Ray Fitzgerald Lecture Series

Wednesday, April 4, 2018
Fr. Dave PivonkaFr. Dave Pivonka picture

Fr. Dave Pivonka, TOR, is a nationally known author and speaker. He also leads pilgrimages to some of the holiest sites in the world. He spends much of his time helping others come to know God’s love for them through preaching, writing, CDs, and other spiritual outreaches. Father Dave’s books include Spiritual Freedom: God’s Life Changing Gift, Hiking the Camino: 500 Miles with Jesus, and Encounter Jesus: From Discovery to Discipleship. In the Fall of 2015, Fr. Dave released a new book: “Breath of God – Living a life led by the Holy Spirit.” Fr. Dave has held several ministry positions at Franciscan University of Steubenville and is actively involved in the highly successful summer conferences program. Father is a member of the Sacred Heart Province of Franciscan Friars of the Third Order Regular. He is presently the director of Franciscan Pathways, an evangelistic outreach of his Franciscan Community.

About the Lectureship Series

The history of Christianity is immensely rich and colorful.  Just as the life of Jesus Christ is “the greatest story ever told,” the two millennia following make up a drama that in many ways mirrors the tragicomic nature of the Easter story itself:  the re-birth of Western civilization out of the ashes of the fallen Roman Empire, the emergence of the university, the growth of the concept of human rights and social contract theory, the European Renaissance, the dawn of science and modern medicine, and the explosion of industry, technology, and legions of creative innovations in painting, music, and architecture—indeed, most of the constructive and redemptive developments in Western history have been, and continue to be, attributable to Christianity and the creative inspiration that only a biblical worldview provides.

If the cultural and sociological developments in the West have been dramatic, these are perhaps exceeded by the seismic shifts in philosophy and theology that Christianity has inspired.  This is no coincidence, since every major cultural change is causally rooted in some philosophical or theological truth.  Thus, for example, the notion of human rights is grounded in the biblical concept of Imago Dei; the scientific revolution grew out of the conviction that the cosmos is rational and efficiently designed; and many of the greatest works of art and literature—from Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling to Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables to film classics ranging from On the Waterfront to The Mission—have been inspired by Christian theological concepts.

One significant reason why Christianity has been so inspiring is the rich and diverse nature of Christian thought.  While much of the West’s cultural heritage is rooted in the Christian doctrines of grace and the nature of God, countless other innovations and creative developments have been prompted by theological concepts and spiritual practices unique to the various sub-traditions of Christianity.  And in many other instances, great works of art and literature have featured as subject matter the tensions between these various sub-traditions.  These creative works, again, mirror the history of Christianity, as church conflicts spawned the East-West schism of 1054 and, then, 500 years later the division of the Western church with the Protestant Reformation.

We can think of both Christian history and theology as a tree.  The trunk represents the creedal affirmations contained in such doctrinal statements as the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed (325 A.D.) and Creed of Chalcedon (451 A.D.).  From that trunk split two main branches, which represent the Eastern Orthodox and Western church.  And the Western branch itself splits into two further branches, representing Roman Catholicism and Protestantism.  These are the major sections of the tree, but there are myriad other small branches and twigs, especially sprouting from the Protestant branch.  Since each Christian is part of that tree, he or she should be devoted to understanding and appreciating every part of the tree.

Another suitable metaphor is that of a family.  Our original theological ancestors were, of course, the Apostolic church, from whom descended the “tribes” that are the Eastern and Western traditions, from which descended the Roman Catholic and Protestant “offspring.”  Like any family, we have had our fights and squabbles.  Indeed, some of the darker chapters of Western history have featured aspects of the church’s internal family feud, which should sadden all of us, just as it must grieve the Spirit of God.

But in the end, we are family.  No disagreements, fights, or even so-called “holy wars” can ever change that.  The church is one, united by Christ her savior and together sealed for redemption.  As his bride, we are destined for eternal, joyful fellowship in what Augustine called the “City of God,” a city that will be populated by Christians who on earth heralded from all theological traditions, East and West, across eons of time.  No doubt knowing that such theological diversity was coming, Jesus prayed that his followers would nonetheless “be brought to complete unity” and “be one” even as he and the Father are one (John 17:23-24).  This plea of Jesus should be ours as well, and it should be reflected in the way we treat one another, whether personally, in church practice, or in our academic pursuits.

So we should emphasize our unity in Christ.  But we should also celebrate our diversity, not only because of the unique cultural benefits of each theological tradition, but also because the spiritual practices of each tradition uniquely express important truths about Christ and the divine nature.  And as we joyfully celebrate this unity and diversity, we strengthen our witness for Christ and advance the cause of the Gospel for a world in need.

Inspiration of the Fitzgerald Lectureship

The Taylor University Ray Fitzgerald Lectureship was established essentially with this vision in mind.  It is inspired by and founded in memory of the remarkable Christian witness of its namesake.  Ray Fitzgerald was born on the south side of Chicago, the youngest of six children and the only son of Ray and Kay Fitzgerald.  The Catholic faith of his family was a defining aspect of Ray’s life.

Ray graduated from Northern Illinois University in 1994 with a B.S. in political science and economics.  After graduation, Ray was awarded a Dunn Fellowship which provided him the opportunity to work in state government.  Ray earned the respect of upper-level staff in the office of Governor Jim Edgar (R-IL) and was eventually hired by the Washington D.C. office, where he advised the Governor on energy and agricultural policy.  After five years as the Deputy Director of the Washington office, Ray moved on to the U.S. House of Representatives, serving as Legislative Director for U.S. Representative John Shimkus (R-IL).  Ray advised Congressman Shimkus on energy and telecommunications issues, distinguishing himself with his expertise, bipartisanship, and winsome spirit.

In August of 2005, Ray and his family relocated to Naperville, Illinois, where he became Director of Federal Legislative Affairs for Navistar International.  Ray worked for Navistar until his diagnosis with cancer in May of 2008.

During his battle with cancer, Ray inspired many with his faithfulness and devotion.  His daily email statement of faith, always signed “not alone and not afraid,” expressed his authentic and abiding faith to Catholics and Protestants alike.

Ray married Kristin Wolgemuth in January of 2001.  Ray and Kristin have three daughters, Nora, Maggie, and Lucy.  The Fitzgeralds were active in local, state and federal Republican politics and St. Raphael Catholic Church.  They spent many of their earlier years active in interconfessional efforts, and it is this same spirit of unity that inspired the Fitzgerald Lectureship.

Aims of the Fitzgerald Lectureship

The chief aims of the Fitzgerald Lectureship are these:

  • To increase our appreciation for the insights and contributions of the Roman Catholic theological, cultural, and artistic heritage;
  • To gain a greater understanding of Roman Catholic spiritual practice as a legitimate and beautiful expression of authentic faith in Jesus Christ; and
  • To consider ways in which Protestants and Roman Catholics can work together in the context of various enterprises in the public and private spheres.

The aims of the Fitzgerald Lectureship are not new, of course.  Interconfessional Christian work has a long history, and Protestants and Catholics, especially, continue to collaborate in various forms of public and private service and academic exploration.  Evidence of our unity has been formally declared in two significant formal statements during the last two decades: Evangelicals and Catholics Together (1994) and the Manhattan Declaration (2009).

The Fitzgerald Lectureship aims to contribute to this general trend by promoting a spirit of irenicism between evangelicals and Catholics, not to convert or persuade so much as to understand and reinforce our unity.  This will enrich the body of Christ and the Taylor community in particular as we come to better appreciate how we may inspire one another in the pursuit of God and redemptive service of humanity.

James S. Spiegel

Professor of Philosophy and Religion

June 2011