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Religious Studies News & Events

Religious Studies News & Events

  •  A Legacy of Love and Justice

    Tuesday, Mar. 24, 2015

    On February 9, 2015, professors Ana María Pineda, RSM (Religious Studies Department) and Juan Velasco (English Department) commemorated the 35th anniversary of the death of Archbishop Romero and the 38th anniversary of the death of Rutilio Grande, S.J. Their lives were remembered in a presentation that drew from poetry, art, and reflections of their spiritual journey. The commemoration provided an opportunity for Professor Pineda to share some of her research and to connect with a seminar on Romero and the Salvadoran martyrs, which she taught during the Winter 2015 quarter.

    Many are familiar with the story and significance of Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador and his commitment to the suffering poor of the country. His defense of the poor cost him his life. In the name of the Gospel, Romero’s prophetic voice denounced the abuses of the poor in El Salvador. He was killed in El Salvador on March 24, 1980. There is another lesser-known story of the Jesuit priest, Rutilio Grande, who is often only referred to as the friend of Romero. He was killed on March 12, 1977 for his defense of the poor of El Salvador. Many would claim that it was his death that was responsible for Romero’s radical conversion from a conservative bishop to one committed to the struggles of the poor in El Salvador.

    Since their deaths, both of these men have become idealized and presented as martyrs who died for their faith and for the poor. The story that is not told is how both Romero and Grande were ordinary men confronted by their own fragility and human limitations. For many students taking the course “Romero and the Salvadoran Martyrs,” this is the most compelling story. Despite their human fragility they found transformative ways of living in a world of conflict and oppression and found the courage to be in solidarity with the marginalized and voiceless people of El Salvador.

    Since his death, Romero has been considered a “saint” by many familiar with his life and ultimate death on behalf of the poor of El Salvador. In a similar way, even the lesser-known Grande has been thought worthy of sainthood. After many years in delaying the process of canonization for Romero, the Vatican announced on February 4, 2015 that Pope Francis had officially declared Romero a martyr of the Second Vatican Council. Romero's beatification will be celebrated in El Salvador on May 23, 2015. This welcomed news was followed by the unexpected announcement that the process of sainthood for Grande was begun several months ago.

    The students in the course participated fully in the presentation of “A Legacy of Love and Justice,” they spoke with Francisco Mena, executive director of Crispaz, in El Salvador, and they lived through the history-making events leading up to Romero's beatification.

  •  Alumnus Update from Mitch Finley '73

    Tuesday, Mar. 24, 2015

    When I graduated from Santa Clara in May of 1973, with a major in Religious Studies, I was so proud of what I had accomplished. Four years earlier, fresh from four years in the U.S. Navy, my high school grades had been so poor that I had to get presidential permission to be accepted by Santa Clara. God bless Father Thomas Terry, S.J. for giving me a chance! I didn't graduate with honors, but I came darn close.

    After a year off, I moved to Marquette University, where in 1976 I received an M.A. in Theology. Subsequent years saw me directing parish religious education programs and later a diocesan family ministry office. All along, however, I had a hankering to write, and in 1981—now married with three sons to raise—I began working full time as a freelance writer for many national level Catholic magazines and newspapers, including several articles that appeared in America, the Jesuit weekly magazine. Along the way, I also wrote for Santa Clara Magazine as the late Peg Major was getting it off the ground, and in recent years my work has appeared there again.

    Eventually, I began to write books, and today I have more than 30 volumes to my credit, almost all written on Catholic themes: call it all popular theology, I suppose. Regardless, I have Santa Clara in general, and the Religious Studies Department specifically, to thank for giving me the foundation I needed to attain any success I've had as a writer. Along the way, my work received numerous awards from the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada and various other press and writers' organizations, including an Excellence in Writing award from the American Society of Journalists and Authors. More recently, my wife Kathy Finley and I were invited to participate in a panel presentation in late September of 2015, in Philadelphia, at the World Meeting of Families—where Pope Francis will be in attendance, too.

    To this day, I'm still so proud to be a Santa Clara alum. Thank you, Santa Clara University.

  •  Applying Technology to Rebuild a Bible

    Monday, Mar. 23, 2015

    Religious Studies Associate Professor Catherine (Kitty) Murphy and Religious Studies and Classics major Jonathan Homrighausen '15 are working together to reconstruct fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls.  While Murphy was a doctoral candidate at the University of Notre Dame, she assisted with the publication of the biblical scrolls and knew that one of them needed additional work.  The particular scroll she and Homrighausen are now reconstructing—a two-thousand year old copy of the twelve minor prophets (see note below)—is in terrible shape, with some fragments still fused together in layers, many too dark to be read with the naked eye, and over 150 fragments with words on them that the original editor had not had time to decipher.  Furthermore, Murphy has discovered old photographs revealing fragments that were not catalogued with the official publication.  Even more amazing, and as yet widely unknown, Murphy discovered that the central core of the leather scroll still lies rolled on its winding stick in a box in the storage vault of the Israel Antiquities Authority.  This scroll is on animal skin, and the collagen has deteriorated on these inner parts of the roll, leaving little cell structure behind and giving the scroll the consistency of glue.

    While all of these obstacles have hindered research to date, Murphy regards them as opportunities.  Layered fragments preserve evidence of the relative location of fragments in their original columns, thus allowing the scroll to be reconstructed.  As reconstruction proceeds, it reveals the damage patterns and disintegration of the scroll that permit small unidentified fragments to be placed on the basis of their shapes and letter contents, much like a giant puzzle.  Murphy first xeroxed all the photographs of the fragments and built a scroll mock-up on paper to keep track of her reconstructions and placements (frame 1 in the picture).  With $3,000 in grants from the College of Arts and Sciences dean, she secured high-quality digital images of all of the scroll’s 300+ fragments, many of which reveal as yet unknown contents, and then began using Adobe Photoshop to create a virtual scroll.  The image files had to be scaled to each other, then each of the hundreds of fragments isolated into separate files with background removed.  This then allows Murphy to paste each fragment into its proper place in the virtual scroll (frame 2), and separate the layers of multilayered fragments so that they can be re-located into their original columns.  She also created a font mimicking the scribe’s handwriting so that the entire expected contents of the 52 estimated columns of the manuscript could serve as a base for testing fragment placements (frame 3).  She has traveled to conferences to share her work with $3,000 in support from the Religious Studies Department, and hopes to receive funding from the Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation to subsidize travel to Israel to examine the manuscript in person on a sabbatical next year.

    For the past nine months, with the support of a $1,000 Faculty-Student Research Assistant Grant from the Provost’s Office, Jonathan Homrighausen has been able to apply his skills in Hebrew and Greek to the reconstruction effort.  He is helping to typeset the reconstruction for publication, while reading through the twelve minor prophets in Hebrew with Murphy and analyzing variants.  He writes:

    "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 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."

    That academic collaboration extends beyond campus. Murphy has begun conversations with people in the field to prompt an international conservancy project to “read” the unrolled and gelatinous center of this scroll.  Some promising X-ray techniques have been developed for a villa library in Herculaneum near Pompeii, whose scrolls were carbonized in the 79 CE eruption of Mount Vesuvius, eleven years after the Dead Sea Scrolls were hidden.  Two thousand years later, advances in technology are permitting us to read these incredible discoveries which otherwise remained concealed, even after being found, and to bring the study of ancient and familiar texts into the twenty-first century.


    Note: 4Q82, 4QXIIg. The Twelve Minor Prophets are so-called because their books are relatively short, and all twelve could be copied on one scroll. They include Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi.

    Related Links:

    1. Online collection funded by George Blumenthal and the Center for Online Judaic Studies.
    2. The Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library
  •  The Allure of the Islamic State Vandals

    Thursday, Mar. 19, 2015
  •  Sally Vance-Trembath's Op-Ed Piece on the National Catholic Reporter

    Monday, Mar. 16, 2015
  •  Faith and Hope Drive Professors to Help Others

    Tuesday, Mar. 3, 2015

     Professor Socorro Castañeda-Liles was featured in the Winter 2015 edition of Visión. 

  •  Vance-Trembath on The O'Reilly Factor

    Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015

    Check out Prof. Sally Vance-Trembath speaking on the role of religion in the struggle with ISIS.

  •  Faculty Book Review

    Monday, Feb. 9, 2015
  •  A Legacy of Love and Justice

    Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015

    The 35th Anniversary of the Death of Archbishop Romero & The 38th Anniversary of the Death of Rutilio Grande, S.J.

    They were friends and companions on a journey
    of solidarity and justice for the poor of El Salvador.


    The commemoration will include poetry reading, art,
    reflections of their spiritual journey, a remembering
    of their lives and a celebration of their memory.

    St. Clare Room
    SCU Library, 3rd floor
    Live-streamed:
    Williman Room
    No RSVP required

    Ana Maria Pineda, RSM (Religious Studies)
    408-554-6958 or ampineda@scu.edu
    Juan Velasco (English Department)

  •  Islam's Jesus

    Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015

     The Pacifica Institute and Santa Clara University’s Religious Studies Department present Islam’s Jesus

    A Lecture by Prof. Zedic Sarioprak

    Friday, January 30, 2015 4-5:15 p.m.

    Wiegand Room (Vari Hall)

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