$3.65 Million Grant Will Fund Network of Institutes of Catholic Thought

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CHICAGO — A national network of institutes of Catholic thought will soon be launched under a new $3.65 million grant, issued by the John Templeton Foundation Feb. 1.

The In Lumine network will include six Catholic institutes, located on top college campuses across the country, to begin with.

They include the Lumen Christi Institute at the University of Chicago; the Nova Forum at the University of Southern California; the Collegium Institute of the University of Pennsylvania; the St. Anselm Institute at the University of Virginia; COLLIS at Cornell University; and the Harvard Catholic Forum at Harvard University.

Each of these institutes operates independently of the university, but provides secular university faculty, students, and staff with programming that establishes a range of disciplines in dialogue with the Catholic intellectual tradition and trains participants in that tradition.

The entire grant was awarded to the Lumen Christi Institute to administer over three years. In addition to establishing the network, the funding will support scientific and religious programming – some of which is open to the public – at each of these institutes.

Members of the In Lumine network will also receive training and workshops on sustainable nonprofit management, including strategy development, fundraising, marketing, program management and evaluation, planning of events and engagement on campus.

Michael Le Chevallier, acting executive director of the Lumen Christi Institute, said the network will expand after its first year to welcome new members from across the United States, including ecumenical partners.

“The founders of these institutes often followed parallel learning curves, treading the same ground, with limited budgets and little outside guidance,” Le Chevallier explained. “A support network was needed, so that everyone could more effectively promote their programming, share ideas, build on the successes of others, and amplify impact.”

“The network will also enable collaboration between these institutes in advancing their common mission,” added Le Chevallier.

The six institutes were inspired by the same vision of lay Catholic Thomas Levergood and Catholic scholars at the University of Chicago – to bring the Catholic intellectual tradition to the secular university.

Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago supported the vision, which resulted in the founding of the Lumen Christi Institute in 1997.

For 25 years, Lumen Christi’s mission has been to engage University of Chicago students and faculty in an ongoing and thoughtful dialogue between science and Catholic thought.

This mission is carried out through lectures and seminars with the best academics from the university, such as Bernard McGinn, Father David Tracy and Jean-Luc Marion, and from around the world.

The idea quickly caught on. In 2000, Levergood helped found the St. Anselm Institute at the University of Virginia. He offered advice in the creation of the Collegium Institute in 2013, presenting his founding council to major funders.

He also advised the Nova Forum and the Harvard Catholic Forum in their founding in 2020, and COLLIS at Cornell University in 2021.

As executive director of the Lumen Christi Institute for 24 years, Levergood also supported the creation of several Catholic think tanks and professional associations that address issues in science, economics, and criminal justice. .

Levergood died last August at age 58 after a brief battle with cancer. This year’s Templeton Foundation grant cements his vision and secures his legacy, said Le Chevallier, who worked with Levergood for 10 years.

Le Chevallier explained that the focus on science and religion by the In Lumine network is a response to the “enthusiasm” of students and faculty “to probe deeper questions emerging from the application of new technologies and university’s increasingly technology-focused programs. .”

As part of the grant, Lumen Christi will also host a national summit on science and religion in the second year of the project.

Stephen Barr, president of the Society of Catholic Scientists, says the new Templeton-funded projects will help dispel the myth among Catholics and non-Catholics that a chasm exists between science and religion.

The Society of Catholic Scientists is an international organization that has grown since its founding in 2016 to reach 1,600 members in 50 countries. Its mission is to “foster brotherhood among Catholic scientists and witness to the harmony of faith and reason,” according to its website.

Barr had worked with Levergood and the Lumen Christi Institute, which helped organize and fund the society’s first annual conference in 2017.

“A lot of people think they have to choose between the Catholic faith and science,” said Barr, professor emeritus of physics at the University of Delaware. “This is due to myths and confusions that have too often been left unaddressed.”

“Fortunately, that is starting to change, as Catholic scientists, scholars, and a variety of new Catholic organizations, like Lumen Christi and others, have taken up the challenge” to bridge the gap, he said.

David Albertson is the founding director of the Nova Forum and associate professor of religion at the University of Southern California. He received his doctorate from the University of Chicago, where he said his participation in Lumen Christi events had a lasting impact on his life of Catholic faith and his vision for the Nova Forum.

“The Catholic intellectual tradition has so much that it can and should offer as a gift to leading private and secular universities,” he said. “As universities today struggle to connect teaching and research, ethics and the marketplace, culture and the common good, Catholic intellectuals bring new resources, perspectives and energies to their schools.”

Albertson said being part of the In Lumine network will allow his institute to organize new programs with science students and faculty on campus.

“So far, Nova Forum has engaged the humanities and USC law school,” he said.

“I hope our longer Catholic perspective will provide a platform for all disciplines to focus on the moral and religious center inseparable from all human scientific endeavors, which is to be and to remain human,” he said. -he adds.

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Editor’s Note: For more information about the In Lumine Network, visit the Lumen Christi Institute website, https://www.lumenchristi.org.

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