Dr. Joan Kelly Delivers SHU Address Exploring the ‘Footsteps of St. Paul’
“After Jesus Christ, he has had the greatest impact on Christianity of any person in history.” This assessment of St. Paul by Dr. Joan Kelly anchored her evening discussion of the Apostle to the Gentiles, which she led on April 28 at Sacred Heart University. The public lecture was held in commemoration of the Catholic Church’s worldwide observance of the 2000th anniversary of Paul’s birth. The program was jointly sponsored by the University’s Campus Ministry office, University College, the Center for Catholic Thought, Ethics and Culture, and the Religious Studies Department.
Dr. Kelly, who has been associated with Sacred Heart’s Center for Spirituality and Ministry for nearly 20 years, earned her Ph.D. through the Graduate Theological Foundation headquartered at the University of Notre Dame. She explored Paul’s multiple roles as a missionary, theologian, preacher, teacher and martyr. She said his many letters typically included elements of profound Christian teaching coupled with very practical considerations for the people of the early Christian communities he visited on his incredible missionary journeys.
Paul was transformed from a persecutor of the infant Church to its most ardent champion. “He was not ‘knocked off his horse’ – that is a later artistic interpretation – but he was literally blinded by his encounter with the Lord. The scales fell from his eyes, and he moved from darkness to light. The rest is history,” she asserted.
Not unlike their present-day counterparts, the early Christians had their internal disputes, and an important resolution came when the Church leadership determined that Christianity was not simply a version of Judaism, from which it sprang, but a “new dispensation” open to Jew and Gentile alike. The Apostle to the Gentiles, who never met Jesus, “continually emphasized the centrality of baptism and the death and resurrection of the Lord. All else was secondary to him.”