Sacred Heart University to Host Second Vatican Council Conference

News Story: September 13, 2012

Sacred Heart University will mark the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council and the upcoming golden anniversary of the University’s founding with a two-day conference April 23-24, 2012.

The conference, which is co-sponsored by the Paulist Press, will feature several notable scholars and theologians from throughout the United States, including Sacred Heart’s Rev. Anthony Ciorra who serves as the University’s assistant vice president of Mission and Catholic Identity; Michael W. Higgins, Ph.D., also of Sacred Heart; Roberto Goizueta of Boston College; Rev. David Dwyer, director of the Catholic radio program Busted Halo; Diana Hayes, Ph.D., of Georgetown University; Massino Faggioli of the University of St. Thomas; Scott Appleby, Ph.D., of Notre Dame University; Rev. Michael Himes of Boston College; Dr. Nancy A. Dallavalle of Fairfield University; and Dr. John F. Haught of the Woodstock Theological Center.

The conference, entitled A Universal Call to Holiness, will focus on a way forward for the Church and will pick up where the Second Vatican Council left off with the seven closing speeches given by the cardinals on the last day of the Council in 1965. Their topics remain relevant today youth, church and politics, art and beauty, suffering, labor and immigration, religion and science and the role of women.

“We’re going to have seven of the best speakers and scholars in the country address the issues during the conference,” said Ciorra. “Our purpose is not to look back at what happened, but to look at where the Church and the world is today and move forward. We want to capture the life-altering spirit of the Council and bring it to the issues of the 21st century.”

As the conference commemorates the anniversaries of the Second Vatican Council and Sacred Heart, it will provide an opportunity for attendees to participate in a symposium of thoughtful discussions and dialogues led by the preeminent scholars and visionaries on Catholic thought today. “It will be an interactive conference, a place for brain-storming and a time for reflection, strategizing and moving forward,” Ciorra said.

Sacred Heart was founded in 1963 – a year after the opening of the Second Vatican Council – by the most Reverend Walter W. Curtis, who was then bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport. The Second Vatican Council addressed the relationship of the Catholic Church to the modern world. Taking what he gleaned from that remarkable council, which changed and shaped today’s Catholic Church, Bishop Curtis envisioned a university run by lay people in the Catholic Intellectual Tradition and characterized by rigorous scholarship and a commitment to spiritual and ethical values. Nearly 50 years later, Sacred Heart underscores the Second Vatican Council's Call to Holiness and its vision for the modern church.

“At this point in 2011, the church and the world are at a radically new place for a lot of reasons – globalization, technology, the state of the world economy and the rising of new super powers such as China,” said Ciorra. “The church is not in isolation; we live in the world that is a different place. How we harness the energy that was presented in 1962 and bring it to a new world situation will be the focus of the conference.”

The goal is to attract Catholics from various walks of life, including individuals working at the pastoral and parish level such as priests and laity, those who work in hospitals and social workers, representatives from the academic community and young adults. “We particularly think it’s important to have young people at the conference, because they will be living with these issues, and they are the future,” said Ciorra. “Everyone is welcome because this is such a ground-breaking time for the church.”

On October 11, 2012, the anniversary of the commencement of the Second Vatican Council, three individuals who were at the Council or closely affiliated with the event will receive honorary degrees from Sacred Heart. In addition, the Paulist Press will publish a book that will capture the themes, discussions and ideas that come out of the conference.