Franciscan-run college launches theology courses with focus on 'reproposing' Gospel to the world
MANITOWOC — When Sr. Marie Kolbe Zamora first arrived at Silver Lake College of the Holy Family last year, after spending the previous seven years in Rome, she saw a theology program "that was quite good but quite sleepy."
"So I interviewed everybody I could think of to discern what we needed to do to wake the program up and move ahead," said Sr. Marie Kolbe, the college's theology program director.
"I interviewed students, the faculty, the Sisters (Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity), the pastor (who, at the time, was Fr. Dan Felton), members of the board and various different people. And in all of these interviews what came out was the new evangelization. It was clear that the new evangelization was the wave of the future, and it was the wave of things to come at this college, in particular."
Sr. Marie Kolbe Zamora, director of the Silver Lake College theology program, is pictured inside the college’s chapel in Manitowoc. Sr. Marie Kolbe has been instrumental in launching new courses on the new evangelization. (Benjamin Wideman | For The Compass)
Pope Benedict XVI defines the new evangelization as "reproposing" the Gospel to others.
Today, Sr. Marie Kolbe gives presentations on the new evangelization and oversees a department that offers several courses (some as core courses and others as electives) in the new evangelization, including:
• Mystery of the Church: Ecclesiology and the New Evangelization;
• Liturgy and the New Evangelization: Sacramental Theology;
• Theology of the New Evangelization;
• Christian Credibility and the New Evangelization;
• Social Conscience and the New Evangelization;
• History of the Ecumenical Movement and the New Evangelization;
• Catholic Theological Foundations.
She said that, to the best of her knowledge, Silver Lake was the only Catholic college (particularly, of its size) in Wisconsin revamping theology for the new evangelization this past year. Nationwide, Silver Lake is believed to be among just a handful of schools to have a program with such strong offerings in the new evangelization.
"I am truly excited about Sr. Marie Kolbe's passionate interest in the new evangelization and how it will impact the lives of our students, faculty and staff," Silver Lake president Dr. George F. Arnold said.
Sr. Marie Kolbe said the new evangelization can best be summed up as "the baptized encountering Christ — whether for the first time or again — so that they themselves can become a place for others to encounter Christ in friendship."
She emphasized that a return to primary sources is critical with the new evangelization, particularly in the new courses she has helped establish.
"It's not going to be enough anymore at Silver Lake College to read somebody's digest of (Vatican Council II) or somebody's summary of Thomas Aquinas. We're just going to read Aquinas ourselves and plow all the way through it."
She said students have been embracing the essence of the classes.
"They're enthused and they really perk up," said Sr. Marie Kolbe, who's currently teaching Theology of the New Evangelization and Catholic Theological Foundations. "When they realize they're capable of reading these documents on their own and really knowing them, and then realize they're able to critique a theologian, that's incredible. To have students able and trained to know what Vatican Council II itself said and then be trained to be critical when they read other evaluations and other reportings of Vatican Council II — that's where we're kind of going for."
Sr. Marie Kolbe said the new evangelization first appeared on her radar years ago while studying theology in Houston, where she spent most of her childhood. She recalls reading and hearing about the speeches Pope John Paul II gave in Poland, "because it was there that the pope spoke about a new wind of the Holy Spirit in the church and an age of a new evangelization. So that was my first impression of the new evangelization. My college friends and I, we didn't use the words 'new evangelization' at that time; we used the language of transforming the culture. We saw what he did in Poland, and we got enthused about studying in order to be protagonists in a transformation of the culture."
When she traveled to Rome to study for several years, starting in 2004, "new evangelization was still on the radar in Europe because it had never gone off the radar there," she said. "And then, with Pope Benedict XVI, it has been even more on the radar. You could just see that it was coming back more and more. It was a big wave coming.
"So when I landed here, everything was adding up to the new evangelization. One of the priests to whom I spoke, he specifically said that in his opinion the new evangelization was everything — and he, in saying that, summarized what everyone had been saying to me. I knew it was important that we get ahead of the wave here at Silver Lake College."
The new evangelization is especially important to Sr. Marie Kolbe, whose father was born in Mexico City. Her mother was Mexican-American.
"It means an awful lot to me because the Latin American contribution to the world of theology has been huge," she said. "This language of new evangelization is one of those things that comes from Latin America, and that's important not to forget."
Interestingly, Sr. Marie Kolbe noted that her father, Miguel Zamora, came to the United States with a sixth-grade education but went on to earn a degree in physics; she said he went on to help develop LCD screens and then worked at NASA, where he designed computer systems to run spaceships.
Sr. Marie Kolbe received degrees in philosophy and theology from the University of St. Thomas in Houston. Most recently, she received a license in dogmatic theology from Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University and is engaged in writing a dissertation to complete her doctorate from the same university.
In the meantime, she said SLC is in the process of completing plans for a new bachelor's degree in the theology of the new evangelization that will incorporate a more intensive study of the church's living tradition in dialogue with the other liberal arts.
As for the changes made over the past year, she said: "What we are now doing at Silver Lake College of the Holy Family is, in a general way, what we have always done at SLC. The new evangelization simply gives us a language with which to express that."