ROME — The Rev. Dr. Karen Petersen Finch, associate professor of theology at Whitworth University, in Spokane, Washington, has joined The Lay Centre resident community for a sabbatical period. Whitworth University is a small liberal arts campus with roots in the Calvinist and Evangelical traditions.
Dr. Finch has been studying the work of Jesuit priest, philosopher and theologian Bernard Lonergan since she began her doctorate at Gonzaga University in 2002. Her dissertation director, J. Michael Stebbins, had introduced her to Lonergan’s work and to dialogue with the Catholic faith in general. Since those early days, she has continued reading and writing about Lonergan, including post-doctoral study at the Lonergan Institute at Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.
Her primary interest in Lonergan is the adaptation of his theological method to ecumenical dialogue, in particular between Reformed and Catholic believers. She speaks on this topic internationally. In fact, she first connected with The Lay Centre in 2016, when she attended the Rome Seminar of the College Theological Society.
Dr. Finch’s presentation for the conference recommended the use of Lonergan’s method for training laypeople in the reception of ecumenical agreements. Her topic was so perfect for the ethos of The Lay Centre that it spurred an invitation from Lay Centre director Donna Orsuto to come to The Lay Centre for a while.
While in Rome, Dr. Finch is working on a book titled, “Local Ecumenism,” which will serve as a manifesto and a training manual for locating ecumenical dialogue at the church and parish level.
Her other goals while in Rome are to meet as many ecumenists as possible; to help organize the Lonergan Club at the Gregorian University; to visit the Tantur Ecumenical Institute in Jerusalem, and to learn Italian.
While she misses her three children — twin boys of 22 years, and a daughter of 24 years — she is amazed and delighted by the lively dynamics of The Lay Centre’s community of scholars, and by the support and kindness she has already received.
“The languages flying around at meals are especially fun,” she said.