NEWTON — Dr. Patrick Carey is the ideal person to receive the Vatican II Award for Service in Education from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
Just ask the person who nominated him: Dr. Kathleen Cepelka, the superintendent of Catholic schools for the Milwaukee Archdiocese.
“I cannot think of anyone who deserves the … award more or who will leave a more important legacy of theological grounding for our Catholic school teachers than he,” said Cepelka, adding that she holds Carey “in the highest regard.”
Carey, a Newton resident and parishioner at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Community, will receive the award Sept. 23 during a 7 p.m. ceremony at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Milwaukee. The event is open to the public and will be followed by a dessert reception.
Carey, a professor in the Theology Department at Marquette University, will be retiring in December. He has taught at the university since 1978, and before that served as an assistant professor at St. Peter’s College, Elizabeth Seton College, Carleton College and Gustavus Adolphus.
He’s grateful to receive the award — not to mention being a bit caught off guard.
“I was surprised to hear I won it, because you just don’t anticipate those kinds of things,” Carey said. “But it’s nice to be honored. Those honors come as manifestations of gratitude on the part of people that recognize your work. But I never really work for recognition. I work because I like to do what I do.”
There were several criteria to receive the Vatican II Award for Service in Education. Carey easily exceeded the qualifications in each of those categories, Cepelka said.
“Most relevant to the Vatican II Education Award are Dr. Carey’s quiet, scholarly and inestimably important contributions to the theological formation of Catholic school teachers in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee,” she said.
Carey is an internationally recognized theologian whose teaching fields have included the History of American Catholic Life and Thought, History of Christian Theology, and History of Christian Life and Thought in the United States.
He was a member of the original Archdiocesan Theology Implementation Committee (founded in the late 1990s), which developed the archdiocesan high school theology curriculum. It’s still being used in the archdiocese’s Catholic high schools today.
In addition, Carey created The Summer Institute in Christian Doctrine for Catholic Primary School Teachers and personally taught the coursework for that highly respected program for more than a decade.
And, most recently, he initiated a scholarship program for Catholic high school theology teachers to pursue a master’s degree in theological studies at Marquette University.
Upon retirement, Carey said he and his wife, Phyllis, will spend time with their children and grandchildren. In addition, Carey said he’ll “do the same thing I’ve been doing — research, write and teach. But I’ll be doing it wherever I’m called to do it. And I want to publish for newspapers some generally informative articles — biographical sketches of important people who made major contributions to American Catholic history.
“I want to see if I can make American Catholic history interesting to most people, because most people don’t know a lot about it. They live in it, they know of it by way of experience, but they don’t know of it by way of history.”
Carey, who earned his Ph.D. in theology from Fordham University in 1975, has written dozens of books and articles for professional journals over the years.
One of his books, “Avery Cardinal Dulles, SJ: A Model Theologian,” was named the best book of the year in 2011 by the College Theology Society.
In addition, Carey has presented dozens of professional papers and lectures over the years, including one at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Community in 2012 titled “Significant Changes at Vatican II.”
“I do education in multiple ways, not just the classroom,” Carey said. “I give lectures to parishes, lectures to professional groups and I do quite a bit of publishing. All of that is a way of teaching. I’m going to miss teaching in the classroom when I retire, but I’m still going to be working and doing a lot of things.”
Carey and his wife originally were members of nearby St. Casimir before that parish and others merged to form St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Community.
Carey is currently a member of the American Academy of Religion, American Society of Church History, American Catholic Historical Association (president 2000-2001), College Theology Society and Catholic Theological Society of America.