BOTTOM ROW: Dr. Megan Reister, assistant professor of education; Dr. Susan Poyo, associate professor of education; Prof. Rebecca Rook, instructor of education; Dr. Mary Kathryn McVey, Education Department chair; Dr. Tiffany Boury, associate professor of education; TOP: Dr. George Ash, associate professor of graduate education; Fr. Sean O. Sheridan, president, Franciscan University of Steubenville; Bishop Jeffrey Monforton, Diocese of Steubenville.
It was an historic moment when six members of Franciscan University’s Education Department stood before Bishop Jeffrey M. Monforton of Steubenville at the 2018 Orientation Weekend Mass and one by one, placed their hands on the Book of the Gospels to declare, “In my words and in my actions, I shall always preserve communion with the Catholic Church.”
Since 1989, when the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith first required those directly connected with teaching Catholic doctrine to profess their adherence to the magisterium, the Oath of Fidelity and Profession of Faith have been publicly taken by Franciscan University theology faculty and pastoral personnel. Ever since, all new theology and pastoral ministers took the oath, and more recently, philosophy and sacred music professors have taken the oath as well.
Now, add to that list Franciscan’s undergraduate and graduate Education Department faculty.
Dr. Mary Kathryn McVey, chair of the Education Department, said that while the Education Department is one of Franciscan’s professional programs, and therefore, not directly connected with teaching Catholic doctrine on faith and morals as stipulated by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, its identity “is still in Christ and the Catholic Church.”
“With this oath, we affirm we have this Catholic and Christian worldview that flows through every aspect of our lives, including our teaching,” said Dr. Susan Poyo, associate professor of education. “It reminds us to look through a Catholic lens in every aspect of our teaching.”
For education professor Dr. Megan Reister, “The oath becomes a way to show we’re not keeping religion separate from creating our syllabi, our assignments, and how we model ourselves to students. It means our Catholic identity is integrated into everything we do as educators.”
McVey said the department spent a year in study and discernment leading up to the public profession, beginning with a summer retreat attended by all education faculty members. A task force was created to provide direction, speakers presented information on a range of pertinent topics, and the educators researched Church documents related to education and studied new ways to deepen Catholic identity more explicitly into the curriculum.
Finally, the Education Department voted unanimously to participate in the Oath of Fidelity, including non-Catholic faculty members who cannot take the oath.
“It was an inspirational moment watching my colleagues take the Oath of Fidelity,” said Dr. Mark Furda, director of Graduate Education Programs. “As a non-Catholic at Franciscan, the University has warmly welcomed me. In turn, I have embraced the university mission and have grown spiritually in my own faith. I have found that my values of focusing on truth and the whole person are congruent with those of Franciscan, and I strive to integrate these into my classes.”
Professor Rebecca Rook, who teaches math education, summed up the thoughts of several of her colleagues on the oath’s connection to the education program’s mission: “It’s important we educate the next generation of teachers so they can teach in light of the Gospel and are able to encourage the next generation to preserve the deposit of faith.”