!

    Though Dr. Murphy worked on this manuscript while she was a doctoral student at Notre Dame, the timetable of publication did not allow the lead editor to identify all the fragments. They identified the easiest, largest fragments and left the rest for later. Our work has been focused on these tiny fragments, often containing only parts of several letters, written in the idiosyncratic script of a long-dead Essene scribe. We are also cataloguing new evidence of the manuscript that was missed in the first edition, along with new contents now visible through technologically enhanced photographic techniques.

    Our work began with Dr. Murphy contacting the Israel Antiquities Authority, curators of the Dead Sea Scrolls, to order high-quality photos of the fragments. Many fragments have deteriorated to the point that their writing is invisible to the naked eye, and one can only see the contents with special kinds of light. Once she had the digital image of each fragment, Dr. Murphy located the fragment in the minor prophets based on later manuscripts of the Hebrew text and patterns of deterioration in the manuscript. At this point she has identified most of the fragments that can be identified. My work now is putting together her identified fragments into our partial reconstruction of the scroll.

    As an undergraduate, it’s easy to feel like I can’t put my knowledge to good use for the world. This project has helped me use the skills from my three years of Hebrew to good use. I enjoy that greatly. But don’t get me wrong: textual criticism is frustrating: there’s a section of the scroll we cannot unroll (until better technology comes along!), there are fragments that remain unidentifiable, and we have found only minor spelling differences, not history-making variants. But most importantly, throughout our collaboration, Dr. Murphy has shown me a model of the kind of work that creates good scholarship: slow, careful, often unexciting but always thorough. I hope to carry this model into graduate school and my future life as an academic.

    In February, Religious Studies major Jonathan Homrighausen gave a presentation on his research on Buddhist-Christian dual belonging. In his research, Homrighausen interviewed eight Christians who also converted to Buddhism to understand both their conversion process and how they navigated their dual identities. While Abrahamic faiths tend to see conversion as a process of replacing old beliefs with new ones, he argues that the conversion experience is more similar to speaking Spanglish. In January, Homrighausen received word from Thomas Cattoi at the Jesuit School of Theology that his research would be published in this fall's issue of Buddhist-Christian Studies, the premier peer-reviewed journal for Buddhist-Christian dialogue and scholarship. Homrighausen says that his talk to the department was a satisfying capstone to the whole process. He notes that the best part of the talk was the very lively discussion that followed. Homrighausen is grateful to David Gray and Sarita Tamayo-Moraga for their help on this project.

  •  Homeless Census 2015

    Tuesday, Mar. 24, 2015

    Philip Boo Riley

    Every two years cities across the country complete a HUD-mandated census of homeless people. In 2013 San Jose/Silicon Valley’s homeless numbers ranked fifth nationally among major urban areas. I’ve volunteered for the last three censuses, showing up with my car and cell phone at my embarkation point around 5:30 a.m. to pick up a map with the census tract to cover and meet the one or two homeless people who serve as guides for volunteers like me. We’d spend the next 4-5 hours driving and walking around, tallying (they call it “point in time”) the number of homeless individuals, families, children, and encampments we see in our tract. A plus to this volunteer work is that I spend time with people I usually do not meet—my homeless guide for 2015 had just been released from over twenty years in prison, and until finding a place at the San Jose Family Shelter, he and his wife and her 14 year old daughter had been living in their car.

    Although a practice not encouraged by the people running the census, my guide wanted to help me make contact with other homeless people, so we had several conversations with the people we were counting—including the gentleman in this photo, who I learned had emigrated from Viet Nam over twenty years ago. He has been living on the banks of Coyote Creek near the San Jose Golf Course for the past 18 months. The census culminates in 100+ page reports published later in the year. It is interesting to read through the data charts and policy recommendations and realize that they began with volunteers and guides trying to make contact with people who are finding their way in the Silicon Valley without a home.

  •  SCU Anti-Human Trafficking Study Group

    Tuesday, Mar. 24, 2015

    Following a two-day workshop last year coordinated by the Diocese of San Jose’s Human Trafficking Network committee, Teresia Hinga and Jonathan Fung (Communication) decided to gather an interest group to raise awareness and inspire action at SCU about human trafficking. The group received a Bannan Institute grant and has continued to meet regularly. In addition to Hinga, who serves as chair, and Fung, the group includes three other members of the Religious Studies department: Jan Giddings, Karen Peterson-Iyer, and Joe Morris. The goal has been to study collaboratively and become informed on the multiple intersecting aspects of human trafficking, also referred to as modern day slavery. Both together and individually we work to develop processes and avenues whereby we can take what we have learned to disseminate information and motivate others to become aware and involved in anti-trafficking action.

    On January 29th, we gathered both SCU and SJSU students along with a few community members (over 90 people) to view the film, Not My Life, which depicts “the cruel and dehumanizing practices of human trafficking and modern slavery on a global scale” ( The discussion afterward was rich with students’ insightful comments and reaction to the multi-faceted problem of human trafficking.

    The group has been involved in numerous activities in the classroom, on campus, in the community, and in the academy. Jan Giddings, who is also a lecturer at SJSU, has engaged over 600 students in research and campus-wide information days, bringing awareness to this local and global moral issue. In Spring 2015, Giddings will teach a unit on forced-Labor Trafficking in her Religious Ethics and Business course (TESP 164). Karen Peterson-Iyer, who presented a paper on the topic at the Society of Christian Ethics, has also developed and will be teaching a new course in the RS department entirely devoted to exploration/analysis of human trafficking: Human Trafficking and Christian Ethics (TESP 108). On February 27 and 28, Jonathan Fung, who is the faculty advisor for the Freedom Project: Students Against Human Trafficking Club, participated in their “Stand for Freedom“ event, in which SCU students stood for 27 consecutive hours to raise awareness regarding the 27 million people enslaved around the globe today. In addition, Fung continues to screen his award winning short film, “Hark,” which deals with human trafficking.

    Under Hinga’s leadership, the SCU Anti-Human Trafficking Study Group will participate in a number of programs during the Spring quarter. The group, appreciates the invitation to share our story thus far through Perspectives, and we hope that our understanding of the issue will continue to grow and that more people will become involved in this increasingly global and local (glocal) project to end human trafficking and modern day slavery.

    One event that the group has planned is a Human Trafficking Film viewing, happening on April 23th from 7:00PM to 9:00PM in the Wiegand Room. 

  •  ISIS Panel

    Tuesday, Mar. 24, 2015

    On January 28, 2015, the Department of Religious Studies and AIMES (SCU's interdisciplinary minor program in Arabic, Islamic & Middle Eastern Studies) co-sponsored a panel entitled "ISIS/The Islamic State: History, Symbolism, and Ideology."

    Professor Elijah Reynolds (Modern Languages), in his talk on "Brand Recognition and the Da'esh Crime Syndicate," gave attention to the issue of nomenclature. Rather than "legitimize" ISIS by referring to this terrorist group as "Islamic" in any way, argued Professor Reynolds, it's better to call it by its Arabic acronym "Daesh," a word that for Arabic-language speakers echoes a word that also means "trample, crush, tread underfoot"---a term that evokes the hugely destructive force of this organization. He also argued that rather than understand this group in terms of religion, it's more appropriate to think of it as a "crime syndicate," like drug cartels in other parts of the world--that is, as an organization primarily concerned with making money.

    Professor David Pinault (Religious Studies), in discussing "What Makes ISIS Attractive?", while acknowledging the political and economic dimensions of this Islamist organization, argued that the religious aspect of ISIS must be kept in mind in order to understand what has drawn tens of thousands of young Muslims to the ranks of ISIS from around the world. Drawing on his work in Indonesia interviewing members of the "Islamic Defenders Front" (a militant group on the island of Java currently competing for "market share" with ISIS) and on his study of ISIS's online "newsletter," Pinault argued that ISIS's attraction lies in its appeal to young Muslims who are idealistic but who also, in their desire for ideological clarity and purity, reject modernity and its attendant complexities (anonymity, individualism, and pluralism; the responsibility for constructing a viable spirituality amidst competing worldviews; and the need to tolerate doubt and ambiguity in our multivalent, cacophonous 21st century).

    The 45 minutes of Q-and-A that followed the presentations demonstrated that the audience took a lively interest in the topics raised by the panelists.

  •  Rabbi Skorka Visits SCU

    Tuesday, Mar. 24, 2015

    Akiba Lerner

    This winter quarter I was honored to host Rabbi Abraham Skorka to our campus and to my class on Jewish Philosophy. R. Skorka is most famous for having written a book with Pope Francis titled, On Heaven and Earth: Pope Francis on Faith, Family, and the Church in the Twenty-First Century (2013). In my Jewish philosophy class we had just completed a section devoted to inter-religious dialogue culminating in the reading of his book, and therefore were delighted to have R. Skorka come and answer questions about his book and his relationship with the Pope. During the question and answer period, students raised questions covering a diverse field of topics ranging from concerns over contemporary Argentinian politics in the wake of the death of the chief investigator into the bombing of the Jewish community center to the challenges of creating a dialogue between science and religion. Later in the afternoon R. Skorka gave a much larger talk addressed to the entire campus community and other community organizations on the nature of his relationship with the Pope and the importance of inter-religious dialogue. After his talk in the St. Clare room, Bishop McGrath and Rabbi Magat from the local community joined him on stage for a panel discussion on inter-religious dialogue. From R. Skorka’s and the other participants in the discussions throughout the day, the big take away was the importance of personal relations and friendships in making genuine dialogue work. Reading philosophical reflections on the nature of dialogue this past quarter and then having a chance to experience inter-religious dialogue in action was a wonderful moment for all who participated. Overall, this was a great moment for both the university and for those committed to ecumenical dialogue in this area.

  •  Religious Studies and the Bannan Institute

    Tuesday, Mar. 24, 2015

    Over the last three years, faculty members throughout the university, including several Religious Studies faculty members, have partnered with the Bannan Institute in building courses around the Bannan Institute quarterly lecture series or incorporating select Bannan lectures into their course schedules. For example, in Fall 2012, Mick McCarthy, S.J. offered a course designed around the six-week Bannan Institute series: “Sacred Politics: So Help Me God? Scriptural Authority and Public Conscience.” Students were able to engage with speakers directly following each linked public lecture. In Winter 2014, David Pleins and Oliver Putz each designed courses in conjunction with the Bannan Institute lecture series: “God and Reality: Emergent Scientific, Technological, and Religious Paradigms” and the related symposium: “Science and Seeking: Rethinking the God-Question in the Lab, Cosmos, and Classroom.” Both Pleins and Putz were able to collaborate with the Bannan Institute in the selection of speakers and the framing of the corresponding public lectures and symposium linked with their courses.

    This quarter, Theresa Ladrigan-Whelpley offered a Religious Studies course, TESP 183 (Ignatian Spirituality), in conjunction with the Winter 2015 Bannan Institute series: “Ignatian Leadership and Faith: Discernment, Dialogue, and Freedom.” Throughout the course, students were invited to explore Ignatian notions of freedom and indifference, Ignatian resources for intercultural and interreligious dialogue, Ignatian encounters with Jesus, Ignatian commitments to justice, and Ignatian practices of discernment not only through class lectures/discussions and their integrated Arrupe placements, but also through the contributions of living exemplars such as Jim Martin, S.J., Simone Campbell, S.S.S., John O’Malley, S.J., and Rabbi Abraham Skorka. The wisdom and witness of these “guest lecturers” significantly enhanced the way in which students critically engaged and appropriated the living tradition of Ignatian spiritualty throughout the class. Also this quarter, Akiba Lerner and Jean Molesky-Poz (among others) incorporated select Bannan Institute lectures into their courses and hosted Bannan Institute speakers for more integrated class.

    If you are interested in linking your course with select Bannan Institute speakers, or collaborating with the Bannan Institute to co-design a future quarterly lecture series in conjunction with a course, please contact Theresa Ladrigan-Whelpley, Director of the Bannan Institutes, or (408) 554-4383.

  •  Faculty Updates

    Tuesday, Mar. 24, 2015

    This quarter Kristin Heyer published “Immigration and ‘Family Values’: A Postconciliar Moral Assessment,” in Erin Brigham, ed., Signs of the Times (Lexington, 2014), which also features a chapter by JST Dean Thomas Massaro, and she created “A Catholic Ethic of Immigration,” Catholic Comments Podcast (Creighton University). She delivered Seattle University's Catholic Heritage Lecture on the church as a field hospital at the border(s) and a keynote address for Notre Dame's conference celebrating 50 Years of Gaudium et Spes: “‘An Echo in their Hearts’: The Church in Our Modern World." She also joined David DeCosse of the Markkula Center and Bill O'Neill of JST on a panel at Stanford sponsored by its Catholic community: “The Faith That Does Justice: Symposium in Response to the Heyns Lecture Delivered by Cardinal Reinhard Marx."

    Sally Vance-Trembath wrote an Op-Ed piece for the San Francisco Chronicle pertaining to a San Francisco pastor’s recent decision to restrict altar serving to boys only. She was also a guest on “The O’Reilly Factor," speaking about the role of religion in the struggle with the ISIS. In addition, she will be co-directing the on-campus Lenten Retreat: “From Ashes to Easter,” happening March 15, for the Alumni Association in conjunction with Fr. Jack Treacy. On March 16, Vance-Trembath was a panelist on KALW's "City Visions" program, which was titled "Can Bay Area Catholics and Archbishop Cordileone Find Common Ground?”

    On February 19, Oliver Putz gave a public lecture at the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences (CTNS) in Berkeley. He spoke on the possibility of nonhuman transcendental awareness and of the possibility that some animals are in a species-specific personal relationship with God.

    David Pinault's article "Endangered Indonesia" appeared in the November 24, 2014 issue of the Jesuit magazine, America. Pinault also wrote an Op-Ed for the Wall Street Journal, entitled "The Allure of the Islamic State Vandal," which explores the complex confluence of the destruction of antiquities and the chanting of the Quran in an jihadist recruitment video.

    In October, Jean Molesky-Poz spoke on Truthful Witnesses: The Prophetic Jesus, the Prophetic Church at the Newman Forum in Berkeley. She continues to co-organize, Women in Conversation, a bi-monthly meeting of sixty Catholic women at Holy Spirit Parish and sponsored Mary Waskowiak, RSM, former President of LCWR and of the Sisters of Mercy in the Americas in February. Her chapter, “The Chancery,” has been accepted for publication in the anthology, Unruly Catholic Women, SUNY Press. In mid-February, she attended The Future of the Catholic Literary Imagination Conference at USC, and is continuing to work on her book tentatively entitled, Maya Days.

    During Spring Quarter, David DeCosse will be working on his book, Catholicism, Inequality, Freedom: An Essay in Theological Ethics, along with writing an essay called “Faithful Citizenship.” The essay compares the views of conscience of Pope Francis and is also a volume on the work of theologian and bishop Robert McElroy, who was recently appointed bishop of San Diego. Lastly, he is leading a class on "Conscience, the Church, and Pope Francis" during the Easter Season at Holy Cross Church in Santa Cruz, CA.

    On January 20, 2015, Ana María Pineda, RSM was invited to attend a Eucharistic celebration and luncheon hosted by Bishop McGrath of the Diocese of San Jose for Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras. On January 31, 2015, Pineda attended a board meeting of Crispaz (Christians for Peace), a faith-based organization dedicated to building bridges of solidarity between the Church of the poor and marginalized communities in the US and other countries through mutual accompaniment. During the weekend of February 7-8, 2015, Pineda gave a workshop on the History of U.S. Hispanic Theology in the Diocese of Reno to Spanish-speaking lay ministers. On February 9, 2015, Ana María Pineda, RSM and her SCU colleague Juan Velasco presented “A Legacy of Love and Justice” at SCU commemorating the 35th anniversary of the death of Archbishop Romero and the 38th anniversary of the death of Rutilio Grande, S.J. (see story on pg. 1).

    Paul Crowley, S.J. published an article in Theological Studies (March 2015) entitled, "Mystagogy and Mission: The Challenge of Nonbelief and the Task of Theology." In addition, Crowley is working on an event for April 29th, with the Religious Studies Department, along with the Jesuit School of Theology and the Catholic Community at Stanford. The event is cohosting Dr. Ursula King, who will be delivering a lecture on Teilhard de Chardin, marking the 70th anniversary of Teilhard’s death. The tentative title for the lecture is "Searching for an Evolutionary Spirituality and New Mysticism in a Global World: A Dialogue with Teilhard de Chardin,” which will include some attention to the implications of his thought for interreligious dialogue.

    Teresia Hinga has published a chapter entitled, "Of Empty Granaries, Stolen Harvests and the Weapon of Grain: Applied Ethics in Search of Sustainable Food Security," in a volume edited by Christiana Peppard and Andrea Vicini, S.J. The title of the volume is Just Sustainability: Ecology Technology and Resource Extraction (Orbis Books, March 2015). In addition, in January 2015, Hinga attended a conference in Tantur, Jerusalem organized by the Theology Department of Notre Dame University, where she participated in a panel alongside Cardinal John of Abuja giving African perspectives on Ecumenism and Interfaith Dialogue today.

    Maria Socorro Castaneda-Liles was the subject of a feature story in the March 2015 issue of Visions. In addition, she and her husband Josef Castaneda-Liles (University Relations) were profiled in a story in Latina Lista about their upcoming book on successful Latinos who were originally undocumented Americans.

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