2015 Papal Visit: Faculty Experts

Catholic colleges and universities are home to numerous experts who can offer insights to the media and others on various topics related to the September 2015 visit to the United States by Pope Francis:

Cabrini College
Cabrini offers experts on multiple subjects, including those particularly focused on the upcoming papal visit

Caldwell University
Sister Kathleen Tuite, OP, vice president of student life at Caldwell University and adjunct in the Theology Department, can address the Dominican tradition of preaching compassion and justice, seeing God in all things, serving the poor,  promoting the common good, and respecting  the dignity of the human person and the earth as they relate to Pope Francis' vision. Sister Tuite can share how Caldwell University will be celebrating the Holy Father's visit during the university's annual day of community service, Caldwell Day, on September 25. 

To reach Sr. Tuite, please contact Colette Liddy, director of media relations, at (973) 618-3209 or cliddy@caldwell.edu.

The Catholic University of America
Among the resources available from The Catholic University of America is a list of experts on the papal visit.

Creighton University

  • John J. O’Keefe, Ph.D., is a professor of historical theology and holder of the A.F. Jacobson Chair in Communications in the Creighton University Department of Theology. O’Keefe has committed his academic career to studying and teaching on the history of early Christianity and environmental theology. O’Keefe is the founding director of the Center for Catholic Thought and moderator of the podcast Catholic Comments. Most recently, O’Keefe was featured on Wisconsin Public Radio, offering thoughts about Pope Francis’ encyclical, “Laudato Si’.” To reach O’Keefe, call (402) 280-4799 or e-mail jokeefe@creighton.edu.
  • Eileen Burke-Sullivan, OTD, is an associate professor of theology, the inaugural holder of the Barbara Readon Heaney Chair in Pastoral Liturgical Theology and vice provost for mission and ministry at Creighton University. Burke-Sullivan is an authority on the incorporation of Ignatian values in higher education, the role of women in the Church, reforms in the Catholic Church and the practice of justice in Christian life. Most recently, she offered comments on Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, “Laudato Si’.” To reach Burke-Sullivan, call (402) 280-3285 or e-mail e_burkesullivan@creighton.edu.

DePaul University
DePaul offers experts on climate change, green businesses, and being more environmentally conscious. Find the full list here.

Duquesne University
To reach any of these Duquesne University experts, contact Karen Ferrick Roman at (412) 396-1154:

  • Dr. Daniel Scheid, assistant professor of theology, McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts, examines inter-religious ecological ethics, particularly focusing on Catholic Social Teaching. His upcoming book, The Cosmic Common Good: Religious Grounds for Ecological Ethics, begins with ecologically reconstructed principles of Catholic Social Thought, such as the common good, dignity, solidarity and rights, then places these in dialogue with other religious traditions.
  • Dr. Gerry Magill, Gallagher Chair for the Integration of Science, Theology, Philosophy and Law, and professor, Center for Healthcare Ethics, is the coordinator for Duquesne University’s Integrity of Creation conference. Focused on climate change, this conference will occur on the heels of Pope Francis’s visit to the U.S. and in advance of the United Nations’ climate change conference in Paris. Versed on the topic of climate change across different perspectives, Magill can speak on climate change as both a secular and religious topic.
  • Dr. Lisa Lopez Levers, professor of counseling, psychology and special education, School of Education, in working with colleagues at the International Mass Fatalities Center and the University of Iowa, proposes a model for human survival in the face of disasters, whether they are natural disasters linked to climate change or migration from the developing countries particularly hard hit by these disasters.
  • Dr. Robert Sroufe, Murrin Chair of Global Competitiveness, Duquesne University MBA Sustainability Program, Palumbo-Donahue School of Business, has examined multinational companies that focus not just on a single, financial approach to sustainability, but on measuring and managing their organizations by integrating social and environmental performance with financial outcomes.
  • Dr. John Stolz, professor of biological sciences and director of the Center for Environmental Research and Education, Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, looks at recent global conditions, particularly extreme weather, as a reflection of the Gaia Hypothesis developed more than 40 years ago.
  • Dr. William Wright IV, associate professor of theology, McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts, is a specialist in New Testament studies and participant in the U.S. Lutheran-Roman Catholic Dialogue. Wright has attended public events with three popes and can discuss these firsthand experiences and what attendees might expect at September’s events.
  • Dr. George Worgul, professor of theology, McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts, is a specialist in ritual studies, liturgics and sacramental theology. Worgul can offer observations of Church developments and appreciation of Pope Francis. As an expert on marriage, he is willing to comment on the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.

Georgian Court University

  • Louise Wootton, Ph.D., professor and chair, Biology; and director of university sustainability, can be reached at woottonl@georgian.edu or (732) 987-2349. Areas of focus include: growing awareness of the need for diverse plantings both to enhance ecological function and to maximize community’s ability to adapt to future environmental stressors; researching and creating effective tools for environmental education and sustainability at all levels from pre-K to college, as well as for community education beyond the formal education system; and management of GCU’s Mercy Garden, a community garden effort benefiting impoverished families
  • S. Mary Paula Cancienne, Ph.D., RSM, assistant professor of Religious Studies/Theology, can be reached at mcancienne@georgian.edu or (732) 987-2334. On August 10, she delivered the lecture: Positioning Pope Francis’ New Encyclical. Her research areas include Mercy spirituality amid pluralism and contemporary social and environmental challenges; ongoing adult Christian spiritual formation in dialogue across traditions and secular culture; and theological aesthetics in terms of deep aesthetics.
  • Joseph Gower, Ph.D., professor and department chair, Religious Studies/Theology, can be reached at jogower@georgian.edu or (732) 987-2316. His research areas include systematic theology, modern theology, American Catholicism, the theology of Vatican II, and Catholic Social Teaching.

Loyola University Chicago
Loyola University Chicago has faculty experts available to speak on a number of topics related to the papal visit, including families, housing, and sustainability. The full directory can be found here.

Manhattan College

  • Mehnaz Afridi, Ph.D., assistant professor, religious studies, mehnaz.afridi@manhattan.edu, (718) 862-7284. Topics of expertise: Interfaith relations, Holocaust, Pakistan, Israel.
  • Kevin Ahern, Ph.D., assistant professor, religious studies, kevin.ahern@manhattan.edu, (718) 862-3865, Twitter: @kevin_ahernTopics of expertise: teachings of popes on social justice, popes at the UN, Christian social movements.
  • Pamela Chasek, Ph.D., professor, government, pamela.chasek@manhattan.edu, (718) 862-7248, Twitter: @paminnycTopics of expertise: International environmental policy, climate change,
  • Natalia Imperatori-Lee, Ph.D., associate professor, religious studies, natalia.lee@manhattan.edu, (718) 862-7123, Twitter: @nimperatoriTopics of expertise: US/Latino theology, relationship of women, poor to church structure.

Mount St. Mary's University (MD)
Mount St. Mary’s University, rich in Catholic tradition and historical significance, offers experts who can further stories and offer guidance in various areas related to Pope Francis.

St. Francis College
For all media requests, please contact Richard Relkin, director of media relations/adjunct professor, St. Francis College, rrelkin@sfc.edu, or (718) 489-5214.

  • Brother Geoffrey Clement, O.S.F., professor of History at St. Francis College since 2003 and Member of the Franciscan Brothers or Brooklyn - Third Order Regular. Expertise in Medieval history, with particular interest in the Inquisition. He teaches courses about Western Civilization, Medieval history, the church and Ancient history.
  • Fr. Brian Jordan, OFM, director of campus ministry, can address the Franciscan tradition of respecting creation, tracing back to St. Francis himself and The Canticle of the Creatures. Pope Francis quotes directly from The Canticle in the title of the encyclical, “Praised Be.”
  • John Dilyard, management professor and director of the College’s Honors Program, can speak about the broader economic ramifications of global warming. He also will connect the encyclical to United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and explain how this leads up to the Pope’s commitments to address Congress and the United Nations in September.
  • Alexandria Egler, a theologian with more than 12 years of experience as a religious studies professor at St. Francis College, focuses her scholarly work on St. Clare and St. Francis of Assisi, as well as the wider teachings of Franciscanism. She serves as director of the San Damiano Institute at St. Francis College.

St. Norbert College
St. Norbert College religious studies professor Paul Wadell has spoken locally, regionally, and nationally on topics closely related to the papal visit.

Trinity Washington University
Trinity, founded by the Sisters of Notre Dame, is one of the nation’s oldest Catholic women’s colleges and is just steps away from where Pope Francis will say Mass in D.C. on September 23. Among the many experts available are those who can provide a Catholic woman’s view of how Pope Francis is changing Catholicism.

The University of Dayton
Experts in religious studies and other disciplines from the University of Dayton are available to comment on Pope Francis's historic visit to the United States.

The University of San Diego
In anticipation of the Pope’s visit, the following University of San Diego faculty and staff are prepared to offer expert commentary on key issues raised in the Pope’s recent encyclical on the environment and beyond: To speak with any of these experts, please contact Pamela Gray Payton, Asst. Vice President, Media & Digital Communications, at the university: (619) 260-4681 or pgray@sandiego.edu.
Climate Change

  • Michel Boudrias, Ph.D., associate professor and chair, Department of Environmental and Ocean Science, is the lead scientist for Climate Education Partners, a National Science Foundation initiative to develop innovative approaches to climate change education for a variety of audiences. Although developed for San Diego, Boudrias and other team leaders hope it will serve as a model for the nation. “USD is approaching climate change education by combining traditional climate change science analysis with a framework grounded in social and behavioral psychology,” he explained. “This interdisciplinary approach illustrates how environmental science, social science and a strong community outreach plan can match the key messages from Pope Francis’ encyclical by responding to the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation on disadvantaged communities now and for future generations.”
  • Chell Roberts, Ph.D., dean of the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering, recently co-authored an opinion piece for U.S. News & World Report with other deans from engineering schools at Catholic universities in which they discuss the need to widen the focus of engineering field to include the bigger picture. While institutions are making progress, there is still much more to be done, the deans wrote. “We must make fundamental changes to a field that is often narrow and focused on an end result that fails to see the bigger picture. For 300 hundred years, our reductionist mindset has led us to think in silos, answering the call of progress without regard for the side effects. We, like the rest of society, have been part of the problem and now we have an opportunity to be part of the solution. We must continue and redouble our efforts to have our education, outreach and research programs reflect a holistic inclusion of the social, environmental and economic impacts of our work in the world.”

Canonization of Junípero Serra

  • Jeffrey Burns, Ph.D., director of the Academy of American Franciscan History, Franciscan School of Theology and Director of the Frances G. Harpst Center for Catholic Thought and Culture, University of San Diego, is widely published in local church history and in the history of the immigrant church. He is a professional archivist for the Archdiocese of San Francisco and a popular youth group moderator. In addition, he serves as an ordained Deacon for the Diocese of Oakland. In a recent article, Dr. Burns says Pope Francis’s announcement that he will canonize the Franciscan missionary Junípero Serra, the apostle to California, reignited long-standing resistance to the idea from a number of Native American groups. Burns says, “These wild and unfounded criticisms accompany more reasoned but no less critical responses.”

Care for Creation

  • J. Michael Williams, J.D., Ph.D., associate professor of political science, and director, Changemaker Hub,  is an alumnus of the University of San Diego (1992) and has been a member of the faculty since 1999.  He believes Pope Francis’ moral leadership on issues of the environment, poverty, and social justice is extremely important for all of us. “It is vital that we begin to think more seriously about not only our own individual interests with respect to how we live but that we also think about future generations and the legacies we are leaving them. This academic year, Williams is leading the University of San Diego in a yearlong focus on water justice. In Pope Francis’ encyclical, he reminds us, “The importance of access to safe drinking water, “is a basic universal human right.” This year, the University of San Diego will focus our attention on a campus-wide dialogue on these critical issues. Williams says, “I hope that his visit to the United States will encourage more discussions about these important social issues and what we need to be doing at this present moment to make the world a more peaceful, sustainable place for others."




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