Evening seminars open to adults
Story by Reagan Scott
LINCOLN (SNR) — This spring, Dr. John Freeh, the director of the Newman Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture at UNL, held the Institute’s first class for non-undergraduates.
This fall, two more seven-week evening seminars will be offered for interested individuals.
The first class offered this fall will be called “The Psalms as Divine Poetry: Truth, Beauty, and Art of Sacred Scripture.” Taught by Dr. Vern Steiner, who specializes in biblical introduction and interpretation, the class will delve into how God speaks through poetry.
The second class, taught by Dr. Freeh, is called “Keys of the Kingdom: Seven Encyclicals for the Modern World” and will cover papal encyclicals from Leo XII through the present.
Registration for these classes opened on Thursday, April 19 and can be found on the Newman Institute website at newmaninstitute.com. Each class is capped at 25 participants. Priests, pastors and religious are offered half-price registration.
Dr. Freeh’s spring seminar, “Seekers, Sojourners and Pilgrims,” was based on his class for undergraduates by the same name. He said the class offered participants to grapple with some of life’s toughest questions:
What is life’s purpose and meaning? How should we live? What should we love?
The class’s studied texts included great works of Western literature such as Shakespeare’s “King Lear” and Plato’s “Apology.”
Dr. Freeh’s undergraduate classes garnered a lot of attention and led to the creation of these evening seminars.
“[The Newman Institute classes] have generated a lot of interest and curiosity in the Lincoln community,” Dr. Freeh said. “I had many people ask for courses for non-undergraduates.”
Once class registration opened up, the idea proved a success. The evening seminar had 26 adults enrolled, with more on a waiting list. The class’s structure of a 90-minute session at 7 p.m. every two weeks seemed to work well for the students taking it, as it lessened the time commitment for the busy participants.
On the popularity of the class, Dr. Freeh stated, “I think people enjoy having the chance to read or revisit these great works of Western Civilization.”
Kelleen Browning decided to sign up after hearing Dr. Freeh and his wife Helen speak at a few Frassati nights she attended, as well as the Newman Institute’s speaker series and wanted more.
“I’m an avid reader,” she said, “And this was a mix of a book club and university course. Several women from my Bible study are also in the class and, so I had people with whom I could discuss the topics prior to, or after classes.”
One of the apparent differences between these classes and the ones that Dr. Freeh teaches for undergraduates is the depth in which each text is studied.
“You can’t cover as much ground in the non-undergraduate classes,” Dr. Freeh said.
This means that while college students might read an entire text in their class, the evening seminar would only cover excerpts of different works.
To Dr. Freeh, the most enjoyable thing about the class is the animated discussions that the attendees have.
“The students have a lot of life under their belts and come with that experience,” Dr. Freeh said. “The truths disclosed in the texts speak to them on a deep level.”
The Institute’s last class, held April 18, started with an introduction of the week’s reading, St. Augustine’s “Confessions” and was followed by the participants’ thoughts and opinions of the book. The rest of class was spent discussing excerpts from the book and its prominent topics and ideas.
Browning said, “My favorite part is exploring the intertextuality of the selected pieces, how they fit into and have shaped the Western Canon, and how they have been curated to fit the motif: What are you seeking?”
In addition to these evening seminars, Dr. Freeh will again teach two undergraduate classes: “Introduction to the Great Books I: Seekers, Sojourners and Pilgrims” and “Humanities Seminar I: Love and Friendship.”
Students in these undergraduate classes often get to enjoy other experiences through the Newman Institute, such as guest speakers. On May 1, Father David Brown, S.J., an astronomer at the Vatican Observatory, will speak to the students before the Institute’s annual pilgrimage to Rome starting May 11.
Dr. Freeh noted that learning for the sake of learning has drawn people to these classes and makes them of interest to many people.
He said, “Here you have the chance to read great works of literature without reading the entire text.”
For this reason, he would encourage people to consider signing up.