‘Nova hosts annual theology conference

Michelle Farabaugh

Students, professors and adultsfrom the community gathered tolearn about the topic of forgivenessat the annual Theology InstituteConference held on Oct. 28 in theVillanova Room.

The highlight of the day’s activitieswas the presentation ofthe 2008 Adela Dwyer/St. Thomasof Villanova Peace Award to thePhiladelphia Mural Arts Program.Ms. Jane Golden, executive directorof the Philadelphia Mural ArtsProgram, was present to accept theaward.

According to the program’s Website, Golden, a noted muralist, hasplayed a large role in creating theMural Arts Program out of thePhiladelphia Anti-Graffiti Network,which was founded in 1984 to encouragegraffiti artists to move awayfrom destructive artwork and focuson more positive murals. Goldenwas named director in 1996 and hascontinued to expand the beneficialeffects of art throughout the city ofPhiladelphia.

Her lecture, “The PhiladelphiaMural Arts Program as an Instrumentof Social Reconciliation,” connectedwith the conference’s themeof forgiveness, as mural paintingforges bonds between communitiesby encouraging collaboration,creates a lasting documentary of aneighborhood’s cultural ties and providesan outlet for victims of socialinjustices to express their feelingsthrough art rather than violence.According to its Web site, theMural Arts Program has paintedover 2,800 murals throughout thecity, helping to revitalize downtroddenareas and brighten the wallsof schools, city agencies and otherbuildings.

The program also focuses on artseducation for Philadelphia children,many of whom attend schools withsmall or no arts programs.Various workshops provide childrenwith a free, structured afterschoolenvironment in which toexplore the arts.

A variety of lectures, all of whichfocused on the theme of forgiveness,were also available for conferenceparticipants to attend. Many guestspeakers, as well as Villanova professors,were on hand to share theirknowledge of various applicationsand interpretations of the conceptof forgiveness, according to theUniversity theology department’sWeb site.

A session titled “Forgiveness inthe New Testament” was presentedby Dr. Paul Danove and Dr. PeterSpitaler, both Villanova professorsof New Testament studies. Duringthe session, attendees were dividedinto six groups, with each groupresponsible for examining severalbiblical passages containing a formof the word “forgive.” A packet wasdistributed to each person, showingdifferent Greek verbs that can all betranslated to “forgive” in English.Then the professors explained themeanings that have been lost intranslation from Greek to Englishverbs.

Danove and Spitaler suggestedthat forgiveness only requires absolvingthe action of insult and notthe person. Such an outlook onforgiveness creates an atmosphereof mutual respect between twopeople.

A large portion of the morningsession’s participants were membersof Danove’s theology classes.Students said they considered theconference to be an exciting wayto expand their classroom experiences.

“Dr. Danove’s lecture was veryinsightful,” freshman ChristineOberst said. “Because it was interactive,it forced the audience to thinkabout what the scriptures actuallysay about forgiveness instead of justlistening to a lecture.”

“It gave me a new perspective onthe concept of forgiveness becausewe discussed having to forgive onlysins, not people,” freshman TheresaDonohoe said. “It really showedthe contrast between the commonperception of forgiveness and theNew Testament idea of forgiveness,which is associated more with debtthan we usually think of it.”

Students said they also approvedof forgiveness as this year’s topic forthe conference.

“It was absolutely relevant,”Donohoe said. “Forgiveness is importantin our daily lives. As peopleand as nations, we have to learn toforgive some of the atrocities thathave been committed to us, like theterrorist attacks of 9/11. Our nationis still struggling with how we canforgive something so horrendous.”

Other sessions during the dayincluded “Forgiveness and the Law,”presented by Dr. Penny Pether andDr. Patrick Brennan; “Forgivenessbetween Parents and Children,”presented by Dr. William Werpehowski;”Forgiveness in the Polis:Lessons from History,” presented byDr. Elizabeth Cole; and “The Limitsof Forgiveness,” presented by Mr.Herman Bontrager.