Center on Religion and Culture Events

Upcoming Spring 2024 Programs


A Catholic Reckoning on Slavery

Rachel Swarns on her book The 272: The Families Who Were Enslaved and Sold to Build the American Catholic Church

The 2024 Russo Lecture

Thursday, February 29, 2024 | 6:00 - 7:30 p.m.
McNally Amphitheater | Fordham University at Lincoln Center 
140 W. 62nd Street | New York, NY 10023

Author Rachel Swarns and the cover of her book, The 272


Rachel Swarns is a journalist, scholar, and Black Catholic from Staten Island whose groundbreaking reporting and research illuminates the harrowing origin story of the Catholic Church in America, which relied on slave labor and slave sales to sustain its operations and to help fuel its expansion.  

The article she first wrote for The New York Times in 2016—about the prominent Jesuit priests who sold 272 people to save Georgetown University from bankruptcy—would become the seed of her new book, The 272: The Families Who Were Enslaved and Sold to Build the American Catholic Church. Her work has helped spark the movement for reparations and reconciliation in America, and in the Catholic Church. 

Professor Swarns will talk about her book, about what the Church—and the United States—must do to help heal our racial divides, and about what this project has meant for her own faith. 

David Gibson, director of Fordham’s Center on Religion and Culture, will moderate a discussion after the talk, including questions from the audience.

Rachel Swarns will be available to sign a limited number of books following the program. 

This lecture is made possible by the Russo Family Foundation  in memory of Wanda and Robert Russo, Sr., M.D., FCRH ‘39

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Select Past Events

  • Sister Helen Prejean on Dead Man Walking: Opera, Activism, and Faith

    The Catholic nun and death penalty opponent joins both the composer and lead singer of the Metropolitan Opera’s new production for an evening of conversation.

    September 22, 2023 | 6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
    Church of St. Paul the Apostle | Columbus Avenue & W. 60th Street | New York, NY 10023

    Dead Man Walking is Sister Helen Prejean's best-selling 1993 memoir chronicling her ministry to death row inmates and the families of their victims. In 1995, her book was adapted for the screen and became an Academy Award-winning film. And in 2000, Dead Man Walking premiered as an opera—the most widely performed new opera of the last twenty years.

    This fall, the opera makes its premiere at the Metropolitan Opera. In anticipation of that opening, Sister Helen will join composer Jake Heggie and mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato—who portrays Sister Helen—at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle for a conversation about the opera and the role art and faith play in galvanizing social action.

    The occasion of this production is especially propitious as Pope Francis has declared the death penalty “inadmissible” under Catholic teaching. At the same time, some states are ramping up efforts to schedule executions even as more death row inmates are exonerated or questions are raised about their convictions. This gives the campaign against capital punishment even greater urgency.

    Fordham University president Tania Tetlow will introduce the evening’s guests, and the Center on Religion and Culture’s director, David Gibson, will moderate the discussion.

    This event is a partnership between Fordham’s Center on Religion and Culture, Church of St. Paul the Apostle, and the Metropolitan Opera.

  • An Integral Ethic of Solidarity: Cardinal Cupich on the Enduring Legacy of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin

    September 26, 2023 | 6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
    McNally Amphitheater | Fordham University at Lincoln Center 140 W. 62nd Street | New York, NY 10023

    Forty years after Cardinal Bernardin's landmark speech at Fordham University in which he set out a “consistent ethic of life,” his successor as Archbishop of Chicago continues and broadens the conversation first begun in 1983.

    The timing of this talk could not be more propitious: Pope Francis has been promoting a “seamless garment” view of Catholic teaching throughout his decade-long pontificate, arguing that all life is sacred and that Catholics cannot prioritize one issue at the expense of others. Moreover, the Dobbs decision created a new landscape for the abortion issue, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is set to debate an updated version of its guide for Catholic voters ahead of next year’s elections.

    In this talk, Cardinal Cupich will amplify the vision of both Francis and Bernardin, setting it in the contemporary American context and pointing toward a path beyond the culture wars.

    Cardinal Blase Cupich was appointed the ninth Archbishop of Chicago by Pope Francis in 2014, and the pope elevated him to the College of Cardinals in November 2016.

    David Gibson, director of Fordham’s Center on Religion and Culture, will moderate a discussion after the talk, including questions from the audience.

    This event is organized by the Francis and Ann Curran Center for American Catholic Studies and the Center on Religion and Culture.

  • Dracula: Medieval Hero and Modern Vampire

    October 26, 2023 | 6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.

    McNally Amphitheater | Fordham University at Lincoln Center 140 W. 62nd Street | New York, NY 10023

    Dracula—the vampire count—has been a popular cultural mainstay portrayed in films, television shows, novels, and comic books for over a century. The modern fascination with Dracula began in the 1920s and 1930s with the success of plays and movies based on Bram Stoker’s eponymous novel, first published in 1897.

    The events described in Stoker’s Dracula take place in fin-de-siècle London and Transylvania, and the novel makes only loose historical references to its fifteenth-century namesake: Vlad III "the Impaler" (1431–c. 1476), prince of Wallachia, now a region of Romania. The massive popularity of the fictional Dracula has generated considerable curiosity about the real-life prince himself, his brutal reign, and his times.

    In this lecture, Dr. Alice Isabella Sullivan will examine the transformations of the historical figure into a modern vampire and the tireless allure of Dracula for creators and audiences.

    Panelists:

    Alice Isabella Sullivan, is an Assistant Professor of Medieval Art and Architecture and the Director of Graduate Studies at Tufts University, specializing in Eastern European and Byzantine-Slavic art history. She is the author of the recently published book, The Eclectic Visual Culture of Medieval Moldavia.

    David J. Goodwin, is the Assistant Director of Fordham’s Center on Religion and Culture and the author of the forthcoming Midnight Rambles: H. P. Lovecraft in Gotham, will moderate a conversation with the audience.

  • Loving Strangers 

    How would such a moral code reshape our lives?

    Notre Dame philosopher Meghan Sullivan on our societal crisis 

    November 7, 2023 | 5:15 p.m. - 6:45 p.m. | Walsh Library, Flom Auditorium | Fordham University at Rose Hill 

    The Daniel J. Sullivan Memorial Lecture in Philosophy

    Social isolation and animosity are arguably the central challenges of our angry age. Can philosophy play a role in overcoming the affective, social, and political alienation that mark our communities today?

    Notre Dame philosopher Meghan Sullivan focuses her work on the ways philosophy contributes to the good life and she is currently writing a book on the role love plays in grounding moral, political, and religious reasoning. It is tentatively titled Samaritanism: Moral Responsibility and Our Inner Lives. In this lecture, she will expound on the central themes of this forthcoming book. 

    Meghan Sullivan is the Wilsey Family College Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame. She is a popular writer and speaker and founded Notre Dame’s God and the Good Life Program, which introduces undergraduates to essential philosophical questions concerning happiness, morality and meaning, and key methods for wrestling with them.  

    David Gibson, director of Fordham’s Center on Religion and Culture, will moderate a discussion after the talk, including questions from the audience.

    The Daniel J. Sullivan Memorial Lecture is co-sponsored by Fordham’s Department of Philosophy and the Center on Religion and Culture.

  • Catholicism as Cultural History

    The Enduring Legacy of John O’Malley, S.J.

    A Fordham University Symposium 

    Saturday, February 3, 2024 | 2:00 - 6:30 p.m.
    12th Floor Lounge | Lowenstein Building
    Fordham University | 113 West 60th Street | New York, NY 10023

    John O’Malley, SJ (1927-2022) was an extraordinarily talented and devoted scholar, writer, teacher, and Jesuit priest. The research of his early career helped re-cast our understanding of the Catholic response to the Reformation and the development of the Society of Jesus. The writings of the last twenty years of his long and prolific life—books and essays on church councils and Western cultures—brought him new audiences beyond the academy. 

    The golden thread running through all of his work was the centrality of cultural history. This conference will highlight that legacy while expanding on the ways that O’Malley’s style can help us understand a more global and diverse Catholicism of the future. 

    Anchored by a keynote address by Carlos Eire of Yale University, this afternoon conference will feature panels on “Catholicism as Cultural History” and “Languages of Dialogue and Inclusion,” and will include contributions from scholars Pamela JonesMary DunnThomas Worcester, SJMary Ann HinsdaleCatherine Chaput, and James McCartin

    Brenna Moore of Fordham will offer concluding remarks, to be followed by a wine-and-cheese reception. 

    Program Schedule

    2:00 - 2:10 p.m.
    Welcome and Introduction
    David Gibson, Director of Fordham University’s Center on Religion and Culture

    2:10 - 3:00 p.m.
    Keynote: “Catholicism and All That: John O'Malley, Consummate Historian”
    Carlos Eire, Yale University

    3:00 - 3:15 p.m.
    Coffee break

    3:15 - 4:30 p.m.
    Panel One: Catholicism as Cultural History
    Panel chair: James McCartin, Fordham University

    "John O'Malley's Legacy in the Field of Art History"
    Pamela Jones, UMass Boston

    "Somewhere between Sacraments and Sensuality: John O'Malley and the Art of
    Translating the Catholic Past"
    Mary Dunn, St. Louis University

    "Jesuit History as Cultural History"
    Thomas Worcester, S.J., Fordham University

    4:30 - 5:45 p.m.
    Panel Two: Languages of Dialogue and Inclusion
    Panel chair: James McCartin, Fordham University

    "John O'Malley and the Next-Gen"
    Mary Ann Hinsdale, I.H.M., Boston College

    "John O’Malley, the Four Cultures of Rhetoric, and the Contemporary Predicament”
    Catherine Chaput, Fordham University

    5:45 - 6:15 p.m.
    Concluding Reflections
    Brenna Moore, Fordham University

    6:15 - 7:00 p.m.
    Reception

    This event is organized by the Center on Religion and Culture and is also made possible through the support of the Spellman Jesuit Community of Fordham, the Fordham Division on Mission and Ministry, and the Fordham History Department.