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St. Norbert Hosts Black Catholic Theological Symposium

A public lecture on issues sparked by gun violence and race in contemporary society that opened this year’s Black Catholic Theological Symposium, also marked the first time that the national theological society had gathered at St. Norbert. 

BCTS members were joined by representatives of the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States (ACHTUS) for the panel discussion titled “Death Shrines as Memorial Acclamations: Black Lives Matter, Gone but Not Forgotten.” 

Among the panelists was Shawnee Daniels-Sykes, S.S.N.D., who once taught at St. Norbert and is now a member of the theology faculty at Mount Mary University.

“I was overwhelmed by the turnout of students, faculty, staff and board members,” says the Rev. James Herring, O.Praem. “It was a good discussion. What is going on in this country is on the minds of the students. They are asking questions. ‘What do we do? What can we do? How do we react?’ When you enter that dialogue, you learn, you understand.”

The first day of the Oct. 15-18 symposium closed with a reception at the Cassandra Voss Center, sponsored by St. Norbert’s theology and religious studies discipline.

Prayer, reflection, presentations and scholarly discussion continued throughout the weekend. A panel on Friday morning honored one of the founders of the BCTS, the Rev. Cyprian Davis, O.S.B., who died in May at age 84. 

BCTS members also toured St. Norbert Abbey on Friday. The following day, they took a break from meetings to interact with students at lunch in Michels Commons. A listening session with St. Norbert College students closed Saturday’s meetings. 

“We had a diverse group of students, Native American, African American, biracial, Latina,” says Herring. “They shared their experiences here on campus. It has not been the prettiest experience for some of them, but that’s the reality of the world. Overall, it was a good meeting, good conversation.”

Radical hospitality must not only be offered, but openly received, adds Herring, who taught theology for two years at St. Norbert while in formation, and served as the interim director of the Peace & Justice Center and deacon at St. Norbert College Parish. 

“It can be awkward when you are not among the majority,” he says. “You don’t know how to feel. When someone reaches out to you and says, ‘Let’s eat together,’ that’s a big welcome to be a part of a fellow student’s life. We need to embrace that.”

Herring, who served as prior at St. Norbert Abbey from 2005 to 2013, presided at Mass at Old St. Joe’s on Sunday, Oct. 18, before departing for Chicago, where he currently resides. Members of the BCTS and ACHTUS were able to attend the liturgy. 

Nov. 3, 2015