American Catholic high school teachers in science and theology gathered together last week for a unique program to develop appreciation of the insights and the boundaries of their respective disciplines.
Nestled on the serene campus of St. Joseph’s College Seminary in Covington, La., 32 science and theology teachers from 16 Catholic high schools from around the U.S. gathered for the 2013 Steno Learning Program in Faith and Science.
The program is an outreach of the Pope Benedict XVI Institute for Faith, Ethics and Science at McGill-Toolen Catholic High School in Mobile, Ala., and the brainchild of Dr. Christopher Baglow, director of the Institute and the M.A. Program in Theological Studies at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans. The program is currently funded by the Templeton Foundation.
“The goal of the seminar is to produce a situation where the teachers begin to help each other understand, and become the seedbed for trustful and open dialogue,” Baglow said.
The program is named after Blessed Nicholas Steno(1638-1686), also known as Niels Stenson, a Catholic scientist who made numerous contributions to anatomy, paleontology, geology and crystallography.
Participants included Bob Laird, Director of Programs at The Cardinal Newman Society and manager of the Catholic High School Honor Roll program. Over 30 percent of the participants came from high schools recognized for their strong Catholic identity and academic quality in the Catholic High School Honor Roll program of 2012.
Participants read eight volumes discussed during the course of the week along with a 175-page Steno reader of shorter selections prior to attending the conference.
“The Reading Program allows the teachers to develop a strong foundation, which is strengthened and built upon by the seminar discussion,” said Baglow.
The faculty included Dr. Stephen Barr, professor of physics at the Bartol Research Institute of the University of Delaware, and Dr. Matt Rossano, head of the psychology department at Southeastern Louisiana University. Barr and Rossano were also active participants in the conference, as were Baglow and Cory Hayes, faculty member at St. Joseph’s College Seminary in Covington. Dr. Rebecca Maloney, associate superintendent for Catholic schools of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, implemented the program. Rev. Peter M.J. Stravinskas, director of the Catholic Education Foundation, served as the chaplain.
“The Steno Leadership Team includes experts in the key fields involved in the faith-science dialogue, so that participants can learn what a fruitful dialogue and interdisciplinary collaboration looks like,” said Baglow.
The program emphasized an understanding of faith, natural philosophy and science in contemporary magisterial teaching beginning with Vatican II, Blessed John Paul II’s discourses on science and the Catholic Faith, and Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger’s sermons on Genesis. It continued with a review of natural philosophy in the Catholic tradition, with Augustine and Aquinas.
The week-long program included evening sessions along with daily Mass and the sacraments. Nick Zepeda, a theology teacher at St. Augustine Academy in Ventura, Cal., said the program “helped me to mature in my understanding of the faith through learning about the developments of modern science.”
Following the seminar, participants are required to provide in-service instruction for other faculty at their schools, foster interdepartmental collaboration and incorporate the concepts learned in their own classrooms. This implementation is assisted by the Midwest Theological Forum’s publication of Dr. Baglow’s secondary level theology textbook, Faith, Science & Reason.
“Baglow takes authentic and unadulterated Catholic teaching and authentic and unadulterated science and shows them to be in wonderful harmony,” said Barr. “He shows that the record of the Catholic Church in relation to science is one to be proud of, and indeed quite glorious.”
The Cardinal Newman Society is always on the lookout for outstanding high school programs which enhance the Catholic identity of schools.
“The Steno Learning Program brings together not only outstanding faculty from Catholic high schools, but also a second-to none faculty where the teachers can sit side-by-side in the classroom and dining room with these eminent Catholic thinkers,” said Laird.
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