Sacramental Theologian Eugene Schlesinger Joins SCU Religious Studies
Aiming to engage students in the “bizarre”
By Thanh-Thao Sue Do ‘19
The newest member of Santa Clara University’s Department of Religious Studies, Prof. Eugene Schlesinger aims to get students interested in theology in an unusual way: by pointing out what he calls “the weirdness of the material and the discipline [of theology].” By using techniques such as music, games and humor, Schlesinger comments, “I find that when students realize that they don’t have to just toe the line of whatever they’re being spoon-fed, they become a lot more eager to engage.”
Having first found his own passion for theology during his freshman year at the University of North Carolina, Schlesinger says he “fell in love with theology.” He spent five years doing pastoral ministry work in a Baptist setting at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest before receiving his doctorate at Marquette University. At Marquette he specialized in 20th century Catholic thought with a focus on developments in liturgical and sacramental theology and their impact on the Christian church.
His current research areas include the centrality of a theology of sacrifice for understanding Christian existence and the ecclesiology of the Roman Catholic Church. He also researches the history and makeup of systematic, sacramental, and liturgical theologies. “Systematic theology is a search for meaning in theology,” says Schlesinger. “It encompasses and cross references everything that has to do with the church, even pop culture.”
Through modeling critical questions and encouraging a space to push back on the material, he hopes to help students “gain a better understanding of Christian tradition and not what they assume it is.” In addition, Schlesinger hopes to help his students “develop into their most authentic selves” as per the Jesuit philosophy of cura personalis. “I always try to view my students as persons within the totality of their lives. I’m a relatively small part of preparing them to live the rest of their lives, and so I want to invest in them not just as items on my class roster or as consumers of information, but as persons.”
Schlesinger teaches The Christian Tradition (TESP 4) and Catholic Theology: Foundations (TESP 50) for undergraduates and Sacraments and Liturgy (PMIN 297) for students in SCU’s Graduate Program in Pastoral Ministries.