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McGrath Institute modifies “Saturdays with the Saints” into online lecture series

| Tuesday, September 1, 2020

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the McGrath Institute for Church Life is launching virtual programming this fall to adapt to health and safety restrictions. One such series is “A Season with the Saints,” a digital take on the traditional “Saturdays with the Saints” lectures.

The online edition of the perennial lecture series will offer participants the same opportunity to get to know six holy women and men venerated by the Catholic Church, but this year, the program will be a self-paced set of digital lectures. “A Season with the Saints” is free for all and accessible nationwide until Dec. 20.

The modified programming is one of a number of digital offerings that the McGrath Institute has created in response to restrictions on in-person programming due to the pandemic.

Program director of communications Amy North said that, despite the cancellation of in-person events, the McGrath Institute’s virtual courses have reached a broad audience among schools and parishes across the country. “A Season with the Saints” is anticipated to have a similar impact.

The program is suitable for a range of audiences, from parish groups to Catholic schools. North said the digital format offers flexibility for ministers to adapt to their particular needs.

“We wanted to release this entire series all at once, so that these folks could schedule their own gatherings to meet virtually to discuss the saints,” North said. “One of the main hopes is that we would reach those working as administrators, who would be able to then use this as a tool for their gatherings.”

“A Season with the Saints” is part of a new initiative, the Sullivan Family Saints Initiative, at the McGrath Institute. Leonard DeLorenzo, director of undergraduate studies for the McGrath Institute, said the initiative is geared toward fostering both scholarship and devotion around the lives of the saints, in the campus community and in dioceses nationwide.

“As part of our devotion and growth and love of the saints, this [initiative] can nourish the Catholic imagination and hopefully renew the church,” DeLorenzo said.

Through the series, participants can learn from Notre Dame faculty and staff about St. Teresa of Calcutta, St. Padre Pio, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, St. John Henry Newman, St. Gertrude the Great and St. Nicholas. DeLorenzo said that all the saints chosen for the 2020 virtual series have feast days between Sept. 5 and Dec. 6, enabling participants to engage with the Catholic Church’s liturgical calendar through the lecture series.

“It’s a way for people to not just learn about the saints, but to actually be moved toward prayer with the saints and the Church,” DeLorenzo said. “We wanted to direct people who are interested in learning about the saints towards the prayer with the saints that the liturgical calendar invites.”

The McGrath Institute hopes that its online lecture series will, like the traditional in-person lectures, inspire participants through the lives of saints.

McGrath Institute director John Cavadini said in an email that learning about the lives of the saints, through programs like “A Season with the Saints,” has the potential to impact people today.

“The lives of the saints are a vision of hope,” Cavadini said. “The beautiful thing about the saints is that they are all different, so we find a vision of hope refracted through a myriad diversity of lenses.”

Cavadini said that the saints’ responses to darkness in their own times can help people make sense of the current moment.

“[In] a period like our own where we find isolation, sickness [and] political maneuvering at the expense of the common good, and narrowness of heart seemingly everywhere … the saints can help us see it through their eyes, to see through to a vision of hope and to have the courage to act on it,” he said.

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