2019: University of St. Thomas, Houston, USA
“Thomism as Culture”
The 14th Biennial Meeting of ICUSTA was held from May 22 to 24 of this year and was hosted by the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas, in the United States. Fifty participants, from fourteen countries of the five continents and from twenty-four institutions, attended this meeting.
The theme of the 14th Biennial was Thomism as Culture and its main goal was to share efforts for illuminating today’s culture with the values of Thomism through the dialogue between faith and reason. The context for this meeting was the conclusion of the two-year long celebration of the 25th anniversary of ICUSTA. The keynote lecture, “Thomism, the Culture of Life, and the Culture of Death”, was given by Dr. Steven J. Jensen, Director of the UST Center for Thomistic Studies.
The beautiful open campus of the University of St. Thomas, with an academic mall extended between the gold-domed chapel and the library, provided the perfect symbolic frame for the relationship between faith and reason. Furthermore, the new brightly colored mural on St. Thomas Aquinas amazed the participants by its concrete example of the Thomistic message expressed under the garb of a new cultural language.
On Thursday the 23rd, three working panels were held at Anderson Hall. During the first panel, Ongoing ICUSTA Activities & Partnerships, the reports of various significant initiatives were presented, and some new initiatives were explained, such as the first Disciplinary Forum on Health Sciences. The second panel, Innovation and the ICUSTA Marketplace, provided the opportunity for four member institutions to highlight some of their projects and to invite others to participate in those activities. The third panel, Reviewing and Renewing a Culture as Thomism, gave the opportunity to hear the experiences of four University Centers devoted to the dialogue between faith and culture. The panel concluded with an illuminating lecture by Dr. Tracey Rowland (University of Notre Dame Australia and member of the International Theological Commission) on: “Main Challenges for Renewing our Culture”.
On Friday the 24th, three simultaneous meetings took place: the Assembly of Rectors and Delegates, the Meeting of the Honor Council and the Meeting of International Relations. The Delegates made various resolutions for the organization, such as: they decided to continue giving Grants for Solidarity Projects; they elected Universidad FASTA as host institution for the 15th Biennial Conference (2021), and the members of the new Executive Committee. They also expressed their gratitude to Rector Sáez of the Universidad Católica de Ávila who offered to host a special encounter for ICUSTA students in July of 2022 in preparation for the World Youth Day in Portugal.
Meanwhile the Honor Council, among other actions: suggested financial aid for training programs in Thomistic thought for faculty members from ICUSTA institutions in Africa; gave their support for the Thomistic Studies Online Program (which will be granted with half waivers), and proposed the theme for the next Biennial, Political thought and its consequences for today’s world in the light of St. Thomas Aquinas.
The heads of International Relations, in turn, continued to spearhead the improvement of communication and exchange between member institutions.
The 14th ICUSTA Conference concluded with a Closing Ceremony which included, in addition to various speeches, the presentation of the Albertus Magnus Award 2019 to Dr. Joseph McFadden, in the company of his wife, Mrs. Norma McFadden.
These inspiring days were spent in friendship and in faith, enriched with Eucharistic celebrations at the University’s amazing Chapel of St. Basil. The attendees were treated to various musical performances and an excursion that to the nearby Menil art Collection.
After the Conference, the program Chair, Dr Hans Stockton, expressed his sincere hope that everyone had departed Houston “with new energy and sense of commitment to the ICUSTA mission”.
On his part, the Executive Director of ICUSTA, Dr Mauricio Echeverría, stated:
“We have concluded the 25th anniversary celebrations brilliantly, at the same Institution that hosted the first ICUSTA International Conference in 1995, ‘in the center of the world’. (…) Thanks to all of you, we have started the second 25-year stage of ICUSTA’s life with a strong impulse, a renewed friendship and clear decisions. (…) Let us remain in contact, sharing our common dreams and works for ‘promoting a passion for truth in the service of humanity’ and ‘furthering the dialogue between faith and culture’ around the world!”
Member of the Honor Council, Dr José Tomás Raga, added:
“Besides the organizational dimension, the facet of sociability among ICUSTA members was well evident. I personally had the feeling of being with family, and I concluded after reflection, that we were really a family. I hope it stays that way all the time.”
And the new President of ICUSTA, Dr. Juan Carlos Mena, expressed his hope “that this 2-year cycle in which we are honoured with the Presidency will serve to add drive and dynamics to this wonderful work begun 26 years ago.”