Fulfilling Fr. Ted’s Vision: The New Church Life

Several years before Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C. passed away, he met with the directors of the Institute for Church Life in his office on the 13th floor of Hesburgh Library. In the course of this hour-long meeting, Fr. Ted described to us the original impetus for the establishment of the Institute. He wanted Notre Dame to be not simply a place that carried out excellent theological education at an undergraduate and graduate level but to serve as a resource to the Church in catechesis, in theological education, in liturgical formation, and in leadership development. His hope was that somewhere in the history of the University, a paragraph or two might be devoted to the outreach efforts of the Institute for Church Life.

[caption id="attachment_653" align="alignleft" width="359"] Fr. Ted Hesburgh, C.S.C. with members of the ICL staff (2011)[/caption]

The journal Church Life is a continuation of Fr. Ted’s vision for the ICL. Our website, newly launched this Ash Wednesday, is an opportunity to extend the boundaries of our Institute’s teaching and research to the digital world. The themes of this re-launched periodical, now transformed into a media hub, are integral to every center and program that finds a home in the ICL.

  • We, and thus the journal, do a form of theology that is intellectually responsible, while remaining attentive to the needs of the Church. Good theology, as a form of faith seeking understanding, can renew the pastoral life of the Church. Theologians need a place in the publishing landscape where they can make this kind of research available not simply to their colleagues but also to their fellow parishioners. This journal is a place for pastoral scholarship that is intelligent and beautiful.

  • Within the ICL, we carry out our mission aware of the cultural milieu that shapes Catholic life in the present day. Sociology and cultural analysis are not alien to the theological project but are integral to assisting the ICL in thinking through the intellectual tasks of evangelization. This journal will feature essays and articles that study and report upon the signs of the times as a way to renew the theological and pastoral life of the Church.

  • We learn from the practice of pastoral ministers in the field, both ordained and lay, who work as fellow theologians with us. This journal is a place where these ministers can think through the theological and pedagogical assumptions of their practices for the evangelization of the world. At the same time, through the journal, our colleagues in pastoral ministry will provide academics with an on-the-ground sense of ecclesial life.

Outreach in the journal will take other forms as well. Regular articles will give the reader sustained contact with thinkers and pastoral ministers whom the Institute for Church Life admires. Some of these writers are graduates of ICL programs, while many are simply those who share the digital acropolis with the Institute. In these regular articles, the reader will also hear from faculty and staff at the Institute for Church Life, giving one a sense of the breadth and depth of the teaching, research, and formation that is conducted every day in Geddes Hall, the home of our Institute. And these smaller pieces will also enable the ICL to comment in a timely manner upon events happening in the world and the Church alike.

The blog, once known as Oblation, will now be integrated into the content of Church Life. This space on the website will continue to highlight the voices of students at Notre Dame who will write about their lives of faith, their experiences of the liturgy and prayer, and their discernment of vocation. The space of the blog will be a creative one for students, graduates, and readers to both start new conversations and carry out a dialogue already happening within the space of the journal.

In the coming months, the staff of the journal will also be transitioning previously published material from Church Life to the new online format. In this way, the already rich content produced by our previous iteration will find new accessibility. As the journal perfects its publishing schedule, the reader should also expect to see an increase in other forms of media including podcasts, short videos, and webinars. The genius of a digital platform is that it will enable the journal to experiment and grow with the needs of the Church and world as a whole.

The faculty and staff of the ICL are happy to launch this new website for Church Life. We think the reader will discover among our community a sustained theological and pastoral conversation about the renewal of ecclesial life, grounded in faithful, thoughtful, socially-oriented discipleship. And we hope that Fr. Ted remains proud of this new outreach effort—one that is possible because of the initial support he provided for an academic and educational unit at Notre Dame dedicated entirely to the service of the Church.


Images courtesy of the Institute for Church Life.


Timothy P. O’Malley

Timothy P. O’Malley is the director of the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy, associate professional specialist in the department of theology at the University of Notre Dame, and founding editor of Church Life Journal.

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