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Scholars Reflect on Catholic and Jesuit Identity's Impact on Teaching

Jesuit Heritage 2010

February 4, 2010 – A Georgetown biology professor compares scientific inquiry to getting an education based on Jesuit values – both, she says, require in-depth questioning of topics inside and outside the classroom.

Maria Donoghue and two other professors spoke at a Feb. 3 panel on how the university’s Catholic, Jesuit identity influences their scholarship and teaching. “Teaching and the Jesuit Tradition” served as one of several panels during Jesuit Heritage Week.

“I have never experienced an academic community that allowed me to entertain the relationship between scientific truth and faith the way Georgetown does,” Donoghue says. “It’s OK to question, it’s OK to seek, and it’s OK to re-examine at every point, and I find that amazingly valuable when I think about scientific research.”

English professor John Pfordresher and associate professor of philosophy Frank Ambrosio also spoke at the panel.

A Liberating Force

Pfordresher, a 1965 Georgetown College graduate, said the university’s values provide him roo to reframe discussions on topics ranging from literature to athletic performance in terms of faith.

“It’s liberating to think those thoughts or say those words and not be feared that you’ll be thought of as foolish,” Pfordresher says.

Ambrosio noted that St. Ignatius, founder of the Jesuit order, believed that Christianity and civilization as a whole could co-exist and mutually reinforce each other.

A  Deep Conviction

“St. Ignatius was animated by a deep conviction that it was God’s will for Christianity to integrate with humanistic culture, and produce a better world,” Ambrosio explains.

Pfordresher told panel attendees that a Jesuit education highlights the ways science, the pursuit of knowledge, reason and religious faith exist harmoniously.

“To learn anything is to participate in God’s creative activity,” he says, “because the world is still being created, and every person participates in the ongoing creation of a world moving toward the ultimate point – God.”

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