For Immediate Release
- Nationally-Known Catholic Journalist/Blogger Rocco Palmo Will Serve As Commencement Speaker
- Two St. Louis Natives– Former UM-St. Louis Chancellor and Spiritual Direction Pioneer – Will Be Honored
- Italian Co-Founder of International Children’s Spiritual Formation Approach Will Receive Institute’s Catherine of Siena Award; New Degree Program Dedicated to Same Spiritual Formation Approach Graduates First Cohort of 16 Students
(ST. LOUIS) — Aquinas Institute of Theology will confer graduate degrees and graduate certificates on 77 women and men – 12 members of Catholic religious communities, 2 diocesan priests, 3 permanent deacons, 1 Christian minister and 59 lay persons — in a commencement ceremony at 7 p.m. on Friday, May 7, at St. Francis Xavier (“College”) Church, Grand and Lindell Boulevards. The commencement is open to the public.
Catholic journalist and commentator Rocco Palmo, author of the well-known Whispers in the Loggia blog, will receive an honorary doctoral degree and serve as the 2010 commencement speaker.
Of the 77 students graduating, 4 will receive a Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) degree in Preaching; 2 will receive a Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree; 3 will receive a Master of Arts (M.A.) in Theology degree; 1 will receive dual Master of Theology (M.A.) and Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degrees; 2 will receive a Graduate Certificate in Thomistic Studies with the dual Master of Theology (M.A.) and Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degrees; 1 will receive the Graduate Certificate in Thomistic Studies with the Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree; 15 will receive a Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies (M.A.P.S.) degree; 14 will receive a Master of Arts in Health Care Mission (M.A.H.C.M.) degree; 10 will receive a Master of Arts in Pastoral Ministry (M.A.P.M.) degree; 5 students will receive Graduate Certificates in Spiritual Direction, 1 will receive a Graduate Certificate in Spiritual Direction with the M.A.P.S. degree; 2 will receive a Graduate Certificate in Biblical Studies; and 1 student will receive a Graduate Certificate in Pastoral Care.
Sixteen students will receive Masters degrees as graduates of the first cohort of Aquinas Institute’s Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (M.A.P.S.-C.G.S.) program. The M.A.P.S.-C.G.S program was initiated in 2005 and is the first degree program of its kind in the world designed to help support the training of catechists in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd approach to the spiritual formation of children.
Catechesis of the Good Shepherd co-founder Sofia Cavalletti, Ph.D., will be honored in absentia that same evening with Aquinas Institute’s Catherine of Siena Award for her pivotal role in the development of the Montessori-based approach for the spiritual formation of children now used internationally in more than 30 countries across five continents.
Hebrew scholar and author Cavalletti, 92 and a resident of Rome, Italy, established the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (C.G.S.) in 1954 on Montessori principles with the late Gianna Gobbi, a colleague of Maria Montessori, as a three-level, nine-year approach to religious education that seeks to help children aged 3- to 12-years-old to have “a living encounter with the living God.” Introduced in the United States in the early 1970s, the C.G.S. approach is used mostly in participating Catholic and Episcopal communities, though it is also used by other Christian traditions.
The Catherine of Siena Award was established in 2003 by Aquinas Institute to “recognize the increasingly widespread role of the non-ordained in the Catholic Church and to highlight what the Church can accomplish when it calls upon and nurtures the gifts of lay women and men,” said Fr. Richard A. Peddicord, O.P., President of the Institute.
In addition to the conferral of academic degrees and the Catherine of Siena Award, Aquinas Institute of Theology will honor three individuals for their professional commitment to furthering education and key ministries of the Church. Honorary degrees (the Doctor of Humane Letters) will be conferred on the following three individuals:
- Rocco Palmo, Catholic journalist, will be honored for using social communication to advance the understanding of the Church’s mission in the world. Philadelphia-based Palmo, who has served as a U.S. correspondent for the London-based Catholic weekly, The Tablet, and a contributor to the online Paulist magazine, Busted Halo, is perhaps best known for his popular blog, Whispers in the Loggia, that focuses primarily on Catholic ecclesiastical news in North America. Palmo, a new contributor to “Currents,” the world’s first and only weekday Catholic television news program, broadcast on New Evangelization Television (NET), the cable station of the Diocese of Brooklyn, has also served as a church analyst for The New York Times, Associated Press, the BBC, NBC, National Public Radio, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and a host of other print and broadcast outlets worldwide. Palmo holds a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Pennsylvania.
- Blanche M. Touhill, Ph.D., Chancellor Emerita of the University of Missouri – St. Louis, will be honored as an educator and academic leader who exemplifies the Dominican charism of study. Touhill, a St. Louis native who earned a B.S. and Ph.D. in History and a M.A. in Geography from Saint Louis University, taught at Maryville College, Fairleigh-Dickenson University and Queens College of the City University of New York before beginning her career at UM-St. Louis in 1965 as an assistant professor. Over the next 25 years, Touhill became a full professor of history while simultaneously holding a number of administrative posts, and served as Associate Dean of Faculties, Associate Vice Chancellor and Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs. During her 12-year tenure (1991-2002) as Chancellor of the University of Missouri-St. Louis, Touhill was responsible for the university’s eight schools and colleges and an engineering program, nearly 100,000 students, and 1,800 full and part-time faculty and staff. Under her stewardship, the school added 30 degree programs and many new buildings — including a $32 million student center and the $52 million performing arts center that bears her name. Touhill’s areas of academic expertise include nineteenth-century Irish and Australian history and social studies education. She has published four books, including The Emerging University: The University of Missouri-St. Louis, 1963-1983 andWilliam Smith O’Brien and His Irish Revolutionary Companions in Penal Exile.
- Sr. Marian Cowan, C.S.J., an artist, Ignatian scholar and an internationally-recognized leader in the field of spiritual direction, will be honored for excellence in spiritual direction and for her commitment to its significance as a ministry in the Church. Cowan, a St. Louis native and a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet, holds a B.A. in Art from Fontbonne University, a M.A. in Elementary School Administration from the University of Notre Dame and a M.A. in Spiritual Theology from Saint Louis University. She has served as the Novice/Formation Director for the Saint Louis Province of her congregation and taught at both the elementary and university levels, including at Aquinas Institute, where she was instrumental in the formation of the school’s Spiritual Direction Program. Since the late 1960s when she began her work in spiritual direction, Cowan has served as a staff member, teacher and spiritual director at both the Institute of Religious Formation in Saint Louis and Ministry Training Services (which she co-founded) in Denver, and taught for many years in Creighton University’s Christian Spirituality Program. She co-founded St. Louis’ Bridges Program which leads individuals over a period of months through the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises, and has mentored spiritual directors internationally. With John Futrell, S.J., Cowan co-authored Companions in Grace: A Handbook for Directors of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola.
Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis, sponsored by the Order of Preachers (Dominicans), is the only Catholic institution in the world offering a Doctorate in preaching. While most students are Catholic, Protestants also study at Aquinas Institute. Students represent communities that stretch from coast to coast, and from as far away as Africa and South America.