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Catholic Education Daily


Bishop Morlino Bans Workshops by Professor, Campus Minister

Two women with long-standing ties to a Catholic college in Wisconsin have been banned by Bishop Robert Morlino from holding workshops or providing spiritual direction at any Catholic churches in the 11-county diocese for diverging too far from Catholic teaching, according to news reports.

Paula Hirschboeck, a philosophy professor at Edgewood College in Madison, and Sister Maureen McDonnell, who formerly served for 21 years on the campus ministry staff at Edgewood College, were banned along with another nun and lay woman affiliated with Wisdom’s Well, an organization that offers spiritual retreats and guidance.

The memo reportedly says Bishop Morlino has “grave concerns” about the women’s teachings, specifically that they “espouse certain views” flowing from such movements as “New Ageism” and “the belief that no one religion or philosophy is superior to another.”

Wisdom’s Well was founded in 2006 and offers workshops and retreats on topics such as nonviolence, contemplative living and Christian meditation. The websitestates that the group is “grounded in the Christian tradition, while embracing the wisdom found in other religious traditions, we offer resources for the journey through spiritual guidance, educational programs, retreats, and the teaching of contemplative practices.”

The women “may not share an authentic view of the Catholic Church’s approach to interreligious dialogue,” the memo reportedly said.

According to Edgewood’s website, Hirschboeck teaches courses in “environmental Philosophy, feminist Philosophy and Buddhist philosophy.” News reports identify her as one of the founders of Wisdom’s Well but no longer on its staff.

Her bio at Wisdom’s Well states:

Interfaith spirituality has been my path since my college years.  While a Dominican student sister at Rosary College (now Dominican University, River Forest IL), I discovered that the wisdom of Zen stirred my soul.  Zen supported the mystical yearnings which drew me to the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa WI in the first place.   Both of these spiritual lineages or ‘threads’ have guided me on the Way.  They are both woven within the celebration of a sacred, evolving Universe.

McDonnell, a founding member of Wisdom’s Well, served in campus ministry at Edgewood for 21 years before founding Wisdom’s Well.

She states on Wisdom Well’s website, “I see life now more in the context of the Universe Story, which leads me to profound gratitude for all the gifts of creation.  I feel a greater sense of responsibility to live justly and simply, study important issues, and encourage others to join me in those efforts, widening the circle of compassion to care for Earth.”

Edgewood College, according to its website is “a Catholic college in the Dominican tradition” that is “committed above all to the lifelong search for truth, pursued by men and women of all nationalities and backgrounds. All of us — regardless of our personal spiritual beliefs — are partners in the pursuit of a just and compassionate world.”

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