ITI Alumni Carry on the Legacy of John Paul II

ITI Graduates Organize the Second Annual International Theology of the Body Conference

Who can assess the abiding legacy of John Paul II? Who can measure the depth and richness of his thought which is present in the various forms that his writing takes? One thing that can be said with certainty is that all of his teachings and writings offer us an integral vision of the human person and of human relations. And what we call The Theology of the Body is no exception.

Who would have thought that the catechetical lessons on God’s plan for human life and love, given at the beginning of his pontificate, were going to change the way many people today look at their own bodies, at sexuality and at their particular vocation? Moreover, these lessons contained in the Theology of the Body have become a constant theme for reflection and the source of many talks, retreats, conferences, articles and books. Lately, they have also been the theme under which two important international events have taken place.

The First International Symposium on John Paul II’s Theology of the Body was held in Gaming, Austria, in May 2007, and it was hosted by the Franciscan University of Steubenville (Austrian Program).

After the great success of this first symposium, three of the participants, who were also at the ITI, decided to come together to work on organizing a second International Theology of the Body Symposium to facilitate further understanding and promotion of this great teaching. After prayer and discussion, Ireland was chosen as the venue. The three organizers, Jana Prudka (Czech Republic, ITI 2009), Robert McNamara (Ireland, ITI 2009) and Monica Rapeanu (Romania, ITI 2003), were supported in their endeavour by Dr. Michael Waldstein, to whom they owe in great part their knowledge, understanding of, and love for, the Theology of the Body. The organizing team was joined by two others from Ireland, Damian Polly and Niall Leahy, and by an Australian, Anne-Maree Quinn.

Their work was successful and the Second International Symposium was held in June 2009 on the weekend of the Feast of Corpus Christi, June 11-14, in anticipation of the thirtieth anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s visit to Ireland, as well as the thirtieth anniversary of the first Papal Audience on this topic. The venue was St. Patrick’s College Maynooth, one of the places visited by John Paul II in 1979. The symposium was hosted by Pure in Heart, an Irish youth community dedicated to promoting chastity and to living the true beauty of sexuality.

At Dr. Waldstein’s suggestion, the topics chosen for the talks followed the structure of the Theology of the Body itself. The list of Speakers included Dr. Michael Waldstein, Kathy Sinnott (Ireland), Rev. Donald Calloway M.I.C (USA), Sr. Mary Timothy Prokes, F.S.E (USA), artist Dony Mac Manus (Ireland), Rev. Alan O’Sullivan O.P. (Ireland), Dr. Peter J. Colosi (USA), Dr. Mary Shivanandan (USA), Dr. Phil Boyle (Ireland), and two ITI graduates, Dr. Mary Healy (USA, ITI 1998) and Dr. William Newton (England, graduate ITI 2005, current ITI professor). Unfortunately, Dr. Waldstein and Fr. Calloway were unable to attend, but this Symposium, too, by God’s grace, was another great success with 270 participants present from 21 different countries, a deeply warm and friendly atmosphere, engaging speakers and inspiring talks. The program included, of course, daily Mass, perpetual adoration, and last but not least, social events that were appreciated and enjoyed by all. A highlight was a theatrical performance of Karol Wojtyla’s “The Jeweller’s Shop.”

This event was at the same time an opportunity for a deepening of personal faith and self-understanding meant to inspire greater participation in the New Evangelization. Moreover, this international encounter was designed to help foster and develop prosperous networks to assist participants with their own evangelization initiatives.

A unique characteristic of this symposium was the fact that it brought together several ITI alumni. Also present were Vidya Chalissery (India, ITI 2009), Toma Bruzaite (Lithuania, ITI 2009) and three current students who contributed their wonderful gifts to the success of the symposium. STM student, Ryan Chalissery (India), organized and coordinated the audio and video recording of the entire event, while Deirdre Wood (USA) and Max Becher (USA) delighted the audience with their musical talents.

Without a doubt, the Second International Theology of the Body Symposium clearly showed that the ITI is a school with a successful mission; it is not only a place where solid Catholic theological formation is offered, but also a place where New Evangelization projects are born.

At the beginning of her talk, Dr. Mary Healy remarked: “the Theology of the Body, in presenting the Church’s Good News about the body, man and woman and how they were created in the image of God, is also a spiritual battle.” But she also emphasized, “the good thing about the spiritual battle in the Kingdom of God is that the safest place to be is right on the frontlines.”

The ITI alumni who took part in this Second International Symposium hope to remain on the frontlines while helping spread and proclaim the message of the Theology of the Body to a world that hungers for true love and beauty.