Filled with Hope for a Blessed New Academic Year

The opening ceremony of the 2020-2021 academic year at the International Theological Institute took place on October 1, the feast day of ITI’s Patroness, St. Therese the Little Flower. This year for the first time the ITI has built its study terms around three major liturgical feasts: Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost. Inspired by the academic calendar of world-renowned universities founded by the Catholic Church, such as Oxford and Cambridge, the ITI has adopted a trimester plan for the academic year. Each trimester receives its name according to the feasts: Christmas term, Easter term, and Pentecost term.


As is tradition for the ITI, the new academic year began with the celebration of a common Holy Mass. Pater Pio Suchentrunk OCist, the parish priest of Trumau, opened the doors of the parish church for the ITI’s festive liturgical service. At the beginning of the Mass, the main celebrant, His Excellency Klaus Küng, Bishop-Emeritus of the Diocese of St. Pölten and a life-long friend of the Institute and member of ITI’s Board of Trustees, implored St. Therese of Lisieux for her intercession for the ITI, the faculty, and the students. In his homily he reminded the entire congregation of Therese’s famous “little way”. He said: “Therese is a valid example. She shows a way that is possible for a normal person with limits and sins, and gives them the goal of holiness and an apostolate”. From the very beginning of its existence, the ITI has followed this little way: we are a small institution and we are limited in our resources, but we do things with great love and out of this much fruit is born. The intellectual and spiritual formation that students receive at the ITI prepares them for great missionary work in the Church and active participation in the new evangelization.


The academic part of the solemn opening of the academic year took place in the Allan and Radwan Riley Hall. The ITI President and Rector, Dr. Christiaan Alting von Geusau welcomed Bishop Küng and the ITI faculty and students. He was especially proud of the new students who, despite the current travel restrictions, had the courage to make their way to Trumau.


The Rector’s address was followed by an academic lecture delivered by one of the faculty members, Rev. Dr. Martin Mayerhofer, entitled The Spiritual Fatherhood of the Priest in Patristic and Medieval Pauline Commentaries”. In his lecture, Fr. Mayerhofer invited all to contemplate the gift of the priesthood entrusted to His Church by Jesus Christ Himself, to appreciate the priestly service through which Jesus is present in His Church, and to pray for those whom Jesus called to follow Him and serve as spiritual fathers to all men. You can listen to the lecture here.


This year, twenty-four new students joined the ranks of the ITI student body. Solemnly inscribing their names in the ITI Matriculation Book, they took upon themselves the duties and obligations of academic, liturgical and student life at the ITI. We are very excited that despite the corona crisis, not only did all students from around the world arrive safely on campus after having undergone mandatory testing, the total number of students studying here is also higher than the past year. This is an important sign of how important the formation is that the ITI offers.


The Holy See has granted the nihil obstat to three additional faculty members this year, so the ITI Grand Chancellor His Eminence Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, through the hands of the ITI’s Rector and Dean, conferred individual decrees on them with their professorial appointments at the ITI. Dr. Timothy Kelly was appointed Associate Professor for Dogmatic Theology, Rev. Dr. Martin Mayerhofer was appointed Associate Professor for Church History and Patristics, and Rev. Prof. Dr. habil. Josef Spindelböck was appointed Extraordinary Professor for Moral Theology and Social Ethics. Fr. Spindelböck also received from the Rector the professorial beret, as an attribute of formal academic dress. Then, as is tradition, all the faculty members proclaimed the Oath of Fidelity to always remain faithful to the Roman Pontiff and the authentic Magisterium of the Catholic Church.


Recently, the ITI received on long-term loan a grand piano for exclusive use in the Riley Hall. The piano was built around 1900 and although thus quite old, still gives a very warm sound. Hence the festive ceremony was accompanied by a beautiful musical performance by pianist Feliks Matskulyak, who treated the audience with three piano pieces composed by Levko Revutsky and Frederic Chopin. It closed with the episcopal blessings of His Excellency Bishop Küng. Entrusting our hearts to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and asking for the intercession of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, we are filled with hope for the blessed twenty-fifth academic year.