TEACHERS TO BEFRIEND
We were reminded of Thomas Merton’s SEVEN STOREY MOUNTAIN
Massimo Faggioli, PhD
If it weren’t being used by the pope, “Pontifex”— Latin for “bridge builder”— would be an apt Twitter handle for church historian and professor Massimo Faggioli. The Italian-born theologian and Vatican II expert helps the different worlds of European and American Catholicism understand each other.
After years of study at the universities of Bologna and Turin, research in the Vatican archives, and teaching in other countries, Dr. Faggioli came to the United States during the 2008 presidential campaign. He was promptly tapped to write articles for European audiences, explaining the religious aspects of US politics, and for American audiences, explaining the qualities unique to Catholicism in this country. That task continues.
“Having had a more universal experience of Catholicism, I try to cast light on ideas that are distinctly American, some of which may be worth questioning,” Dr. Faggioli says.
The 2013 election of Pope Francis catapulted Dr. Faggioli, then a faculty member at the University of St. Thomas, back onto the international stage. He provided expert commentary for respected US and European media outlets, and has continued to do so since coming to Villanova in 2016.
In addition to bringing his European perspective to the classroom, Dr. Faggioli draws upon it as he writes what will be a trilogy of books on Francis’ papacy. Unlike many scholars in the US, he “follows what the pope says and does directly from Vatican sources, without having to rely on translations. It’s fascinating.”
SR. Ilia Delio, OSF, PhD
With doctoral degrees in Pharmacology and Theology, Sister Ilia Delio is eminently qualified not only to speak authoritatively about two distinct fields but also to show that, contrary to popular opinion, science and religion can work together. Since fall 2015, she has pursued this calling as the Josephine C. Connelly Endowed Chair in Christian Theology at Villanova.
Sister Ilia has deep roots in both fields. The Newark, N.J., native had been researching a drug for diabetic neuropathy when she decided to enter the Sisters of St. Francis. The community sent her to Fordham University, where she earned her second doctoral degree, this one in Historical Theology. The convergence of her interests in cells and souls transformed her. “I was like a fish who had finally found water.”
In her various posts at prestigious institutions, most recently, Georgetown University, Sister Ilia has developed new ways of understanding how God is present and active in an evolving, dynamic universe. Her awardwinning books go beyond academia to show people how they can “reclaim a living God for a living world of change and complexity.”