Ron Busch
Freelance Writer
May 10, 2017 // Special

Fort Wayne hosts annual Hesburgh Lecture Series

Ron Busch
Freelance Writer

The Notre Dame Club of Fort Wayne and the Thomas More Society of Fort Wayne, in conjunction with the Alumni Association of the University of Notre Dame, hosted a brief lecture followed by a panel discussion on the topic of “Pope Francis’ Vision for the Church,” on Tuesday, April 25, 6 p.m., at the Allen County Public Library. The lecture has a nine-year history in Fort Wayne.

The Hesburgh Lecture Series is named for Father Theodore Hesburgh, CSC, the 15th president of Notre Dame, serving from 1952 to 1987, the longest tenure to date.

While the Notre Dame Club of Fort Wayne and the Alumni Association of Notre Dame promote a number of activities The Thomas More Society has a more focused purpose. The society is a not-for-profit, national public interest group providing high-quality, pro bono legal services for life, family and religious liberty from local trial courts all the way to the United States Supreme Court.

This year the event featured a topical lecture by Dr. J. Matthew Ashley of the University of Notre Dame. Ashley is an associate professor of systematic theology and the chair of the department of theology at Notre Dame. His presentation focused on Pope Francis, his remarks, and stands taken on various issues. He emphasized the pope’s welcoming of differing viewpoints, and his favor for a continuing “discernment” of issues facing the Catholic Church today.

He commented on the recently ended Year of Mercy, and how the pope believes that God’s mercy knows no bounds. He noted comments from the pope that were directed particularly at the European and Western cultures, including “We are a society which has forgotten how to weep, how to experience compassion and suffering with others.”

Ashley’s remarks concluded with a summarization of his three-point emphasis on the pope’s vision for the church. This included the His Holiness’ desire for a de-centered church that goes to the ends of the earth, a church that enables people to encounter the mercy of Christ, and an ongoing, “discerning” church.

This “discerning” church is one which welcomes disagreement in an effort to hear all people as well as all viewpoints.  The church must deal with issues by turning outward rather than always looking inward. Pope Francis’ vision is ultimately of a church “that enables people to encounter Jesus Christ, who is the face of the Father’s mercy.”

The lecture was followed by a panel discussion including Dr. Adam DeVille from the University of Saint Francis and Father Mark Gurtner, pastor of Our Lady of Good Hope in Fort Wayne.

Deville is the chairman of philosophy and theology department at USF. His most recent book is “Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy: Ut Unum Sint and the Prospects of East-West Unity.” Father Gurtner, is also the judicial vicar of the Fort Wayne–South Bend diocese.

After Dr. Ashley’s lecture DeVille and Gurtner each presented a few brief remarks on the evening’s topic. The panelists demonstrated a depth of understanding with their individual observations of Pope Francis and his papacy. The panel then fielded questions from the audience. The evening concluded with general agreement that understanding Pope Francis’ actions and motives can be complicated, but that he has a genuine love for all humanity, as well as the Catholic community that he has been called to serve.

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