Religion and science: Friends, not foes

Marist High School teachers attended the University of Notre Dame’s program "Science and Religion: Strangers, Rivals or Partners in the Search of Truth?" at the South Bend, Ind. campus in late June.

Marist_teachers_at_NDReligion teacher Brigid Wolff, along with science teachers Chris Lesher and Theresa Coy attended the program conducted by the University’s Institute for Church Life. The six-day program examined one of the best kept secrets in the Catholic Church; that the relationship between science and religion is actually one of mutuality not conflict. “The goal of the seminar and our goal in bringing the fruits of our study back to Marist is to communicate this truth with our students and colleagues, and hopefully the wider community,” said Wolff.

This was the third year that the seminar was offered to high school teachers.  The seminar included teams of religion and science teachers from across the country, and there was a total of approximately 50 participants from Catholic high schools coast to coast.  “Upon acceptance to the program we spent the fourth quarter of the school year reading articles and excerpts from academic texts and journals on religion, theology, philosophy, general science and one very technical but fascinating article on physics,” Wolff explained.  They also participated in an online portion of the course which allowed them to begin working with teachers and seminar coordinators before meeting in person at the seminar. 

“The in-person portion of the seminar was intense, powerful, and gratifying,” said Wolff.  “We spent the day attending lectures from professors in theology, biology, physics, and astronautic chemistry from Oxford, Harvard, Notre Dame, and Saint Joseph's University.”  The group also had the opportunity to attend daily mass and pray the rosary together as well as the chance to enjoy the beautiful campus.  One of the best aspects of the seminar was the availability of the professors and the hospitality and affirmation of the professors, staff, and leaders of the Institute for Church Life.  Each day participants spent additional time with the lecturers in formal and informal settings during breaks, meals, and evening gatherings. 

Time was set aside each day for school teams to develop lesson plans and goals for their respective schools relative to the seminar’s theme.  The Marist teachers hope to develop a senior elective on the topic to be offered during the 2017-2018 school year. “We hope, through the new course and in our own classes and departments, to broaden the framework in which our students view, think about and engage in the world around them,” Lesher said.

“The administration and department chairs have been extremely supportive and we are looking forward to continuing our work this year in order to better educate the Marist community about the relationship between religion and science in the Catholic tradition,” Wolff explained.

Marist offers required religion courses for freshmen, sophomores and juniors, and currently has six classes for seniors to choose from for their final religion course. 

Marist science teachers Theresa Coy (from left), Chris Lesher, and religion teacher Brigid Wolff at the University of Notre during the school's program on religion and science. They hope to develop an elective course for students on the topic.