|From left: GSRRE founder Vincent M. Novak, S.J., alumna and keynote speaker Zenobia Fox, Ph.D., and Gloria Durka, Ph.D., professor of religious education.
Photo: Chris Taggart
The Second Vatican Council planted the seeds for the reform of religious education in the 1960s, and those seeds flowered at Fordham with the development of a master’s program in religious education, an institute and finally the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education (GSRRE) in 1975.
“It was from the great imagination and vision of the brothers [Vincent and Joseph] Novak, S.J., that the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education was born,” said Joseph M. McShane, S.J., the president of Fordham University. “Vatican II was God’s gift to the church … and this school is God’s gift to Fordham.”
In celebration of the contributions that the GSRRE has made to religious education over the past 40 years, approximately 100 alumni, students and faculty gathered for workshops, panel discussions and a banquet at the Rose Hill campus on May 1.
The school’s beginnings are rooted in the 1960s, when Vincent M. Novak, S.J., spearheaded the development of the Lord and King High School Religion series (Holt, Rinehart, Winston, 1964-1968), which was incorporated into Catholic high school curricula across the country. The book series eventually led to the creation of a master’s degree in religious education at the Graduate School of Education in 1964 , and to the founding of the GSRRE 11 years later. Father Novak served as dean until his retirement in June.
Today, the GSRRE is the smallest school at Fordham, but it probably has the farthest reach as its student body hails from 15 countries including Nigeria, India, the Philippines and Korea. Its curriculum has also blossomed, expanding from religious education into pastoral counseling and spiritual direction. The school offers several master’s degree options and a doctoral program, which was established in 2000. Its approximately 2,000 graduates hold leadership positions in schools, dioceses and healthcare systems around the world.
During her keynote address, Alumna Zenobia Fox, Ph.D., (GSRRE ’96), a Seton Hall professor, used the words and memories of GSRRE faculty and alumni to weave together the history and distinctiveness of the school.
The GSRRE “is committed to the church and is committed to dialogue about contemporary world issues,” Fox said. “There are places that focus solely on traditions, but here the focus is on the world inside and outside of the church, and that will continue to be its strength over the next 40 years.”