Monsignor Robert Trisco , professor emeritus, and Nelson Minnich , professor, both of the School of Theology and Religious Studies, were quoted in a Catholic New York article about New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan's experiences as a student at CUA. See their comments in the article below.

Scholar and Author
Archbishop Dolan earned doctorate at Catholic University

From: Catholic New York Date: April 9, 2009 Author: Claudia McDonnellThough he's probably best known for his warm pastoral manner and ready wit, Archbishop Timothy Dolan has another side as well. He's a scholar of American Church history who holds a doctorate in the subject from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. He wrote his dissertation on a prominent churchman, Archbishop Edwin V. O'Hara, and produced such a distinguished piece of scholarship that the university published it as a book.

Msgr. Robert Trisco, professor emeritus of Church history at Catholic University and himself a distinguished historian, taught then-Father Dolan in class and was his director for the dissertation. "He certainly was a student in all senses of the word," Msgr. Trisco said. "Certainly he was thoroughly interested in history." And not only American Catholic history, he added, because students were required to take courses on topics including general Church history and the history of the Church in modern Europe.

Archbishop Dolan began his studies at Catholic University in 1979 after having served for three years as a parish priest in Missouri. He brought his characteristic enthusiasm and sense of purpose into the classroom.

"As a student he was diligent and cheerful," Msgr. Trisco said. "He never seemed to be weighed down unduly by the pressure of studies, but he was always on top of them. He was naturally an excellent student, or we wouldn't have encouraged him to go on for the doctorate." In class, "he often had good insights and he asked intelligent questions," Msgr. Trisco added.

What kind of future would he have predicted for the young priest?

"I think I would have predicted a very brilliant future," he replied. "I don't know, of course, in what exact direction it would have led, and since we trained him as a Church historian, I would have hoped that he continued in that field. But he was called to other things. He brings to his episcopal ministry the benefits that he obtained by studying Church history."

Those benefits include "a long-term view of what the Church is engaged in, and not simply...what the immediate concerns are," Msgr. Trisco said. That's an advantage because day-to-day situations "are viewed in the light of a longer arc of the Church's existence...One can, I suppose, become so easily absorbed in one's own country that one forgets or is unaware of problems the Church has experienced in other times and other countries."

Msgr. Trisco is a past editor of the Catholic Historical Review. Also commenting on the value of studying history was the current editor, Nelson H. Minnich, professor of history and of Church history at Catholic University. He was there when the archbishop was a student.

"Church history gives one a perspective on things," he told CNY. "You're not easily flustered. You see how these problems have come up before and how people have dealt with them."

Msgr. Trisco guided Father Dolan in researching and writing his dissertation, which was published as "Some Seed Fell on Good Ground: The Life of Edwin V. O'Hara."

"I directed 25 doctoral students to successful conclusion," Msgr. Trisco said. "Certainly, Timothy Dolan made one of the best contributions by publishing his dissertation, in a revised form. So many are left in microfilm and don't reach a wide audience, but his did, and that was something I was very proud to have had (a part) in producing." Noting that it was published by the Catholic University of America Press, he added, "We don't do that for every dissertation that is written here."

Archbishop O'Hara (1881-1956) headed the Diocese of Great Falls, Mont., and later the Diocese of Kansas City, Mo. An innovative and influential Church leader, he was instrumental in the founding of the Catholic Biblical Association and the National Catholic Rural Life Conference as well as the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine in the United States. He advocated a wider role for the laity in Church life.

Msgr. Trisco noted that Archbishop Dolan had to do research on Archbishop O'Hara in various parts of the United States, and therefore broadened his knowledge of the entire country.

He added, "He knows a great deal about the history of New York, (which) had important bishops in the 19th and 20th centuries. One can't be a historian of American Catholicism without a good knowledge of the Church in New York."

Scholarly rigor, however, is only part of what Archbishop Dolan brings to his work.

"That expansive personality is something he's had from the beginning, throughout his priestly ministry, so he's only enhanced it over the years," Msgr. Trisco said. "It has won him great confidence and admiration-the confidence of others in his leadership, or simply in his concern for them and their needs."

He showed that concern to his dissertation director, with whom he has kept in touch. Msgr. Trisco said that when he retired the first time as secretary-treasurer of the American Catholic Historical Association, Archbishop Dolan was there and presented him with the diploma naming him a protonotary apostolic supernumerary-the highest of the three grades of monsignor.

"I remain grateful to him for that," he said.

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