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The Saint Vincent Center for Catholic Thought and Culture

The Saint Vincent Center for Catholic Thought and Culture

  • Academic Centers

The Saint Vincent Center for Catholic Thought and Culture

Saint Vincent College has provided scholars and students a setting for academic inquiry since 1846 when Boniface Wimmer, O.S.B., established the first Benedictine monastery and college in North America. Building on Wimmer’s mission to America, the Saint Vincent Center for Catholic Thought and Culture (CCTC) serves the college as an interdisciplinary institute that engages today’s intellectual climate through sustained reflection upon liberal education guided by the Catholic Intellectual Tradition and the Benedictine Wisdom Tradition. It promotes learning in areas such as theology, philosophy, marriage and family, politics, economics, rhetoric, art, and science. The CCTC offers a variety of formative academic programs for students, faculty, and the public designed to demonstrate the intellectual rigor of Catholic thought and its ability to improve the lives of individuals and the health of their communities.

The center hosts several exciting opportunities for students, such as the Benedictine Leadership Studies Program, the SVC Summer Institute in Rome, the Faith and Reason Program for high schoolers, along with reading groups, colloquia and lectures.

For faculty, the center sponsors annual summer seminars, reading groups, and other opportunities to gather and discuss the Catholic Intellectual Tradition and its relationship to liberal education. The center also seeks to support the scholarly efforts of faculty who are actively pursuing research that particularly engages the College's mission.

The CCTC was honored with the 2022 Projektenmacher Award for its excellence in programming at the college. Click on the following link to hear Jerome Foss's remarks on receiving the award.

  • Benedictine Leadership Studies

    Benedictine Leadership Studies (BLS) is a flagship program for the CCTC. BLS offers students the opportunity to grow in self-knowledge, to serve the common good, and to develop a meaningful understanding of their vocations as young men and women. The 10 Benedictine Hallmarks shape the character of the BLS program. Student fellows attend leadership seminars, take part in unique internships for academic credit, and participate in service projects. Fellows take courses in theology, political science, philosophy, history, and business. The senior capstone involves traveling to Rome over spring break. Students gain valuable background and perspective on the Catholic Intellectual Tradition and the Benedictine Wisdom Tradition, and the analytical and critical thinking skills that the program fosters benefits students’ classwork beyond the BLS curriculum.
  • The SVC Summer Institute in Rome

    The SVC Summer Institute in Rome was launched in the summer of 2022. Students spend a full month living in the historic and beautiful Benedictine monastery Sant’ Anselmo, which sits atop the famous Aventine Hill. Course offerings fulfill SVC core requirements, and include such classes as: 

    • Roman Political Thought  
    • Images and Evangelization- Christians Art in the City of Rome  
    • Galileo and the Development of Modern Science
  • Conversatio: A Journal in the Tradition of Catholic, Benedictine, and Liberal Education

    Conversatio is the Center’s inhouse journal. It provides a common forum for members of Saint Vincent Community to discover the richness and contribute to the development of the Catholic Intellectual, Benedictine Wisdom, and liberal-arts traditions. To this end, it fosters interdisciplinary conversation centered on books and other texts particularly relevant to our community—classics, new research, and books by Saint Vincent faculty and other members of the Saint Vincent community.  Conversatio is intended to model the virtues of academic discussion and good writing.
  • Sanctity of Life Minor

    In collaboration with the college theology department, the CCTC administers the interdisciplinary Sanctity of Life minor, which explores questions of human dignity across the academic disciplines of theology, philosophy, science, politics, and social science. The minor will be available to Saint Vincent College undergraduates looking for an intellectually rigorous study of human life. Our desire is to provide a rigorous program based on an integrated understanding of human life to better orient ourselves to what Saint Pope John Paul II called a Culture of Life and a Civilization of Love.  Deeply animated by our college’s mission as a Catholic, Benedictine, and liberal arts institution, the minor seeks to provide an academically robust program that fully explores a broad range of human-life questions with an open-heart seeking truth, listening to others, and responding both courageously and charitably to the challenges we face as citizens and humans in the twenty-first century.
  • Ethics, Etiquette, and Equality Dinners of Civility

    Civil discourse is becoming increasingly thin in American society, and the CCTC wants to lead the way demonstrating the virtues of discourse that are essential to academic, political, and religious communities. The idea is to gather a diverse group of people from across the Saint Vincent campus and the local community and treat them to delicious dinner. During dinner, conversation is directed by a set of questions that push people to discuss their ideas. Listening is an important component of the evening. The hope is to build and to strengthen friendships at Saint Vincent. Friendship and charity are the lifeblood of the intellectual life.
  • Fides et Ratio

    The CCTC is partnering with Fides et Ratio Seminars to host annual, week-long seminars that bring together American Political Thought and the Catholic Intellectual Tradition. The seminars are sequential, covering U.S. history over a five-year sequence. Participants include professors, high school teachers, and lawyers from across the country. In time, the CCTC hopes to acquire a special collection of rare books and newspapers intended to correspond to the topics and readings covered in the seminars. This special collection will be made available to the Saint Vincent community.
  • Faith and Reason High School Program

    Every summer, the CCTC welcomes high school students to Saint Vincent’s campus for a one-week program that combines intellectual discussing, a spiritual retreat, and lots of fun. Students enjoy seminars, daily mass, and fellowship. A highlight of the week is a hike in the local hills of Western Pennsylvania. Our Faith and Reason program seeks to give young men and women the chance to celebrate their dignity as human beings by developing their mind, body, and spirit.
  • Ora et Labora Faculty Conference

    At the beginning of the spring semester, the CCTC hosts a conference for Saint Vincent faculty to share their research, pedagogy, and other interests. We take our bearings from the wise Benedictine practice of bringing together prayer and work. Most college professors are trained to be specialists, and too often we forget to bring our unique knowledge back to our home institutions and share them in terms that our colleagues and students can understand. When guided by our mission as a Catholic, Benedictine, liberal arts college, we remember that our work as researchers and teachers is intended to serve a higher purpose than the promotion of our careers. It should enrich our communities and ultimately give glory to God, the source of all that is true, good, and beautiful.  The Ora et Labora Faculty Conference is also intended to be part of the college’s Life in Christ Week.
  • Seminars, Reading Groups, Conferences, and Panels

    The CCTC offers Saint Vincent faculty and students multiple opportunities to gather and discuss ideas, and to listen to the ideas of others. We host a variety of seminars, conferences, reading groups, speakers, and much else. The programing changes from year to year, but recent events have included: 

    • A reading group in response to the USCCB call for Eucharistic Revival 
    • A lecture by Howard University classicist Anika Prather 
    • Hosting the Society of Catholic Social Science Annual Meeting 
    • Workshops to develop the SVC Core Seminars 
    • A reading group on Shakespeare’s Macbeth

Upcoming Events

Reading Group – The Eucharist Through History 

On June 8, 2022, the Feast of Corpus Christi, the US Bishops launched a three-year ‘Eucharistic Revival,’ meant to recover and promote Catholic devotion to the Eucharist. This effort spans to parishes, dioceses, and Catholic universities. 

Starting September 12, 2022, all will gather every other Monday from 4:20 pm to 5:20 pm in Sis and Hermon Dupre Science Pavilion, E-102.  

Come to any session you would like to! If you are interested in the group, contact Dr. Lucas Briola to receive the readings.


Character and Mission

Benedictine communities have been nourishing intellectual growth for more than 1,500 years. Working within this heritage and following St. Peter’s encouragement to sharpen our minds and hearts to be obedient to the truth (1 Peter 5:22), Saint Vincent College has provided a setting for reflection and study to scholars and students since 1846 when Boniface Wimmer, O.S.B., established the first Benedictine monastery and college in North America. To continue and strengthen this legacy, the Saint Vincent Center for Catholic Thought and Culture supports the college’s mission by providing faculty, students, and the local community with the resources to better understand and participate in the Catholic Intellectual and Benedictine Wisdom Traditions.

The center is thus guided by the following principles:

  • Listening Carefully and Searching for God

    The character of the Center is shaped by The Rule of Saint Benedict, which begins with the word Obsculta, an appeal to listen carefully.1 In a world that is busy and noisy, Pope Francis reminds us that monasteries are “like oases, where men and women of all ages, backgrounds, cultures and religions can discover the beauty of silence and rediscover themselves, in harmony with creation, allowing God to restore proper order in their lives.”2 What better setting is there today for the type of education that the Church has always encouraged and cultivated? What better place is there for what St. Anselm refers to as a quaerere Deum — a “setting out in search of God”?

    Carefully listening and ceaselessly seeking to better understand all things in light of revelation, the center is animated by the confident position that truth exists and is worth discovering, and that once discovered should be communicated to others. The desire to know the truth must be genuine, and therefore the highest standards of scholarly excellence must be maintained. The center thus follows St. John Paul the Great in holding that the “boldness of faith must be matched by the boldness of reason.”3 Furthermore, the center seeks to provide avenues for collaborative efforts with those prompted by something other than Catholic doctrine to understand the created order, for as St. Thomas Aquinas says, “Every truth, no matter who utters it, is of the Holy Spirit."4

    As such, the center welcomes opportunities to foster discussion with a broad array of interlocutors, both religious and secular. All our inquiries and conversations, however, will be rooted in the Obsculta and the quarerere Deum — careful listening and sincere searching.

    [1] The opening sentence of The Rule of Saint Benedict: “Listen carefully, my son, to the master’s instructions, and attend to tem with the ear of your heart” (Liturgical Press, 1981).

    [2] Audience with the Monks of the Benedictine Confederation, April 19, 2018.

    [3] Fides et Ratio, par. 48.

    [4] Summa Theologiae, I-II, 109.

  • Lawful Freedom, Responsibility and the 10 Hallmarks of Benedictine Education

    The Bishops of the United States remind us that the “purpose of a Catholic university is education and academic research proper to the disciplines of the university,” and academic freedom is thus “an essential component of a Catholic university.” Catholic institutions of higher learning are therefore admonished to ensure that all professors are accorded “a lawful freedom of inquiry and of thought, and of freedom to express their minds humbly and courageously about those matters in which they enjoy competence.”1 Lawful freedom entails the responsible pursuit of knowledge, understanding and wisdom.

    Accordingly, the center will courageously defend the principle of academic freedom, not as an end simply, but as a necessary prerequisite for fostering the environment in which the Hallmarks of Benedictine education can take their proper place. These hallmarks include community, love, prayer, stability, conversatio morum, obedience, discipline, humility, stewardship and hospitality. When practiced with an orientation toward truth and with the protection of free inquiry, the Benedictine Hallmarks provide scholars and students with the opportunity for meaningful reflection and study in whatever discipline they choose to concentrate.

    [1] The opening sentence of The Rule of Saint Benedict: “Listen carefully, my son, to the master’s instructions, and attend to tem with the ear of your heart” (Liturgical Press, 1981).

    [1] Audience with the Monks of the Benedictine Confederation, April 19, 2018.

    [1] Fides et Ratio, par. 48.

    [1] Summa Theologiae, I-II, 109.

    [1] Application of Ex corde ecclesiae for the United States, Part II, Art. 2, sections 1-2.

  • Intellectual Charity and Joyful Inquiry

    This liberating environment fostered at Saint Vincent College should be a source of happiness directed by caritas. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI spoke to this effect when he said that “charity calls the educator to recognize that the profound responsibility to lead the young to truth is nothing less than an act of love.” He continued: “Indeed, the dignity of education lies in fostering the true perfection and happiness of those to be educated. In practice ‘intellectual charity’ upholds the essential unity of knowledge against the fragmentation which ensues when reason is detached from the pursuit of truth. It guides the young towards the deep satisfaction of exercising freedom in relation to truth, and it strives to articulate the relationship between faith and all aspects of family and civic life. Once their passion for the fullness and unity of truth has been awakened, young people will surely relish the discovery that the question of what they can know opens up the vast adventure of what they ought to do.”1

    Novelist Flannery O’Connor spoke similarly when she said, “I write the way I do because and only because I am a Catholic. I feel that if I were not a Catholic, I would have no reason to write, no reason to see, no reason ever to feel horrified or even to enjoy anything … I have never had the sense that being a Catholic is a limit to the freedom of the writer, but just the reverse.”2 The same faith, freedom and joy can and should be found in other vocations, including teaching and scholarly writing.

    The center follows Benedict XVI’s call for intellectual charity and sees in writers like O’Connor an example worth emulating. All center programs and activities will therefore be directed by caritas. We hope too that all our endeavors will be occasions for the growth of friendship on campus, for truth is most joyfully pursued with fellow travelers.

    [1] Pope Benedict, Address at the Catholic University of America, 2008.

    [2] Flannery O’Connor, Habit of Being (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1971), 114.

  • Participation in the Tradition

    The Catholic Intellectual Tradition contains a vast treasury of works that have guided our thinking for centuries. The Rule of St. Benedict is among the most prominent examples of the influence a single work can have. Added to this are the seminal works of Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome, Gregory the Great and Thomas Aquinas in the West, while the East is home to the books John Chrysostom, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzus and Athanasius of Alexandria. Diversity of approach is evident in the different religious orders, from the intensity of Ignatius of Loyola to the humility of Thérèse of Lisieux. Diversity is also found in academic interests. Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato sí, for example, reminds us of the importance of St. Francis of Assisi’s orientation toward creation and our duty to be good stewards of God’s gifts. That same orientation, when coupled with confidence in the rational order of the universe (Wisdom 11:21) explains the large number of scientific discoveries that have been made by Catholics animated by their faith, such as the father of genetics Gregor Mendel, an Augustinian monk.

    In addition to Saint Benedict, many Benedictines have contributed to this tradition. The importance of Gregory the Great and Anselm can hardly be overstated in theology and philosophy. Benedictines have also thrived in the sciences. Benedetto Castelli, a student of Galileo Galilei, contributed to the world’s understanding of fluids in motion; Placidus Fixlmillner was the first astronomer to compute the orbit of Venus; Andrew Gordon developed the first electric motor — these and countless other scientists were Benedictines, as was Stanley Jaki, who spent much of his scholarly career writing about the relationship between theology and science.

    In order to preserve and further develop this inheritance, the center promotes understanding of and encourages participation in the Catholic Intellectual and Benedictine wisdom traditions for all associated with the college and the local community. The center is interdisciplinary in nature and hopes to attract faculty and students from every academic department. To this end, the center will be a resource for the college and sponsor seminars, lectures, and other activities so that the works and riches of Catholic thought, particularly the Benedictine contributions to this body of thought, will continue to be known and cherished.

  • People

    Jerome C. Foss, PhD
    Center Director
    Association Professor of Politics

    Rev. Thomas Hart, OSB
    Faculty Seminar Leader
    Assistant for Mission

    Michael Krom, PhD
    BLS Director and Fellow in Philosophy
    Professor of Philosophy

    Lucas Briola
    Fellow of Theology 

    Catherine Petrany, PhD
    Fellow of Biblical Studies
    Associate Professor of Theology 

    Rev. Rene Kollar, OSB
    Boniface Wimmer Chair in Monastic Studies
    Professor of History

    Melinda Farrington, PhD
    Fellow in Rhetoric
    Assistant Professor of Communication

    John Smetanka, PhD
    Fellow in Science and Religion
    Vice President of Academic Affairs and Academic Dean

    Jennifer White, PhD
    Fellow in Logic
    Assistant Professor of Mathematics

    Samantha Firestone
    Center Coordinator
    BLS Coordinator

Endowed Professors in Catholic Teaching

  • Jerome Foss, Ph.D.

    The Endowed Director of the Center for Catholic Thought and Culture
    The Saint Vincent College Center for Catholic Thought and Culture launched in 2019 as an interdisciplinary academic institute that advances the mission of Saint Vincent College, promoting scholarship in the areas of theology, philosophy, marriage and family, politics, economics, rhetoric, fine arts and science. In Oct. 2020, the Center was named an Oasis of Excellence by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. A faculty member in Saint Vincent College’s Alex G. McKenna School of Business, Economics and Government since 2011, Jerome Foss, Ph.D., serves as the director of the Center for Catholic Thought and Culture. An associate professor of politics, Foss teaches courses in Catholic and American political thought, political philosophy and literature and politics, while he also oversees the senior capstone of SVC’s Benedictine Leadership Studies program. 


  • Jason King, Ph.D.

    The Irene S. Taylor Endowed Chair for Catholic Family Studies

    Named in honor of the late Mrs. Irene S. Taylor, mother of Saint Vincent College president Father Paul R. Taylor, O.S.B., a devout Catholic, an accomplished and respected nurse, and a loving mother, the Irene S. Taylor Endowed Chair for Catholic and Family Studies was established to support and advance Catholic values to strengthen families in response to the challenges of contemporary society. When asked about the keys to raising a strong and loving family, she was confident in saying: “Love them. Feed them. And want them around.” That commitment lives on through this professorship and is reflective of the mission of Saint Vincent College. A member of the Saint Vincent College faculty since 2005, Jason King, Ph.D., teaches a full complement of courses in Catholic and family studies, including Catholic Marriage, Ethics of Aquinas, Theology of Children and God, Work and Money. King, the 2020 recipient of Saint Vincent College’s Thoburn Excellence in Teaching Award, is also the author of two books, “Faith with Benefits: Hookup Culture on Catholic Campuses” and God has Begun a Great Work in Us: The Embodiment of Love in Contemporary Consecrated Life and Ecclesial Movements,” and serves as editor of the Journal of Moral Theology and a frequent contributor to the Journal of Catholic Higher Education.

Contact Us

Jerome C. Foss, PhD 
Endowed Director of the CCTC and Professor of Politics 

Samantha Firestone 
Coordinator of the CCTC