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Ph.D. Candidates and Dissertation Topics

Here is a sampling of current Ph.D. candidates and their dissertation topics:


Steven Aguzzi

"Israel, the Church, and Eschatological Hope: Moltmann's Millenarianism and the Jewish-Catholic Question"

Director: Dr. Aimee Light

The relationship between Jews and Catholics has come to the fore over an issue implicitly addressed as a problem in Nostra Aetate: supersessionism-the concept that the church, comprised predominately of Gentiles, "takes up," "replaces," or "supersedes" the Jews, and appropriates their spiritual promises. Because supersessionism is embedded in Catholicism, the search for causes has led Christian scholars to examine both ecclesiological and eschatological dimensions, pointing toward an ecclesiology whereby the church views itself as a partner in history with Judaism. Thus, the final consummation of both the church and the synagogue is stressed as a tertiary reality-the coming Kingdom of God. Certain scholars, including Jurgen Moltmann, have identified the problem of supersessionism as ecclesial and eschatological: the modern church sees itself now as the expected Thousand Years' empire of Christ on earth, mentioned in Revelation 20: 4-6. The earliest Christian interpretation of this text and the millenarian hope of earthly messianic expectation borrowed from Jewish apocalyptic, left room for a Judaism which contributed theologically in history-not merely by becoming the church. I argue that since eschatological millenarianism was a strong aspect of the early Catholic tradition, it should be reassessed as a way forward beyond supersessionism. 

Emeka Ebido

 “Conscience and Community: Exploring the Relationship between Conscience formation and the Moral Community (in Nigeria)”

Director: Dr. Gerald Boodoo

We are living at a time when corruption in government and cooperate organs have reached historic proportions such that revisiting the question of the significance of conscience for moral responsibility becomes an imperative.  This research not only upholds the significance of conscience for moral responsibility, but insists that the “pathology of conscience” is in dialectical relation to that of its relevant moral community. Drawing insights from social sciences it argues that “individual perception of the moral atmosphere” within a given social milieu not only impacts conscience formation but significantly acts as either a “check” or “reinforcement” for corrupt practices. Applying this to a specific socio-moral context, it exposes how the traditional mechanism for moral formation in Nigeria is innately vulnerable to manipulation by socio-political forces such that a corrosive “moral atmosphere” is left to act not only to de-form consciences but also as a significant internal source of reinforcement for systemic corruption. Finally, it argues that globalization enables reciprocity of the conduct between the local and global communities analogous to that between individual conscience and the moral community in that the pathologies of the global community impacts the quality of social relations within local communities. It proposes that a deliberate “glocalized” moral reform is a critical element in any strategy against systemic corruption both in Nigeria and anywhere else in a globalizing world.



Emily Manning

"Whispers of Conversation between Thomas Merton and Sallie McFague on God, Self, and the World: Considering Engaged Spirituality Today"

Director: Dr. Gerald Boodoo

"How are we called to live and to experience God in the world?" This is the question this dissertation seeks to explore, relying on the thought and dialogue of Thomas Merton, a 20th Century Catholic monk, and Sallie McFague, a 21st Century Protestant theologian. This question is approached by examining Merton and McFague's understandings of God, self, and the world as these aspects relate to the question and issue of Christian living. In exploring these areas this project brings together aspects of Christian spirituality, theology, and ethics to grasp the intimate relationship between faith and action, which is the essence of authentic Christian living. Merton and McFague, in their own ways, are advocates of "engaged spirituality," or spiritually rooted social action, as the expression of Christian faith. Placed together, their individual example and influence gain strength and take on deeper significance; as conversation partners, Merton and McFague are able to enhance one another's contributions, overcoming weaknesses and limitations in one another's projects. Together, they encourage others to live more authentically and to more fully contribute to the making of a better world.



Ian P. Murphy

"Narrative, Context, and Conversion: An Application of Paul Ricoeur’s Theory of Narrative to the New Catholic Evangelization in the Postconciliar United States"

Director: Dr. Gerald Boodoo

The New Evangelism, a term popularized by Paul VI and a primary concern of John Paul II, articulates the Catholic Church’s reply to the appeal of the Council Fathers for renewed gospel proclamation in the modern age.  Theology observes copious permutations of the New Evangelism, and these competing narratives cover a variety of perspectives.  My project explores the question of the New Evangelism’s meaning within United States Catholicism amidst its various interpretations by applying Paul Ricoeur’s theory of narrative to this multiplicity of configurations.  Ricoeur’s theory actually anticipated the contemporary situation: as new interpretations challenged sedimentation, multiple reconfigurations of the Church’s call to proclaim were the inevitable result, in light of story’s power upon human imagination.  In the reciprocal dialectic between historical consciousness and personal identity, story informs each and is informed by each—an epistemological circle which allows for multiple reconfigurations when narratives engage imagination.  My application of Ricoeur’s theory will indicate that theology is not about the New Evangelism so much as it is about New Evangelisms, and that the Church may embrace a breathing room for multiple voices without losing herself to the vacuum of relativism nor to the suffocation of autocracy.

Mary Beth Yount

Mary Beth Yount"American Catholic Lay Ministers: Theological and Liturgical Dimensions of Recognition and Authorization"

Director: Dr. Maureen O'Brien

Theologians are increasingly studying lay ecclesial ministry, especially its theological foundations and the implications of the growing number of lay ecclesial ministers (LEMs). The studies, however, rarely examine how theological understandings are transmitted to the ministers and their congregations-indeed, to the Church as a whole. The ideal way to transmit this content is through rituals and liturgical celebrations that show lay ecclesial ministry is a vocation, something to which the minister is called, and the result of a discernment process (on the part of both the minister and the congregation). The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has acknowledged the need for such liturgies; the next step is to formulate universal and standard rituals. This study will underscore the need for universal installation or dedication rituals for LEMs and propose liturgical models for use in U.S. Catholic dioceses by exploring both the theological understandings of the role that ritual plays in our consciousness and the impact and effects of several proposed rituals. The study reflects on the meaning conveyed by specific ritual practices and proposes liturgical elements to reflect our contemporary theological understanding of LEMs, elements that should be included in all US-based ritual recognitions of these ministers.





Michael Martocchio

“Identity and Christ: The Ecclesiological and Soteriological Implications of Raimon Panikkar’s Cosmotheandric Theology”

Director: Dr. Gerald Boodoo

One of the most influential figures in recent theological reflection upon interreligious dialogue is Raimon Panikkar. Panikkar was an ordained Catholic priest who also practiced the Hindu and Buddhist faiths.  Panikkar lived a life of mystical faith in which his identity was simultaneously Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist, a phenomenon often called ‘multiple belonging’.  However, this mystical unity is not merely an element of Panikkar’s faith life, but it also essential to his theology.  In fact, it is mystical unity that underlies the very concept of identity in Panikkar’s thought.  Identity is found through union.  It is in the realization of this unity that the concept of ‘Christ’ comes into play.  Christ is the principle of this identifying unity, which is found throughout all of Reality.  Panikkar’s overall theological vision can best be described by his own term: ‘cosmotheandric’, which describes this unity of all of reality in its three poles: the world (cosmos), God (Theos), and Human (Aner).  In this way, the very nature of Reality itself is Trinitarian.  With this in mind, this dissertation seeks to deduce the ecclesiological and soteriological implications of this theological vision.  The key to understanding Panikkar’s ecclesiology and soteriology is the interrelation of the concepts of ‘Christ’ and ‘identity’.

Fr. Leo Tinkatumire

"The Theological and Ecological Foundations for Youth Ministry in relation to the Archdiocese of Mbarara, Uganda - East Africa"

Director: Dr. Maureen O'Brien

The Archdiocese of Mbarara, located in the traditional kingdom of Nkore in southwestern Uganda, is undergoing societal shift. Due to the pervading influences of Western civilization and technology, the conservative and often static culture of native tribal communities with their adherence to informal education, traditional customs and worship and a predominantly agrarian economy, is undergoing steady but dramatic transformation. Amidst this process of transition, the Church is struggling with the immediate need to adjust the message and methods of its pastoral ministry, especially to the youth who are most easily allured and impacted by new waves of change. This dissertation recalls the basics of faith: the revelation of the Triune God through sacred scripture, sacred tradition, and the teaching authority of the Church (Magisterium). These fundamentals of faith are presented in a manner that encourages human response to God's initiative through the sacraments, prayer and committed lives. Ecological foundations illuminate God's handiwork in the youths' own physical, spiritual, psychological and social human nature; and of their unique ecological relationship and call to responsible living as human beings within the biosphere of God's Creation. The theological and ecological concepts that form the core of this dissertation aim at helping youth ministers, parents, and youth mentors to develop upon those foundations a holistic and meaningful (youth) ministry for the youth of the Archdiocese of Mbarara.