Fordham University            The Jesuit University of New York

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Social Justice Drives Theology Department

Social Justice drives Theology department 

Under the guidance of Terrence W. Tilley, Ph.D., professor and chair of the theology department, graduate students and faculty members are breathing new life into the nearly 500-year-old Jesuit tradition of education through a commitment to social and economic justice in every facet of their work—from research projects to community service programs.

Tilley, who is also president of the Catholic Theological Society of America, said this departmental focus on issues of justice underlines the University’s mission of developing men and women for others.

“Whether Catholic or not, our faculty members really have this fundamental Jesuit vision,” he said.

Christine Firer Hinze, Ph.D., professor of theology, agrees.  She said professors throughout the department are tailoring their teaching and research projects around issues of justice to ensure students make the connection between what they learn in the classroom and what’s going on around the world.

“We’ve only scratched the surface,” said Firer Hinze.  “But it opens the door to many other possibilities for caring about issues of justice.”

And prospective graduate students from around the country are starting to take notice.  The theology department is now held in the same regard as many of the best theology departments in the country, according to Tilley.

He said some of the students accepted by the department were also granted admission to the University of Chicago, Boston College and Notre Dame.

Tilley noted that many of the graduate students within the department are, by and large, examining issues and proposing papers that have a clear pratical import.  "Our students, particularly the younger students, are concerned with keeping the pratical and theological aspects together, which is, of course, accomplished through social justice", he said.  

The department’s commitment to issues of justice is also attractive to those of many religious denominations.  Tilley estimates that between one-third and one-half of the graduate students are not Catholic.

"People want to come here because it's Roman Catholic, because it's Jesuit", he said.  "People want to come here because we educate the whole person and because we are concerned with social justice."  

Theological work that has no effect on religious practice is empty.  And religious practice without theological reflection is blind.” 

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