From the Director

Kathleen Cummings Small

I love celebrating anniversaries. As a child I had a knack for recalling particular dates and making extravagant pronouncements. (I started kindergarten five years ago today! On this date in 1978 we all came down with chicken pox! You get the idea). The past year has provided ample opportunity for me to indulge my love of anniversaries in more productive ways. Readers have heard plenty about our ongoing celebration of Cushwa’s 40th, so I’ll focus instead on another recent milestone: the 50th anniversary of the close of the Second Vatican Council. 

Fiftieth anniversaries are especially momentous because they represent the last chance to commemorate an event that still looms large in living memory. By the time the 75th anniversary rolls around, Vatican II will have passed into historic memory. We marked this occasion in grand fashion at the Cushwa Center, beginning with “Outsider at the Vatican,” an exhibit of Frederick Franck’s artwork depicting the Council. The image on the cover, Byzantine Mass; Patriarch Maximos IX of the Melchites, 13 November 1964, is one of the nearly 70 pieces that appeared in the exhibit. I’m grateful to Catherine Osborne for overseeing this exhibit from its inception to its conclusion; her insight, creativity, and hard work led to its success. She negotiated international shipping and insurance costs, prepared wall text and an exhibit guide, coordinated with the Notre Dame Center for Arts and Culture, and helped promote the exhibit in the local community and across campus. At the exhibit opening, Catherine gave an illuminating and moving gallery talk that helped guests understand and interpret not only the sketches but also the Council itself. She also wrote this issue’s lead article, “Rediscovering Vatican II: Frederick Franck’s Drawings from the Second Vatican Council,” which starts on page 8 and tells more about the artist, his work, and this exhibit. 

The Cushwa Center also marked the 50th anniversary of the Council’s close by sponsoring an event that took place almost a stone’s throw from St. Peter’s Basilica. On October 19 at Notre Dame’s Rome Global Gateway, Alberto Melloni, director of Fondazione per le Scienze Religiose Giovanni XXIII in Bologna, delivered a lecture titled “Il Vaticano II: Linguaggio di una riforma o riforma di un linguaggio?” Melloni is one of Italy’s foremost scholars of religion and a renowned expert on Vatican II. I was honored to introduce him—in Italian! The way I obsessed about that—very short—introduction, one might have thought I was giving the actual lecture myself.

Commemorating the 50th anniversary has certainly led me in new directions as a scholar. I have enjoyed participating in the Vatican II Studies Group at the American Academy of Religion meetings for the last five years. Had I not been reflecting on the significance of the anniversary, I might have missed a tidbit around which I have since organized a chapter of my book on U.S. causes for canonization: John Neumann, C.S.S.R., appears as a footnote in paragraph 50 of Lumen Gentium. Stay tuned for the whole story.

I’m sad to see this anniversary pass, but we are already gearing up for another one! Next year marks the centenary of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini’s death, and the Cushwa Center is organizing a symposium on April 6–8, 2017, to highlight her influence and the work of Catholic sisters as global missionaries. See our Call for Papers (1 MB PDF) or page 22 of the newsletter for details.

--Kathleen Sprows Cummings

This column appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of the American Catholic Studies Newsletter