Over this past summer, I received an email from Fordham's Francis and Ann Curran Center for American Catholic Studies inviting me to apply for an interdisciplinary Concentration in American Catholic Studies, which is referred to by the members as CACS. This concentration focuses on Roman Catholic belief and culture in the United States. It begins with the concentrators meeting once per month in what is called "The Discernment Seminar," which introduces the concentrators to the program and helps them to really try to understand themselves better. The concentration involves taking six courses, which includes two Catholic Studies courses and four courses that can be selected out of a collection of courses in many different subjects that are related to Roman Catholicism.
While the concentration requires six courses, it was easy to fit into my schedule since it is an interdisciplinary concentration and many of the course offerings for CACS also fulfill my core and major requirements. For example, I need to take upper-level economics courses to fulfill my Business Economics Concentration for my Business Administration major. Therefore, I am planning on taking a course next semester called "Economic Foundations of Catholic Social Teaching," which fulfills both an economics requirement and one of my CACS requirements.
One of my favorite aspects of CACS is that guest speakers are regularly invited to Fordham for lectures. Coming from a background where religion was not discussed very often, it is fascinating to listen to and speak with the guest lecturers, who come from many different backgrounds to discuss how religion plays a part in all aspects of life.This month has been especially busy with guest lecturers.
Today, I attended another lecture sponsored by the Curran Center. This time, the guest lecturer was Melinda Henneberger from The Washington Post. Her lecture was on the effect Pope Francis has had on politics in the United States. With so many politicians on both the right and left quoting the Pope and the impending meeting between President Obama and Pope Francis, it was really interesting to listen to the perspective of a journalist who has followed both politics and religion on how the Pope has been influencing American politics. She claims that the Pope has inspired both liberals and conservatives to begin talking about topics previously not discussed, which is a really positive thing in American politics. Hopefully, the politicians will do more than just talk and will begin to take some action!
While I am not Catholic myself, I have really enjoyed being part of CACS. It is a really great experience to understand the Catholic faith better and understand how it relates to so many aspects of American culture. The best part of the program is that everything is motivated by dialogue. None of the courses are simply lectures. The point of the program is for people from all different backgrounds and perspectives to sit and discuss the many issues that we are faced with today and discuss how those issues relate to the beliefs and teachings of Roman Catholicism. For the members of CACS, religion is not a subject that is taboo, but a subject that brings us all together in thoughtful dialogue.