New Center for Spirituality director speaks on faith life, career path
Genevieve Coleman | Monday, September 20, 2021
Rev. Daniel Horan began his term as the new director of the Center for Spirituality and professor in the departments of religious studies and philosophy Aug. 16.
Since coming to Saint Mary’s earlier in the semester, he spoke about how he felt a unique connection to the campus community because of his upbringing.
“I grew up in a Catholic family in upstate New York and went to Catholic schools my whole life,” he said. “I’m the oldest of four boys. So, it’s quite a cool experience to be a faculty member and a director at a Catholic women’s college because I didn’t grow up with sisters, so now I feel like I’m making up for lost time with this wonderful community of higher education.”
Discussing his journey to become a Franciscan friar, Horan explained the impact of his college experience on his decision to enter the faith life.
“I went to St. Bonaventure University, and there, it’s a Franciscan school — much like Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame are in the tradition of Holy Cross, St. Bonaventure is in the Franciscan tradition,” he said. “And there I met the Franciscan friars and at that point, I was already doing some discernment about whether or not I felt a call to religious life into ordained life and getting to know the Franciscans and studying theology. As time went on, I became more and more aware of the fact that I think I was being called to join the Franciscan community.”
Horan noted that after college graduation he did not expect to be serving in the roles that he is today because of what he studied.
“After I graduated from college, I joined the Franciscans,” Horan said. “I didn’t think that I would go into higher education. I didn’t think I’d be a professor. I didn’t think that was my path. When I was in college, I studied theology, but I also studied journalism.”
Reflecting on his journalism career, Horan described his passion for sports photography.
“I worked for four years on my college newspaper and at the time, sports photography was really my focus,” he said. “So, I thought I was going to become a Franciscan friar who specialized in photojournalism.”
Explaining the Franciscan tradition, Horan said he had a lot of options in his career path, even after he was ordained.
“Franciscans can do lots of things,” he said. “They can be parish priests, they could be elementary school teachers, they could be college professors. They could be people who work in a restaurant. The vision that Francis of Assisi had was living the Gospel life together as a community of brothers or a community of brothers and sisters.”
Horan recalled the support from his mentors that led him to further his education in theology.
“When I was in graduate school studying to be ordained, I fell in love with theology even more than I did when I was an undergrad, and my community, my province and my professors saw some potential in me and encouraged me to think about going on for further studies,” he said. “I taught for a year at Siena College in Albany, New York, in religious studies department there, and then went on to do a PhD at Boston College.”
Horan explained his goals for the Center for Spirituality as he begins his tenure.
“The first is to not only continue the good work that’s already been begun by my predecessors and by the 37-year-long history of the center, but to strengthen those programs [and] those offerings,” he said. “And then the second part with the center is to expand it to see how the Center for Spirituality can have a greater impact in the best ways on campus, among the tri-campus community, but also beyond the colleges themselves into the community and nationally and beyond.”
As an author of several books, Horan also discussed how he grew into his role as a writer.
“I really got into writing because writing is the best way to help me to learn,” he said. “It’s the best way to help me to understand what I think and what others think and to engage that in a deep way. I love to talk — I’m an extrovert [and] I like being around people. But there’s something about the slow process of having to think and reflect and to write that can’t be replicated and you can’t speed it up.”
According to Horan, there are many topics that he is interested in, such as systematic theology and Christology.
“My PhD’s major area of concentration is what’s called systematic theology and so, that is doctrinal questions … I wrote a dissertation on the theology of creation, so I’ve one been interested in those sorts of questions. I’m working on a book right now on Christology — in particular, the reason or the motivation, the divine motivation for why God became human in the Christian tradition,” he said.
Horan also noted his recent passion for exploring issues of social justice.
“I’m also very interested in issues of social justice [and] issues of peace,” he said. “And so, in the past, I’ve written a lot about nonviolence and the importance of nonviolence. More recently, I’ve been engaging a lot more in questions of systemic racism and the realities of white privilege and white supremacy, and what does it mean, particularly from a kind of a religious perspective, but also more broadly from a societal or cultural perspective.”
Because of his prior experience in photojournalism, Horan was recruited by Saint Mary’s athletics to take photos of varsity games, in addition to his official responsibilities. He expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to go back to his roots.
“I’ve been very, very fortunate,” Horan said. “I’m really grateful to the athletic department, to Julie, the athletic director, and [Sports Information Director] Sarah, for allowing me and inviting me to be a part of this very important aspect of the Saint Mary’s community, which is the wonderful athletic teams that we have here.”
Horan noted that he was invited to speak in several religious studies classes at the College in the past and was honored to return to a place rich with tradition.
“It’s very moving and humbling to think about, so to come back to this space where I visited years ago as a speaker, and to be able to be in a position to help support and to continue that legacy — that’s what drew me so much to this position.”
Speaking on his hopes for the College, Horan wants to highlight the strengths of the College.
“There’s so much to be proud of, that if there’s one thing I hope for, it’s to contribute to being sort of a booster or a cheerleader for Saint Mary’s,” he said. “We need to go out there and tell the world how awesome this place is.”