MR-NET  News #7


31 July 2001   

  SVD Mission Research Network  
Mission Secretariat - Rome   

In this bulletin:

1. AFRAM - Kowalik Is New AFRAM MR-Net Coordinator
2. ASPAC & USA - Dictionary Of Asian Christianity
3. GEN - New Publications From Monumenta Serica Institute
4. GEN - SVD Hochschule Becomes Theological Faculty


During the March AFRAM zonal assembly held in Madagascar Marek Kowalik was named as the new zonal coordinator for mission. His responsibilities include coordinating the mission secretaries of the African provinces and helping to animate the mission research network in AFRAM.

Marek is in the final stages of his doctoral studies in Rome. In October he hopes to defend his dissertation on independent churches in West Africa. When he finishes he will be returning to the Ghana province for teaching and for his zonal responsibilities.

A word of thanks to Ireneo Barreto who has been encouraging the growth of an AFRAM MR-Net for the past four years in addition to his responsibilities as Prefect at the Common Formation Center in Nairobi. Thank you, Ireneo.

[For the next few months Marek Kowalik can be contacted at]

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An important reference work has just appeared entitled "A Dictionary of Asian Christianity." It is the product of ten years of ecumenical work by more than five hundred people from around the world - but especially by those working in Asia. SVD contributors to the volume include Antolin Uy of Divine Word Seminary - Tagaytay in PHS, Frank Bundenholzer of Fu Jen University in SIN and Steve Bevans of Catholic Theological Union in USC. 

The dictionary is a first effort to give a comprehensive overview of the history and current situation of Christianity in Asia. The 900+ page volume dedicates several pages to detail the contributions of the "Society of the Divine Word" in Asia.

Though no single-volume-work can hope to do justice to the hugely diverse reality of Asian Christianity, it does seek to help Asian Christians become more aware of the rich resources in their own history and region. The editor, Scott Sunquist of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, laments that often Asian Christians know much more about Christianity in Europe or North America than they know about Christians in other Asian countries or even about Christians of other churches in their own country.

The participation of SVD's in preparing the volume will be rewarded in part by the sending of a copy of the Dictionary to each of the SVD theologate programs in Asia.

[For more information about "A Dictionary of Asian Christianity" please contact Dr. Scott W. Sunquist at ]

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Roman Malek sends word of two recent publications by the Monumenta Serica Institute at Sankt Augustin, Germany. 

The 48th volume of the Monumenta Serica Journal comprises 550 pages of articles and reviews, some of which are of particular concern to the history of mission in China. 

Volume XLVI of the Monograph Series is entitled From Kaifeng to Shanghai: Jews in China. The collection presents the proceedings of the international colloquium held in Sankt Augustin in 1997 and additional materials. (in English, German and Chinese with English abstracts).

[For more information please contact Monumenta Serica Institute, Arnold-Janssen-Str. 20, D.53757 Sankt Augustin, Germany, Fax: (0049) 2241- 20 58 41, E-mail:]

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Heribert Bettscheider, MR-Net coordinator for Europe writes:

"On May 4 the elevation of our "Hochschule" to a Theological Faculty was celebrated at Sankt Augustin's. At the function Dr. Werner Bracht, the representative of the Conference of Catholic Theological Faculties in Germany gave an address in which he emphasized the importance and special role of colleges, faculties and universities operated by religious orders. Since this is such an important moment for us, we have translated the text into English and would ask you to have it published for the members of MR-Net."

The address of Dr. Bracht follows:

"Ladies and Gentlemen, on behalf of the Conference of Catholic Theological Faculties in Germany I wish to offer congratulations and best wishes on the occasion of the elevation of your "Philosophisch-Theologische Hochschule Sankt Augustin" to a Catholic Theological Faculty and official recognition of the graduate courses of licentiate and doctorate.

"What we are celebrating today is a happy occasion and even something of a surprise, since such a thing cannot at all be taken for granted at a time in which on the one hand resources for tertiary education are becoming increasingly scarce and on the other the number of theology students is diminishing, which result in intense pressure on the theological faculties. At the state universities in particular, the context for teaching and research in Catholic Theology has changed drastically. The legally prescribed reorganization on the university level during the last few years has led to a completely different situation, characterized by a total reformation of courses and degrees, remodeled primarily on the example of the Anglo-American academic scene and the study of science and technology. Faculties are expected to gather funds from outside sources themselves in order to be properly equipped, a demand that in the humanities is problematic in principle. In addition, the prescribed reduction of necessary credits is supposed to reduce average study times.

"Academic work and formation in theology, too, are being subjected to the principles of competition, "time is money" and an efficiency measured in dollars and cents. This, in practice, means the elimination of chairs and positions for younger academics. In Bavaria, for instance, this has already happened three years ago, and now, it would seem, it's the turn of Nordrhein-Westfalen. These measures endanger the breadth of theological formation and the standards in vigor worldwide in the Catholic Church.

"If in this situation your "Hochschule" has been elevated to a theological Faculty and the graduate studies been officially recognized, this proves that St. Augustin's has, in the relatively short span of its existence - compared to the 2000 years of Church history, at any rate - been able to develop its own specific profile, which is valid by the criteria of the official university system, too, and recognized as complementing it in an important and vital way in the context of present-day theological formation and research.

"One glance at the homepage of your Faculty is sufficient to get an excellent idea of this profile and the focus of the academic work done here, especially in the graduate studies, as mirrored in the subjects of the theses which have been presented in recent years. The special focus you have on missiology and religious studies, anthropology and intercultural theology can hardly ever be treated and taught at a Catholic Faculty in a state University in quite the same way as it is possible for you on the basis of the special conditions at this institution and the wealth of practical experience found here.

"With this very relevant choice of a main focus in theological research and formation your Faculty could be said to follow in the footsteps of the great colleges of the religious orders, which, as history tells us, have for centuries been storehouses and guardians of knowledge, which have taken up the classical culture and tradition, renewed it and confronted it with the questions of their day.

"The task and role of colleges operated by religious orders has of course changed in many ways in the course of time. But one programmatic guideline for theology has remained the same throughout: a theological research and education that is integrated in a way of life rooted in spirituality and which does not shy away from the question of truth and its relevance for life - always, of course, in relation to its time and the particular questions it raises. 

"Today educating the younger members of the religious order in question is one basic task of such an institution, but no longer the most central one. What is important today is to concentrate on vital questions in order to attract the interest of wider circles in the surrounding society. The curriculum will no longer be confined to theological formation strictly speaking, but increasingly comprise specific focal points and special offers of continuing education from the whole range of subjects in Catholic Theology, with the necessary linkages to other relevant academic disciplines. The questions of our modern, highly complicated world demand interdisciplinary studies, from which theology must not be excluded. Themes addressed might be, to name but two examples, integration in a multicultural society or borderline questions of modern philosophy and ethics.

"The specific apostolate of the religious order in question should be used as a guideline in establishing such programs. And outside students could certainly profit from living, for some time, in contact with a religious community. This would help them find their own spiritual standpoint.

"This sort of a combined task of qualified academic education can only and exclusively be offered by colleges operated by religious orders in this specific way, no other educational institution can possibly replace them. They therefore complement the courses offered at state universities, which are increasingly reduced to respond to the demands of the present-day labour market and very specific professional needs. They allow a special type of research which gets its characteristic profile from the specific apostolate and spirituality of the order in question, a solid academic qualification and the interdisciplinary treatment of pressing problems of our day.

"It is obvious that the Catholic Theological Faculty of Sankt Augustin has already taken significant steps on the way to this goal.

 Ut crescat, floreat et magnum proventum habeat!"

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For information about MR-Net activities in your Zone contact:   Send Notices for MR-NET News to:

  AFRAM - Marek Kowalik SVD 
  ASPAC - Robert Kisala SVD 
  EUROPA - Heribert Bettscheider SVD 
  PANAM - Christian Tauchner SVD 

  Mission Secretary  
Tom Ascheman SVD   

SVD Mission Research Network