Endowed chair filled by Jesuit

Daniel Quick Religion Editor

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The late Stephen Duffy, a former Loyola religious studies professor, believed systematic theology to be immensely important, and that it should be kept at Loyola. This fall, his wish will be granted.

The two-year search for the Stephen Duffy Endowed Chair in the Religious Studies department has finally ended. The Rev. Edward Vacek, S.J., will be assuming the chair this fall.

“We had altogether 40 applicants, and that’s very good because this is a very high level position, and there are few people who are even qualified,” said Denis Janz, religious studies professor and chairman of the search committee.

“A person at this level has a lot of options,” Janz said. “We’re very lucky to have a guy of his caliber. For a Jesuit like him, every Jesuit college wants him. It’s sort of a victory for us to get him.”

Vacek will teach systematic theology and give public lectures, as well as involve himself in the Loyola community.

“Systematic theology is organized critical thinking about God and Christian life,” Vacek said in an email. According to Vacek, it evolved naturally from theology as humans tried to account for what practices led them to a closer relationship with God and came to organize their thoughts.

Duffy used to sit in Janz’s office in Bobet 404. He was a priest of the archdiocese who taught systematic theology at Loyola for around 40 years until he unexpectedly became ill and died. He left money to Loyola for the endowment of a chair in systematic theology.

Vacek agrees with Duffy’s view on systematic theology.

“I’m biased, of course, but I think religious questions deal with the most important and most fundamental aspects of life,” he said.

Vacek taught at Boston College from 2008 to 2011 and spent last year working at the Woodstock Theological Center in Washington.

“I taught for 33 years in a pontifical seminary,” Vacek said. “A big part of my job also was to do the research and writing that would help the church’s theology evolve. Furthermore, I have been very interested in issues of social justice, so a fight against racism and sexism (is) deeply ingrained in me. All of that has prepared me well, I think, for making a significant contribution to Loyola.”

Janz said he is pleased to have Vacek in the position. “He is really one of the best in his field, so we’re lucky to have him,” he said.

Vacek said he looks forward to his time at Loyola.

“Loyola very ably serves important needs in the region and in the church,” Vacek said. “I consider it a real privilege to serve here. I love being a teacher, and I love being a Jesuit and I love being a priest. So here at Loyola I will get to do what I love. I wish everybody would be so fortunate to be able to pursue their deepest commitments.”

Daniel Quick can be reached at [email protected]