Diocesan News

Newman Institute begins annual free lecture series Sept. 21

Story by S.L. Hansen

LINCOLN (SNR) - The “Reborn in Wonder” lecture series offered by the Newman Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture kicks off Sept. 21.

This series of four lectures is free and open to the public so that many people in the area can benefit from the insight offered by nationally and world-renown speakers.

“Anyone can benefit and find the lectures encouraging and inspiring,” said Dr. John Freeh, director of the institute. “The whole purpose of this institute is to make the rich patrimony of the Church–its thinking, its wisdom and its literature–available to everyone.”

Speakers include FOCUS founder and author Curtis Martin, Catholic apologist Scott Hahn, and author and columnist George Weigel. Topics include creating holy families, Blessed John Henry Newman, faith and democracy.

Martin will deliver the first lecture Wednesday, Sept. 21, titled “Thriving Cultures and the Vision of the Family.”

A married father of nine, Martin founded the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) at Benedictine College in Kansas in 1998 with just two missionaries reaching out to college students during the years most walk away from their faith. Since then, FOCUS has spread to 100 campuses, including the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) with more than 550 missionaries and supporting staff.

Martin also hosts the EWTN televisions series “Family matters” with his wife, Michealann. The pair also wrote the book, “Family Matters: A Bible Study on Marriage and Family,” which offers ideas in building a happy and holy marriage, based on their own family experience.

Father Ian Ker, who is widely recognized as the world’s leading authority on Blessed John Henry Newman, was to deliver the second lecture Wednesday, Oct. 19, titled “Newman’s Idea of a University.”  However, he has had to withdraw due to health reasons. Dr. Freeh has found a replacement speaker who is also an authority on Newman. Details were not available at press time, but will be published by the Newman Institute on Catholic Thought and Culture when they become available.

The next lecture, “Belief and Commitment” will be delivered by Scott Hahn, Wednesday, Nov. 9.

Dr. Hahn was a college professor and ordained Presbyterian minister when he first felt called to convert to the Catholic faith. He sought instruction from a local priest: one Msgr. Fabian W. Bruskewitz, who later became Bishop of Lincoln.

Since Dr. Hahn was received into the Catholic Church in 1986, he has become a popular speaker and teacher about the Catholic faith, as has his wife, Kimberly, who converted to the Catholic faith two years later. Hundreds of Dr. Hahn’s talks have been produced on audio and video by St. Joseph Communications and many are available through Formed.org (currently free for the Diocese of Lincoln).

Dr. Hahn is also a faculty member of Franciscan University of Steubenville, where he has taught since 1990, and is the founder and president of the Saint Paul Center for Biblical Theology. His lecture on belief and commitment will be thoroughly rooted in Scripture.

George Weigel will close the fall lecture series Wednesday, Nov. 30 with  “Liberal Education and the Future of American Democracy.”

As a Catholic theologian and one of the nation’s leading Catholic writers, Weigel is the author or editor of more than 20 books, including “Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II.” His essays, op-ed columns, and reviews appear regularly in major opinion journals and newspapers across the United States. His weekly column, “The Catholic Difference,” is syndicated to sixty newspapers, including the Southern Nebraska Register.

Weigel is also senior Vatican analyst for NBC News and distinguished senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Previously, he was president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he led a wide-ranging, ecumenical and inter-religious program of research and publication on foreign and domestic policy issues. He is the recipient of eighteen honorary doctorates in fields including divinity, philosophy, law, and social science.

Dr. Freeh said he is happy to offer these opportunities for Catholics, non-Catholic Christians, and even non-Christians and skeptics to learn more about the heritage of Catholic thought.

“So much of anti-Catholicism or anti-theism comes from a lack of understanding or from a misunderstanding of what classical Christianity has taught,” he said. “Reasonable men and women of good will, whatever their faith background or lack of faith, will have a chance to benefit from the Church’s wisdom, not only on matters of faith but on the common human condition.”

Each of the lectures will begin at 7 p.m. Martin’s and Hahn’s lectures will be held at the UNL Student Union to accommodate anticipated larger crowds. The second and fourth lectures will be held at the Newman Center on UNL’s city campus, 320 N 16th St.

After each lecture, audience members will be invited to ask questions of the speakers after each lecture. There will also be an optional time for socializing followed by Compline (night prayer) in St. Thomas Aquinas Church adjacent to the Newman Center. For more information, please visit newmaninstittute.com.

The Newman Institute is also offering a fully accredited course this semester for college students, taught by Dr. Freeh. “Seekers, Sojourners and Pilgrims” is worth three credit hours and uses the works of Aristotle, Homer, Merton, Saint Augustine, Shakespeare and others to explore questions like, “What is life’s meaning and purpose?” and “What is happiness and how may we attain it?”

There are two sections of the course with a total of 12 students attending and several more who may join in while the semester is still young. Both sections meet at the Newman Center. The Tuesday class begins at 1:30 p.m. and the Thursday class is at 3 p.m.

Adults are also welcome to audit the course with permission of Dr. Freeh, who can be contacted at the Newman Center, (402) 474-7914.

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