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Two SVC Theologians Selected to Participate in National Conference on 'New Evangelization'

Public Relations
Posted: Thursday Aug 4, 2011
Two theologians at Saint Vincent College have been selected to participate in a national conference that focuses on the task of re-evangelizing our culture.

Dr. Kimberly Baker, assistant professor of theology, and Dr. Patricia Sharbaugh, assistant professor of theology, are among a group of 50 theologians teaching at colleges and universities across the United States who have been invited to participate in a conference, The Intellectual Tasks of the New Evangelization, which is being sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Doctrine in collaboration with the School of Theology and Religious Studies at The Catholic University of America September 15 to 17 in Washington, D.C.

The pair’s selection follows a national announcement that was sent to all colleges and universities in the United States asking for nominations of theology faculty members who were not tenured and who had earned their doctorates during the past five years. “Father Tom Hart, O.S.B, Assistant to the President for Mission, had read about the conference. He and Saint Vincent College President Brother Norman Hipps, O.S.B., wanted Saint Vincent to become involved,” Dr. Baker said. “They contacted Dr. Jason King, chair of the theology department, to identify who might qualify for nomination. We were a little surprised that both of us were selected from Saint Vincent. We were hoping that one of us would be.”

While they don’t know how they were selected, they are both honored and excited to participate. “The letter we received informing us of our selection did say that we needed to indicate our acceptance promptly since there is a waiting list,” Dr. Sharbaugh said.

According to materials distributed to the participants, both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have called for a new evangelization. “This is a daunting challenge within western secularized culture where the Christian faith is often perceived as a relic from a dark and distant past. This conference will examine the intellectual tasks that confront Catholic theologians and bishops as they work to further this new evangelization,” organizers said.

The goal of the conference is to provide an occasion to build relationships between bishops and the next generation of theologians. “The hope is that we will go and listen and collaborate in discussions between ecclesial leaders and theologians. I think there is interest in looking at constructive ways we can work together. This is a starting point,” Dr. Baker said. “It’s a hopeful sign,” Dr. Sharbaugh added.

Both teachers think participation in the conference will benefit their students in the classroom. “Anytime you attend a conference it opens you to new ways of seeing things so even when you are doing the very same work you see it from a different perspective or through a different question,” Dr. Sharbaugh said. “It may give an awareness of how my teaching and the students here are all part of the bigger Church community and hopefully working together to form that Church and to participate in the new evangelization which involves re-evangelization of cultures that have become secular.”

“I can imagine in certain classes issues related to the new evangelization will come to us more naturally because we have been in this conversation,” Dr. Baker added. “It will shape my perspective on what I am doing. An emphasis of the new evangelization is the idea of really listening to the needs of the culture or the questions of people. I can imagine coming back and asking what are the needs that I hear students express. They may not have the same questions I have, so how do I use the class to help them engage their questions rather than imposing my questions on them.”

Keynote speaker will be Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston. Other presenters include Archbishop J.A. DiNoia, O.P., of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments; Dr. John Cavadini of the University of Notre Dame; Dr. Ralph Del Colle of Marquette University; Msgr. Kevin W. Irwin and Fr. Frank Matera of The Catholic University of America; and Dr. Janet E. Smith, of the Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit.

The closing Mass will be celebrated by Donald Cardinal Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, D.C. and chair of the committee on doctrine.

The conference is made possible by a grant from the Knights of Columbus.

Dr. Baker earned a bachelor of arts in history with honor from Agnes Scott College, a master of divinity degree in pastoral ministry from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. in theology from the University of Notre Dame. She has been a member of the Saint Vincent faculty since 2008. She teaches courses in historical theology and spirituality and coordinates ministry internships. In May, she accompanied students on a cross-cultural service trip to Calcutta, India. Dr. Baker is the daughter of Mrs. Elaine Baker and the late Thomas Jack Baker of Lincolnton, North Carolina. She lives in Unity Township where she is a member of the Saint Vincent Basilica parish.

Dr. Sharbaugh earned a bachelor of arts degree in business economics with highest honors from the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, a master of divinity degree from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. in systematic theology from Duquesne University. A member of the Saint Vincent faculty for two years, she teaches courses in Biblical Theology and Systematic Theology. A member of Holy Trinity R.C. Church, she and her husband, John, are residents of Ligonier. They have three grown children: Molly, a senior English major at Westminster College, who is going to study abroad in London in the fall; Rebecca, who just graduated with highest honors with a double major in theology and psychology from the University of Notre Dame and will be going back this fall to do a year-long internship in campus ministry; and Patrick, a graduate of Penn State who is a UPMC software designer for Smartrooms in hospitals.

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Photo: Dr. Kimberly Baker (left) and Dr. Patricia Sharbaugh

PR2011-641