Travel Grant 2014-15: Paul Monson

Paul Monson, Theological Studies

The Church in the Modern World: Teaching and Understanding Gaudium et Spes after 50 Years
March 12-14, 2015
St. Paul, MN

Nature/Type of the Event

This national conference explores ways to integrate Vatican II's positive and inclusive view of modernity with current Catholic pedagogy. The organizers highlight the need to "look more broadly at the role of Catholic colleges and universities in educating students to be agents of the proper development of human culture."

Relevance of the Event for Applicant's Teaching and LMU Community, the Applicant's Involvement in the Event, and Expected Learning or Outcome

In Spring 2015, the applicant is scheduled to teach two sections of the Theological Inquiry core course, "American Catholicism" (THST 198). He will participate in the conference's discussion of Catholic pedagogy by delivering a paper (already accepted) on the use of history and narrative in teaching and understanding this landmark council. The applicant anticipates receiving constructive feedback from a wide variety of colleagues. In addition to the conference's other plenary and concurrent sessions, this feedback will aid the applicant in refining his own methods for articulating the vision and meaning of the council in the classroom. For instance, many undergraduates have a difficult time appreciating the complex and tumultuous nature of twentieth-century politics in relation to Catholicism and its theological worldview. In particular, the conference will help the applicant rethink ways to foster student imagination and understanding of a distant yet influential era. Upon returning to LMU, he will use insights gleaned from the conference in his course's discussion of Vatican II in relation of U.S. Catholicism, scheduled for April 2015 on the course's syllabus. These class discussions, scheduled for two weeks, will highlight not only the texts of the council but also its milieu and meaning. Likewise, the discussion will incorporate the conference's conversations about interpreting Vatican II in light of new cultural trends, especially within a global, more diverse Church.

Travel Report

[...] insights gleaned through my participation in "The Church and the Modern World" conference, hosted at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, from March 12 to 15, 2015.

As stated in my grant proposal, the event was a gathering of nationally and internationally renowned scholars to discuss twenty-first-century pedagogical methods for approaching Gaudium et Spes, the culminating document of Vatican II (1962-1965). The conference provided an enlightening forum for several poignant questions. How ought educators teach the document today, in a context remarkably different from its original promulgation? What methods are effective? What preparation is necessary? How does this document inform the mission of Catholic higher education today? All of these questions resonate with my teaching for both this semester and the next. Currently I teach a course on "American Catholicism" that deals extensively with Vatican II. I will also instruct two sections of this class in the fall, and the conference offered considerable insights for enhancing student learning and discussion. Unanticipated in my proposal was the additional assignment of a fall course on "Catholicism After Vatican II" (a IFR course) that will further profit from my participation.

In addition to my paper presentation on the historical relevance of Gaudium et Spes, one of the most fascinating encounters at the conference was a panel on the "Pedagogical Challenges of Teaching Gaudium et Spes to Students and Faculty" (March 13). Four colleagues from Walsh University outlined the challenges of using the document in their core curriculum, especially among non-theology majors. The panel discussed how to introduce theological concepts through film and popular culture before exposing students to the dated ecclesiastical language of the document. Likewise, one panelist offered advice for creating a glossary and reading guide for students and faculty in other disciplines. I am convinced that similar resources would greatly assist the LMU community beyond my department. The panel has inspired me to organize a greater public forum in the fall that offers an interdisciplinary, conceptual glossary and guide for Guadium et Spes. I plan to hold such a workshop to commemorate the date of the document (December 7, 1965). I will provide the Center with more details as my plans progress.