Rev. Pierre Schouver, C.S.Sp. Endowed Chair in Mission
Rev. Elochukwu Uzukwu, C.S.Sp., Th.D.
Father Pierre Schouver, C.S.Sp., served as Superior General of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit from 1992-2004.
Uzukwu, inaugural holder of the Schouver Chair, works with the vice president for mission and identity and the University community to deepen the academic and intellectual discussion about culture and the Catholic Intellectual Tradition. He will use the Catholic Intellectual Tradition as a major resource for learning and scholarship, generate intercultural dialogue and examine the lived expression of Catholicism in communities.
“As stewards of the Catholic Intellectual Tradition, Catholic universities bear a special responsibility to develop and preserve the tradition in dialogue with the contemporary cultures of the world,” said the Rev. James McCloskey, vice president for mission and identity. “The Schouver Chair furthers our conversation at Duquesne on the relationship between faith and cultures, a particularly important interest to Spiritans and a critical component of the University’s strategic plan.”
Uzukwu has research interests in liturgy and sacraments, rituals, the study of the church and its relationship with Jesus Christ (ecclesiology), and the study of the mandate, message and work of missionaries (missiology).
A native of Nigeria and a graduate of the Bigard Memorial Seminary in Enugu, he received his S.T.B. from Urban University in Rome and his master’s of theology and doctorate of theology from the University of St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto.
Uzukwu, who has met and worked with the chair’s namesake, served as a missionary in the Congo, starting in 1979. In 1982, he began work at the Bigard Memorial Seminary and in 1987, he became the founding rector of the Duquesne-affiliated Spiritan International School of Theology nearby.
In Paris and Ireland, his teaching focused on evangelization, history of mission, interreligious dialogue, globalization, development, justice and peace. He took leave in 2007 to teach at the University of Notre Dame before arriving at Duquesne.
At the Intersection of Religion and Culture
Author of the books A Listening Church and Worship as Body Language, Uzukwu has research interests in the intersection of versions of Christianity with African traditional religion and cultures across West Africa. As the University’s strategic plan supports an emphasis on Africa and the African diaspora, this work takes on a greater significance for the entire campus community.
“How do you negotiate a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ within the world today?” Uzukwu asks. As the Schouver Chair, he will develop an annual lecture, periodic University-wide seminars and national symposia that focus on different aspects of the intersection of culture and the Catholic faith.
In his latest book, God, Spirit, and Human Wholeness: Appropriating Faith and Culture in West African Style, to be published soon, Uzukwu tackles questions of integrating religious dialogue across faiths and how the intimate embedding of God-Spirit in the human West African story from pre-existence enables an alternative vision of the Triune God in the Christian community.
“The famous American theologian, John Courtney Murray, once said that ‘pluralism is woven by God into the fabric of the universe.’ In other words, diversity is the natural state of creation,” said former Dean Christopher Duncan of the McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts. “One of the great strengths of Fr. Elo’s work and, indeed, his life itself is that it takes this fact as its starting point. That recognition allows him to see the world in terms of an ongoing conversation steeped in mutual respect and marked by a quest for common ground and human dignity rather than as a perpetual argument defined by winners and losers.
Presenting Theology and Encouraging Dialogue
Editor of the Bulletin of Ecumenical Theology, a journal published by the Ecumenical Association of Nigerian Theologians, Uzukwu is a sought-after presenter invited to lecture, give workshops and participate in conferences in Europe, Africa and across the U.S. Besides his workshop for missionaries in Ethiopia, focusing on evangelization, his presentations have focused on ecumenism with Christianity, Islam and African traditional religion.
For Uzukwu, continuing and encouraging these dialogues is now inspired by the late Spiritan who lends his name to the chair and who invited him to preach at a retreat for the Spiritan General Council in Sienna.
“He was quite remarkable as an animator, a mentor of the youth in Bangui,” Uzukwu said, recalling when he first met Schouver in the Congo in 1979. “He found the work fascinating; they loved him, and he had so much knowledge. It is an honor to be serving as a chair that carries his name.”