By Laura Ieraci
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Already in her second semester as Chair of Catholic and Dominican Studies at Providence College, Lay Centre alumna Dr. Aurelie A. Hagstrom is excited about the “new pastoral profile on campus” her position allows her.
“The nomination is significant because it shows that the college is actively engaged in promoting the Catholic and Dominican mission, not only in campus ministry but to all constituencies of the college community,” said Dr. Hagstrom, whose three-year appointment as the first William J. and Maryann Christie Endowed Chair in Catholic and Dominican Studies was announced officially only five days before Christmas.
Dr. Hagstrom’s new responsibilities include developing programming, lectures, and activities to increase awareness of the Catholic and Dominican mission within the college community.
In the first few months of her appointment, Dr. Hagstrom helped to offer a three-week lunchtime retreat in Advent for faculty, staff, and administrators. Its success led to a similar program during Lent. She also organized a series of listening sessions on campus around the topic of the clergy sexual abuse crisis in the fall and gave public lectures on the vocation, mission, and spirituality of the laity.
The associate professor of theology is no stranger to Providence College. She graduated from the college in 1985 and earned a doctorate of sacred theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum), the Dominican University in Rome, in 1991.
She then taught at the University of St. Francis in Joliet, Illinois, but left her tenured position to become the second laywoman to teach theology full time at Providence College in 2003. She later became the first woman to serve as department chair.
From 2013 to 2016, Dr. Hagstrom served as faculty resident director of the Providence College Center for Theology and Religious Studies in Rome.
Dr. Hagstrom said her studies of Dominican theology, history, and spirituality at the Angelicum helped to prepare her for this new role and serve as the foundation of her current work.
“Studying with Dominican professors from around the world showed me that there are various ways of living out the Dominican charism. It’s not a ‘one size fits all,’” she said. “When it comes to Dominican mission, I’m most struck by the commitment to ‘share with others the fruits of your contemplation.’ That one catchphrase for mission encompasses all the various ways in which we can bring Christ to the campus community.”
Dr. Hagstrom said living at The Lay Centre during her studies in Rome, from 1988 to 1992, offered her an “ecclesial formation that is not usually a part of the typical PhD program in theology” in the United States.
“(It) gave me the opportunity to learn about the various charisms in the church and how they come together in communion for the sake of mission,” she said.
She said it also offered her “a profound appreciation for the vocation and mission of the laity in the church,” which has remained an area of Dr. Hagstrom’s research and writing. In 2010, she published the book “The Emerging Laity: Vocation, Mission, and Spirituality,” with Paulist Press.
“The Lay Centre formed me to be deeply committed to the tradition of the church,” she said, “and to discover the spiritual richness there that can be a spiritual energy source for ecclesial renewal.”