Rev. David Tracy Awarded the SHU Medal
Surrounded by students, members of the Sacred Heart University community and the public, Rev. David Tracy, left, was presented the inaugural Sacred Heart University Medal on Wednesday, March 24, by University president Anthony J. Cernera, Ph.D.
Father Tracy, a long-time friend to Sacred Heart University and renowned scholar of the Catholic intellectual tradition, was first honored by the University in 2008 with a Doctor of Humane Letters degree.
“Once again, Sacred Heart University brings honor on itself tonight by honoring you, and awarding you, with the inaugural Sacred Heart University Medal,” Dr. Cernera told Father Tracy. “For a long time, it was my hope and my desire to establish the Sacred Heart University Medal to be given to a distinguished person who has made an outstanding contribution to the Catholic intellectual tradition, and as a Yankee fan from the Bronx, I can say that I hit a grand slam tonight.”
In his opening remarks, Dr. Cernera noted that the timing of the introduction of the Sacred Heart University Medal coincided with the foundation of the University by the Most Rev. Walter W. Curtis, the late bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport. It was 47 years ago this month that the Connecticut General Assembly awarded the charter to Bishop Curtis to build Sacred Heart University and to be led by lay people. Nearly five decades later, it is now the second-largest Catholic university in New England.
“We are the only university in the United States to have such a founding,” said Dr. Cernera. “It is rooted in a tradition that is 2,000 years old, and Bishop Curtis entrusted that ministry to be passed on by lay Catholic men and women.”
Additionally, Dr. Cernera reminded the audience that it was also the 30th anniversary of the assassination of Oscar Romero, the martyred archbishop of San Salvador, who was killed as he was saying Mass in 1980.
“He was a quiet, unassuming priest in his country who, after the death of his very good friend, a priest, recognized that he needed to speak out for justice, for the oppressed and the poor of his country,” said Dr. Cernera. One of Sacred Heart’s residence halls is named in honor of Archbishop Romero, and year after year, many Sacred Heart students commit themselves to pursue justice and to serve the poor in his honor, added Dr. Cernera.
A learned individual and theologian, Father Tracy is professor emeritus of theology and the philosophy of religion at the University of Chicago Divinity School, where he taught a wide variety of courses in contemporary theology.
He is the author of scores of articles and his published books include “The Achievement of Bernard Lonergan” (1970); “Blessed Rage for Order: The New Pluralism in Theology” (1975); “The Analogical Imagination: Christian Theology and the Culture of Pluralism” (1981); “Talking about God: Doing Theology in the Context of Modern Pluralism,” with John Cobb (1983); and “A Short History of the Interpretation of the Bible,” with Robert Grant (1984).
A native of Yonkers, N.Y., Father Tracy earned his licentiate in 1964 and his doctorate in 1969, both at Rome’s Gregorian University. In 1982, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is a priest in the Diocese of Bridgeport.
During his visit to Sacred Heart University, Father Tracy presented a faculty seminar, and also delivered an address titled “Three Paths to the Question of God Today,” focusing on God’s “infinite love" and drew from pre-modern thinkers such as Aristotle and Plotinus and also from St. Augustine, who is a central figure in the development of Christianity.
"For Augustine, we do not even rightly understand unless we love," said Father Tracy. "Understanding is ultimately driven by desire, by love. Love's affections are central dimensions to all understanding....love, like faith and hope, is driven to understand."
Father Tracy said that God’s infinite love has been revealed as the excess of “self-sacrificed love in Christ’s words, deeds, passion, crucifixion and resurrection.”
Father Tracy concluded that faith is always challenged by the evil and sin in “history and the intense suffering caused by nature” such as disease, earthquakes and tsunamis.