November 14, 2019

Rev. Steven Payne, O.C.D., to hold chair, lead Center for Carmelite Studies

On Tuesday, Oct. 15, the University inaugurated a new Endowed Chair in Carmelite Studies, a tenure-track position at the rank of professor, and installed Rev. Steven Payne, O.C.D., as the first Carmelite Chair. 

Well-known Carmelite saints include John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, and Edith Stein.

The Carmelite family offers “a vast treasury of profound knowledge, varied cultural expressions, and practical wisdom that is in danger of being lost because of the declining numbers of those professionally trained to explore them,” Father Payne said at his installation. “Borrowing an image from John of the Cross, we might compare the Carmelite tradition to ‘an abundant mine with many recesses of treasures, so that however deep individuals may go, they never reach the end or bottom, but rather in every recess find new veins with new riches everywhere’ (Canticle 37.4).” 

Very Rev. Mark Morozowich, dean of the School of Theology and Religious Studies, commented on the enduring and “special” relationship the University has had with the Carmelite order. “This endowment builds on the Carmelites' longstanding commitment to teaching and scholarship at Catholic University, for many decades we have had their men teaching as our professors,” he said. 

“When the University first held classes in 1889, the cost to establish an endowed professorship was $50,000,” said University Provost Aaron Dominguez. “The amount needed to endow a professorship today is about 60 times the 1889 cost, but the value of these positions goes beyond the money invested in them. The returns are made permanent by the spreading of knowledge and the enabling of discovery, which in turn attract more students to the University, as well as other stellar faculty.”

As a result of a generous $5 million gift from the Carmelite Province of the Most Pure Heart of Mary, the Endowed Chair in Carmelite Studies was established in the School of Theology and Religious Studies, together with a Center for Carmelite Studies, of which the chair holder will also be the director. 

Rev. Steven Payne, O.C.D.Father Payne is no stranger to Catholic University, said University President John Garvey in reference to Father Payne’s background and doctorate from CatholicU. “His extensive list of publications and other work certainly establishes that Father Payne is the authority on the Carmelite tradition.”

Rev. William Harry, O.Carm., provincial of the Most Pure Heart of Mary province, said, “This initiative of a Chair and Center for Carmelite Studies is a critical step in the Carmelite Order’s scientific study of its history and spirituality, as well as its relation to the world in which we live. This work will not take place in isolation, but in relationship to the other studies on this campus: science, music, philosophy, art, and medicine.”

By working together, the new chair, center, School of Theology and Religious Studies, and the University “will continue to preserve the theological record, ensuring that it is passed on from this generation to the next,” Dominguez said. “The Carmelite Order’s beliefs then become rooted in us, and in turn we are able to magnify and pass on their charism to future priests and scholars. The Carmelite Order will always have a ‘home’ here.”

“My hope is that this initiative will become known as an outstanding and truly global ‘center’ for relevant contemporary study and research in the Carmelite tradition, which is such a vital resource for meeting the challenges of our time,” Father Payne said.