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Unto the Next Generation

The Rev. Matt Dougherty, O.Praem., ’09 is ministering alongside some of his own former mentors in a year of teaching on campus before he moves on to doctoral studies.

Dougherty (above) is serving at St. Norbert in the theology and religious studies discipline, and also as vocation director and chaplain at the parish. “This is my first time teaching, and so far it’s been a blast!” he says. “I’ve always loved theology, and to talk to people about something (and some body – Christ!) you love for a ministry is such a blessing!”

Of other Norbertines who have recently taken vows, Dougherty is the only one currently teaching at St. Norbert.

“It’s great to have a lot of other young Norbertines in the community,” he says. At the same time, he’s enjoying the company and wisdom of elder priests in the order. “I am privileged to be able to live with guys who really formed and shaped St. Norbert Abbey and the college for the past 50 plus years. After all, the average age of the Norbertines at St. Norbert Abbey is around 74 years old! These men have so much wisdom to pass on to us young guys, and it’s great to hear their stories, and how things have changed over the years.”

Many of these men are the mentors who guided Dougherty through his own vocational discernment. He remembers the Rev. Jim Baraniak, O.Praem., ’88, the Rev. Tim Shillcox, O.Praem., the Rev. John Bostwick, O.Praem., ’68, and the Rev. Alfred McBride, O.Praem., ’50 – all present on campus while Dougherty was a student. They not only taught him theology, but also provided spiritual direction, confession, and even lessons on the history of the Norbertine order.

Though Dougherty’s current positions focus on religion and theology, he is academically as interested in learning more about freshwater ecosystems, or aquatic ecology. His undergraduate degree was in organismal biology and he has hopes to continue studying aquatic ecology at the doctoral level in the fall of 2017. He anticipates that this doctoral degree will allow him to teach courses at St. Norbert College in the science department, or possibly on the intersection of religion and science.

As a young priest working at the college, Dougherty says, “I’ve been afforded the opportunity to try to bring the Catholic faith and Norbertine charism to the next generation.” And this is important to him; he believes the Norbertine presence on campus is necessary to continue the Norbertine and Catholic identity of the college.

“I look forward to introducing the students to these values,” Dougherty says. “It’s a big task, but a rewarding one!”

He is most interested in sharing the Norbertine value of communio. The word, as he understands it, means “trying to live in unity with God and others within a locality.” Communio, he believes, should then “combat individualism and divisiveness by claiming that before God we are one family, no matter our differences, and therefore we have responsibilities toward each other.”

With this, he hopes that St. Norbert College students, faculty and staff will continue to foster Norbertine values by maintaining peaceful community – regardless of division – and then proceeding to build more such communities wherever they may go next.

March 17, 2017