Department ofReligious Studies

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Introducing Mark Fusco, S.J.

An old joke tells of how an American lost in Ireland asks a native he comes across in the wilderness if he knows how to get back to the main road to Dublin. The Irishman assures the American he indeed knows the road to Dublin, but regrets that one can’t get to it from where they currently are. The joke suggests many things, but to me at least, it speaks something of the mystery of intention and destinations. Indeed, like Heraclitus’ metaphoric river, every journey and taken road promises the new and possible.  To our surprise, we often find that our deepest desires and life work, resonate and find completion in what was once thought an impossibility or at the very least, something highly improbable.

Growing up on the north shore of Lake Ontario, with its long winters of grey skies, extreme cold and near religious devotion to ice hockey, I never dreamed that one day I would be living in Silicon Valley—a place in my youth, I knew little more about than it was where vegetables and powerhouse technology firms grew wildly under cerulean skies. However, our mental rehearsals and well thought through plans often serve us best when they open us up to the unexpected, that is, to the giftedness of unimagined moments and possibilities. The opportunity to be part of this great institution of higher learning in the heart of Silicon Valley is for me, such a gift.

I was born in Oshawa, Ontario, a working-class city and home to Canada’s largest General Motors’ factory. Most of my friends and relatives spent some time and many their entire working lives in the factory and I was no exception.  However, working at the automotive factory and a local steel mill provided me with the means to attend college and I headed 40 kilometers or so east to attend the University of Toronto.  I graduated from St. Michael’s University at the University of Toronto, with a dual degree in Religious Studies and English Literature.

After graduation, I enrolled at Yale University in the Master’s Degree Program, specializing in Philosophical Theology.  It was during this period that I began to volunteer during the week in an inner-city grade school and on Sundays at an inner-city parish This conversation or modeling of highly theoretical study and practical service continues to define how I understand my own vocation as a Jesuit priest.

I left New Haven, CT and moved to Rome, Italy after graduation.  Here I began working at the Vatican for Caritas International and serving as director of programs at a refugee center.  It was during this work, that it became clearer to me that local social, political, economic issues were inevitably tied to larger global structures and decisions.  I pursued some of these areas of study at the Lateran University where I received an S.T.L. (Sacred Theology Licentiate) in Moral Theology.

I have always been interested in the meeting of what appears to be paradoxical and at times contradictory, as it is in these points of contact the security of comfortable ideas become ‘malleable’ or ‘transparent’, that is, more adaptive or receptive to imaginative reconfigurations.   Some of these points of intersection hold a special interest to me—faith and secularism, the technological and human, environmental and engineered, philosophical and theological, the mathematical and metaphysical, aesthetic and systematic.  It was this interpreted spirit that guided my doctoral work where I put forward a speculative reading of the theological theory of kenosis and Alain Badiou’s mathematical ontology.

I feel called to engage the marriage of such odd or untraditional thematic pairings, as they seem to hold the balance between humanity’s hope of infinite liberation and her threat of radical oppression or destruction. It is with this in mind that I have worked on questions of global crisis through the Global Catastrophe Research Institute.  This think tank works at studying possible global threats in order to inform the public of these issues and offer when possible, a plan to avoid the worst possible scenarios.

The disciplines of theological and philosophical investigation will be increasingly important as we attempt to make sense of the complexities of our post-modern world.  To my mind, the humanities are unique as they can bring a ‘long view’ or a certain observational stand to a particular question or issue.  Theological investigation, I believe, grasps something of the elusive horizon of our evolving world, because it provides a way to critique such developments from a long tradition of defining or giving parameters to what it means to be truly human at a given moment in history. 

I am passionate about entering into scholarly conversation with students about these speculative areas.  It is through dialogue and study that an intractable problem or irreducible enigma finds resolve or at least confirms that continued attempts at its explanation is an authentic human endeavor.

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