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Jenkins returning to classroom for Lenten course

Kate Antonacci | Thursday, February 1, 2007

On the first Sunday of Lent, University President Father John Jenkins will step back into the classroom to co-teach the newly-offered one-credit theology course “Know Your Catholic Faith: God is Love.”

“It will be on Sunday afternoon and I’m teaching it with [theology professor] Larry Cunningham,” Jenkins said Wednesday.

Composed of “around 35 students,” the course was open to individuals of all levels in the University, from undergraduates to law students to Saint Mary’s students. Students were able to register at the end of last semester and early this semester, Jenkins said.

The course gains its name from Pope Benedict XVI’s first encyclical “God is Love,” which is the focus of the five Sunday sessions.

“It’s simply a kind of look at encyclical, at the themes and issues that it raises,” Jenkins said. “It’s a chance to understand the encyclical.”

The course will meet from 6 to 7 p.m. in the Coleman-Morse Center and will then participate in Sunday Vespers together in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, according to the InsideND course description.

Though there are just five classes, Jenkins said that he may have to “miss a class or two” because of travel engagements.

A short reflection paper each week and attendance at all five sessions is required to earn the course credit. The Office of the President is also holding an essay competition and a student conference about the same encyclical this spring.

As for future plans, Jenkins said he will “certainly be teaching more classes,” but it is just a question of finding time in his busy schedule.

“It will be a juggling of the various demands of my time … to find a way to teach,” he said.

Jenkins will be making another effort to carve out time from his busy schedule this semester by offering open office hours to “any undergraduate or graduate student who is interested,” said Frances Shavers, the executive assistant to the president.

“One of the great joys of when he was teaching was just the connection with the students,” Shavers said. “You don’t have as much natural opportunity [to meet with students] as you do if you were a teacher.”

There will be open visiting hours in the Office of the President in 75-minute blocks on three dates to start out – Feb. 19, Mar. 20 and Apr. 2.

Shavers said the time can be used by students who want to discuss a certain issue with Jenkins, who just want to introduce themselves or who may just want to see the office.

Shavers said that there will also be the option of reserving a time to meet with Jenkins during his office hours on the president’s Web site.

“He’s definitely looking forward to it and is excited about it, but we have no idea whether one person will show up or whether twenty people will show up,” she said. “It’s definitely sort of a trial this semester and we’ll see if it’s responded to well.”

Shavers also said that Jenkins will be visiting a different dorm each month. Student Body President Lizzi Shappell will be going around to dorms to “get names of anyone who is interested,” Shavers said.

“I am excited about [the office hours],” Jenkins said. “It’s just a chance to talk to students and listen to their concerns and interests.”