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Theology Professor Encourages Cross-Generational Dialogue on Faith

Theology professor Michael Horan wants to create more dialogue focused on the ways that people of differing generations share their theological and faith perspectives, concerns and hopes. To this end, Horan spent last semester on sabbatical researching the best methods to accomplish his goal.

“It’s important to engage in more humble conversations with youth about religion, ones that reveal what adults really believe. Young people are highly suspicious of religious superiority, or dialogue that engenders religious strife between religious groups,” Horan said. “In doing so, adults can more effectively communicate and share their spirituality and religious practices.”

Horan developed a position paper on the current and future state of adolescent catechesis, or the sharing of faith and the traditions of the Catholic Church, with the aid of a Lily Endowment grant and the National Initiative for Adolescent Catechesis (NIAC). The paper will be presented at the national symposium sponsored by NIAC in Nov. 2008, and it will be the lead chapter in the book published by the NIAC and three national Catholic organizations committed to teaching adolescents.

“The national initiative is an opportunity to offer adults a theological education so that they can mentor anyone with confidence, including teens, who ask for direction,” said Horan, who serves as the graduate director in the Department of Theological Studies.

Horan’s research and writing during the sabbatical also focused on lay ministry, specifically youth ministry, and its emergence as a legitimate ministry in the Church. In his writing he addresses questions about the theological preparation of lay ministers, and the just compensation and fair work practices for them.

“Lay people are now taking professional leadership roles inside the church; they are not expected to work only in the world while remaining passive in their religious communities. Their actions are an actual expression of their spirituality,” Horan said.

Every seven years LMU professors are eligible to request a sabbatical, an extended period of time, usually a semester or an academic year, to do research and writing.

“Sabbaticals are an opportunity to renew, and to delve more deeply into the research interests of the professor, in a sustained way. For me, it cleared my mind and let me read, write and consider things that matter without interruption,” Horan said.