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Dig Deeper: Christians in the Contemporary Middle East Conference

Nova Conference: Middle East

Villanova University will host a conference on Dec. 5-6 titled Christians in the Contemporary Middle East: Religious Minorities and the Struggle for Secular Nationalism and Citizenship. With such wonderful speakers attending as Retired General Anthony Charles Zinni (USMC) and Ussama Makdisi of Rice University, the conference promises some elucidating conversation.

For a conference on such a particular subject, the presentations will cover a diverse range of topics. Attendees will hear such intriguing talks as “Christian Contributions to Art, Culture and Literature in the Arab-Islamic World” and “The Impact of the Shia-Sunni Political Struggle and Future Strategies for Christians and Other Minorities in the Middle East.”

Specialized lectures such as these sometimes require a little bit of background information, and some students may be wondering the relevance of these topics to their lives or academic development. I had similar questions and concerns and brought them up with Assistant Director of Academic Integration and Theology Librarian Darren Poley.

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(Cover of illustrated edition of Universal Declaration of Human Rights from website below)

 

“Religious liberty is not just an American or even an exclusively Western concept,” he began. “Freedom to practice one’s faith or belief system is an intrinsically human desire.”

Poley recommends taking a look at the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights if you’re interested in why the Villanova University should be concerned about the Middle East. It’s available here, and Poley reminds you, “especially since we live in an increasingly interconnected and globalized society: no one can afford to ignore any lack of respect for people, property, social justice or the integrity of creation anywhere in the world.”

Dig Deeper by investing these associations, centers and initiatives for social justice:

“It surprises most students to learn that the Middle East and North African were predominantly Christian lands for the centuries between the official toleration of Christianity in the Roman Empire in the 4th century and the rise of Islam in the 7th century,” Poley continued.

Cartouche

(Villanova University’s Arabic Cartouche)

It’s important for Villanova students to think about the decline of pluralistic spaces in the Middle East because so many of these early Christian societies remain today, albeit under different leadership and sometimes different names.

“Nestorian Christians in the Middle East established themselves in the 5th century and continue as the Assyrian Church of the East.” Poley highlighted, and “there are many different Eastern Orthodox churches often along ethnic or national lines that are affiliated with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, a Turkish citizen who resides in Istanbul.”

Patriarchate Banner

(Banner for the Ecumenical Patriarchate – website below)

In addition, there are Catholics outside of the Latin Rite tradition. The Maronites of Lebanon, the Chaldeans of Iraq, and the Melkites from Syria, Jordan and Israel represent the largest groups of such.

Poley said, “There are also small groups of Christians in the Middle East with doctrinal differences from either the Catholic of the Eastern Orthodox churches, which are collectively called the Oriental Orthodox churches; the three major ones being the Syrian, Armenian, and Coptic (Egyptian).”

Despite the complexity of their histories, you may find statistics and information on the individuals and groups of Christians who continue to “live, work, worship, and coexist alongside Muslims and Jews in Middle Eastern countries,” according to Poley, at these websites:

An encyclopedia of knowledge on the topic, Poley provided me with an exhaustive list of thinkers, theologians and writers who have promoted religious diversity in the Middle East. I’ve included just a few of those thinkers below so that you may familiarize yourself with them before the conference:

  • Saint Pope John Paul II
  • Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
  • Eastern Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I
  • Catholic Patriarch Emeritus of Jerusalem Michel Sabbah
  • Latin Patriarchal Vicar for Jerusalem and Palestine William Shomali
  • Melkite Archbishop George Wadih Bakouni
  • Antiochian Orthodox Bishop George Khodr
  • Coptic Orthodox Bishop Barnibas El Soryany
  • Armenian Bishop of Damascus Armash Nalbandian
  • Father Kail C. Ellis, OSA, Villanova University.

Yes, that’s the abridged list. In case you were wondering if you should visit a subject librarian before collecting research for your next term paper: yes, you should. Poley, and indeed all of our subject librarians, work tirelessly to keep up-to-date on current events, research, and research methodologies.

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(This is what Darren Poley looks like, in case you go looking for him.)

They also keep tabs on the library collection and can direct you to books and journals available either here at the Falvey or through the library’s databases. I asked Poley: what library resources are available for students to learn about the prospects of and strategies for promoting piece in the Middle East?

He suggested looking at the Theology & Religious Studies and Cultural Studies subject guides and reading one, some, or all of the following:

For some students, including me, starting to read up on Middle Eastern Christianity would be difficult without some background on Middle Eastern geopolitics. I submitted the same question to Poley about library resources for looking at the geopolitical landscape of the Middle East. He suggested starting with the Political Science Subject Guide and the History Subject Guide, but also directed me to these books:

Mary Queen of Peace

(Mary Queen of Peace)

Speaking of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Poley said, “So in the middle of the 20th century, perhaps the bloodiest in history so far in terms of wars and other violence, people of good will came together to publically declare among other tenets that freedom of conscience and religion is a basic human right.” Described as “timely and riveting” by the university’s poster, this conference may be an excellent opportunity for the Villanova community to validate these tenets.


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Article by William Repetto, a graduate assistant on the Communications and Marketing Team at the Falvey Memorial Library. He is currently pursuing an MA in English at Villanova University.

 


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Sravanthi Adusumilli – New Library Technology Development Graduate Assistant

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Sravanthi (Sravs) Adusumilli , a graduate of Acharya Nagarjuna University, Guntar, India, joined the Library Technology Development team in August. She reports to Demian Kratz, team leader. She is currently working on redesigning “Finding Augustine.” “Finding Augustine” is “[a] rich and readily accessible biographical collection concerning Augustine of Hippo and his legacy;” it is sponsored by the Augustinian Institute at Villanova University.

Adusumilli has a bachelor’s degree in computer science engineering and is now enrolled in the Master of Science in Computer Engineering program with an anticipated graduation in May 2018. She plans to work as a data scientist.

Her hometown is Machilipatnam, India, a city on the southeast coast. Adusumilli’s hobbies are cooking and gardening.


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On the Path to Sainthood – Father Bill Atkinson, OSA

Father Bill Atkinson, OSA

Father Bill Atkinson, OSA.  Image courtesy of augustinian.org

Who is the Rev. William Atkinson (Father Bill), OSA, a priest who may become a saint, and what is his connection to Villanova University? September 15 is the tenth anniversary of his death and with a movement towards canonization underway, it is appropriate to consider his life.

Born in 1946, Father Bill was a native of Upper Darby, Pa.; he attended St. Alice’s Elementary School there and then graduated from Msgr. Bonner High School (now Bonner Prendergast) in Drexel Hill, Pa. He spent a year as a postulant at Augustinian Academy (now closed), Staten Island, N.Y., and then entered the Order of St. Augustine as a novice at Our Mother of Good Counsel Novitiate, New Hamburg, N.Y., in 1964. It was here that his life-changing accident happened on February 22, 1965.

On that cold February day William Atkinson was tobogganing with his fellow novices when his toboggan hit a tree; his broken spine left him a quadriplegic. He was hospitalized in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., then spent a year at Magee Rehabilitation Hospital in Philadelphia. Although he had limited movement only in his head, neck, shoulders and arms, he was determined to continue his studies to become an Augustinian priest. He came to St. Mary’s Hall at Villanova University, at that time the Province’s Collegiate House of Formation where he began his novitiate once again on July 19, 1969. He professed his simple vows, then on July 20, 1973, he professed his solemn vows. Throughout these years, a group of Augustinians cared for Atkinson who occupied a motorized wheelchair. On February 2, 1974, nine years after his disastrous accident, Cardinal John Krol ordained William Atkinson to the priesthood. Because Atkinson was a quadriplegic, Pope Paul VI had to make a special dispensation for the ordination, making Father Atkinson the first quadriplegic priest.

Following his ordination the Rev. William Atkinson, usually called Father Bill, was assigned to the faculty of Msgr. Bonner High School in Drexel where he served from 1975 until 2004. At Bonner, he was a beloved presence, teaching theology, serving as assistant school chaplain and a moderator for the football team. He was the senior class retreat coordinator and director of the detention programs. His declining health brought him to the St. Thomas Monastery on campus where he remained until he died on September 15, 2006, surrounded by family, friends and caretakers. His funeral mass was held on Sept. 19 in St. Thomas of Villanova Church and he was buried in the Augustinian section of Calvary Cemetery, West Conshohocken, Pa.

In mid-August 2014 twenty-five invited guests – relatives, friends and friars –  met with the Rev. Michael Gregorio, OSA, the prior provincial of the Province of St. Thomas of Villanova, and the Rev. Josef Sciberras, OSA, postulator general of the Order of St. Augustine, Rome. Father Sciberras challenged the group: “Convince me that Fr. Bill lived a life of heroic virtue. Persuade me that he is a saint.” (www.augustinian.org) Various attendees testified about Father Bill’s “character, his virtue, his fidelity, his ministry, his humor, his humility and much more.” (www.augustinan.org)

In September 2015 the Cause of Canonization of Father Bill Atkinson, OSA, opened; the formal request was made to Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap., Archbishop of Philadelphia. In November, Archbishop Chaput introduced the Cause to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Archbishop Chaput encouraged the bishops to approve the Cause and they did so unanimously.

Father Gregorio, OSA, says, “Obviously, we are delighted that the cause is underway, and that we will have the opportunity to make the life and virtues of Fr. Bill more widely known. We rely very much on the friends and acquaintances of our brother to spread knowledge of him, to assist us in collecting data that can further the cause, and recommend his intercession to those in need.” (www.churchmilitant.com/news/article/first-quadrilegic-priest-on-path-to-sainthood)

Documentation for the cause is currently being collected and then it will be analyzed by censors, who are usually theologians. If the censors approve the evidence for sainthood, they will send a report to Archbishop Chaput. If the archbishop accepts the censors’ report, he will send it to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints who would then make their recommendation to the Pope for Father Bill to be considered “venerable,” one of the steps towards canonization.

The Father Bill Atkinson Guild, sponsored by the Province of St. Thomas of Villanova, will work to promote awareness of the Cause and to collect funds for its support. Contact information for the Guild is Fr. Bill’s Cause, Augustinian Provincial Offices, P.O. Box 340, Villanova, PA 19085.

 

Dig Deeper (Father Atkinson):

Green Bananas:  The Wisdom of Father Bill Atkinson (2010). Steve McWilliams. Steve McWilliams, PhD, is the Villanova University advisor to Students Living with Disabilities. Father Bill had been one of his teachers at Msgr. Bonner High School. Later, McWilliams became one of Father Bill’s caretakers. He asked Father Bill if he (McWilliams) could write a book about him and the priest agreed. McWilliams called his book “Green Bananas” because Father Bill said he did not buy them because he might not live until the bananas ripened. “Green Bananas” is not a biography. It shows Father Bill’s spiritual outlook.

The Effort to Canonize Father Bill Atkinson

Father Bill Atkinson, OSA:  The Cause for Sainthood

Father Bill Atkinson, OSA – Taking Up the Cause

Father Bill Atkinson:  Augustinian Friar

Father William Atkinson a ‘tremendous witness to the rest of us’

Upper Darby native may be next American saint

 

Dig Deeper (Canonization and Sainthood):

Sharing God’s Good Company:  A Theology of the Communion of Saints

The Cult of the Saints:  Its Rise and Function in Latin Christianity

Saints and Their Symbols

Saints and Sanctity Today

The Process of Beatification and Canonization

Holy confusion? Beatification, canonization are different

A new look for the canonization process under Pope Francis?

Duffin, Jacalyn. “The Doctor Was Surprised; or, How to Diagnose a Miracle.” Bulletin of the History of Medicine 81, no. 4 (Winter 2007): 699-729.

A succinct official description from the U.S. bishops

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Darren Poley, Theology/Humanities librarian, contributed  the information for this “Dig Deeper (Canonization and Sainthood).”


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Introducing the ‘Cat in the Stax

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William Repetto, a native of Chadds Ford, Pa., joined Falvey as a graduate assistant in the Communications and Marketing Department. Repetto is a 2016 graduate of La Salle University, Philadelphia. His bachelor’s degree is in Honors History with minors in French and English. He is currently enrolled in the master’s degree program in the Villanova Department of English and anticipates graduating in 2018.

Repetto says, “My online persona is the ‘Cat in the Stacks,” but he also will be covering events and working with Falvey’s social media accounts. His future plans are to “pursue a PhD at a highly rated university.” His hobbies include comics and cartoons, gluten-free cooking and watching ice hockey.


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Meet Hunter Houtzer, One of Our New Graduate Assistants

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Hunter Houtzer, one of the two new graduate assistants with the new Communications and Marketing Department, comes to Falvey from Goldsboro, North Carolina.

Houtzer will participate in activities relating to the numerous events held in Falvey and contribute to editorial projects such as writing our new weekly Peek at the Week column. Peek is a entertaining way for Wildcats to find out what’s happening in the library each week!

Houtzer received her BA in Communication Studies and BFA in Creative Writing from University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) in December 2015. Her minor was anthropology. She is currently enrolled in the master’s degree program in the Department of Communication at Villanova and anticipates graduating in May 2018.

When asked about her future plans, Houtzer replied, “Not sure! Something heavily writing-based, hopefully including travelling of some sort.” Her hobbies include reading, writing and “over using parentheses.”


 

Photograph by Alice Bampton, Communications and Marketing Dept.


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Remembering 9/11 on Campus

Sunday, Sept. 11, is the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11/2001, the morning Islamic extremists hijacked four American airplanes. Two airplanes flew into the towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, one crashed into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and the fourth crashed in a field near Shanksville in western Pennsylvania.

Villanova University lost fifteen alumni that day; they are commemorated in a stained glass window in Corr Hall Chapel. The window, installed in November 2006, was designed by the Rev. Richard G. Cannuli, OSA, ’73, an artist, professor and curator and director of the University Art Gallery. Vetrate Artistiche Toscane, a stained glass studio in Siena, Italy, created the window from Father Cannuli’s design.

On the left of the window is a panel depicting the Blessed Virgin Mary in prayer. The right panel shows the twin towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and fields, the sites where the four planes crashed. At the bottom of this panel is list of the fifteen Villanovans who perished that day, fourteen in the World Trade Center and a flight attendant on United Airlines flight 175.

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Full window

 

Right panel with Twin Towers, Pentagon, Pa. field and panel with alumni names

Right panel with Twin Towers, Pentagon, Pa. field and panel with alumni names

 

List of alumni who perished on 9/11

List of alumni who perished on 9/11

 

In addition to the permanent commemoration in Corr Chapel, Falvey Memorial Library has installed a small commemoration at the circulation desk.

Falvey's Commemoration

Falvey’s Commemoration

Villanova has not forgotten 9/11.

 

Photographs by Alice Bampton, Communications and Marketing Dept.

 


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Introducing Janice Bially Mattern – Falvey’s New Social Sciences and Data Services Liaison Librarian

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Janice Bially Mattern, Falvey’s Social Sciences and Data Services librarian, recently joined the Library. Reporting to Jutta Seibert, coordinator for Academic Integration, Bially Mattern plans, manages and delivers instruction and reference information, selects resources and provides outreach in her fields. She will also be leading the development and provision of data services .

Before coming to Villanova, she held faculty positions in Political Science/International Relations at various institutions. From 2010 – 2015 she was a professor at the National University of Singapore (NUS), Department of Political Science, in the Republic of Singapore, where the official language is English. Earlier (2003-2010), she was a professor at Lehigh University, Department of International Relations, Bethlehem, Pa; and before that (2000-2003) she taught at  Temple University’s Department of Political Science, Philadelphia, from 2000-2003.

Bially Mattern received her PhD in Political Science from Yale University, a Master of Philosophy degree in Political Science (specializing in International Relations, Political Theory and Political Economy) and a Master of Arts in Political Science, both from Yale. She earned her BA degree in Political Science and International Relations from University of Wisconsin, Madison. She is currently pursuing a Master of Information degree at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Brunswick.

Why did someone with extensive research and teaching experience decide to become a librarian, I asked. Bially Mattern answered, “The unbridled truth is that I needed a new challenge. I was increasingly attracted to librarianship, which has always interested me. Now that data services are becoming part of librarianship, I see an opportunity for librarians to help make social science research data more transparent and accessible. So when my family and I moved back to the U.S., I just found myself more drawn to this career change than to getting another academic job.”

Currently a resident of Macungie, Pa., Bially Mattern lived for her early years in Kwajalein, Republic of the Marshall Islands, where her father was a civilian defense contractor working for the United States government. From the Marshall Islands, her family moved to Sudbury, Mass.

She enjoys travel, being outdoors and “catching up on American TV shows that I missed while living in Singapore.” She is also interested in learning new things such as her current pursuit of a degree at Rutgers School of Communication and Information.

Her office is in Falvey Hall, Room 232, 610-519.5391. Email: janice.bially-mattern@villanova.edu

 


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Falvey and VITAL Welcome New Faculty

New faculty meeting with subject librarians

New faculty meeting with subject librarians

Approximately forty new faculty members attended a Library orientation arranged by Gabriele Bauer, PhD, director; Ramona Kuczewski, senior administrative assistant; both of VITAL (Villanova Institute for Teaching And Learning); and Jutta Seibert, Academic Integration coordinator. The event was held in Falvey’s Speakers Corner on Thursday morning, August 18, and included a continental breakfast.

Millicent Gaskell, Library Director, welcomed attendees. Faculty met with the subject librarians for their disciplines. The librarians explained the Library’s resources and services and gave tours of Falvey to those who were interested.

Regina Duffy, Library Events and Programs coordinator, and Kallie Stahl, graduate assistant, organized the continental breakfast and the seating arrangements.

Linda Hauck, business librarian, meeting with new business faculty

Linda Hauck, business librarian, meeting with new business faculty

 

New faculty meeting with science librarian, Alfred Fry

New faculty meeting with science librarian, Alfred Fry

 

New faculty meet with Rob LeBlanc, first year experience/humanities librarian

New faculty meet with Rob LeBlanc, first year experience/humanities librarian

 

Photographs by Alice Bampton, Communications and Marketing Dept.

 


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Librarians Welcome International Graduate Students

Librarians Jutta Seibert and Alfred Fry welcomed Villanova University’s international graduate students at an orientation on Friday, August 19. The session is part of the events planned by the Office of International Student Services each fall. Approximately fifty new students attended; students come from all over the world, but this year’s majority is from Asia. Most of these students are pursuing degrees in engineering and sciences. Seibert and Fry introduced the students to the Library’s various resources and services.

Seibert is coordinator for Academic Integration and subject librarian for History, Art History, Irish Studies, Sociology and Criminology. Fry is the subject librarian for Engineering, Astronomy and Astrophysics, Chemistry, Computing Sciences, Mathematical Sciences and Physics.

For research help or appointments, students should call 610-519-4270 or text at 610-816-6222 or, if they know which librarian they wish to contact, they can go to the Staff Directory for the individual’s contact information. The Library’s help page contains a wealth of useful information: how to find a book in the library, how to find articles, citing and evaluating research, Interlibrary Loan services, and much more. Students may also visit librarians in their offices without making appointments – our librarians love to help!

Librarians Alfred Fry and Jutta Seibert introducing international graduate students to Falvey's resources

Librarians Alfred Fry and Jutta Seibert introducing international graduate students to Falvey’s resources

 

Jutta Seibert presenting Library resources

Jutta Seibert presenting Library resources

 

Photographs by Regina Duffy, Communication and Marketing Dept.


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Foto Friday: Ignite Change

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“Ignite Change” banners depict those awarded Mendel Medals or honorary degrees.

Photograph by Alice Bampton, Communications and Marketing Dept.


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Last Modified: August 19, 2016