Forgiveness Project looks into effects of war

Lauren Piro

Twelve years ago, Rev. Robert Murray, O.S.A, found himself contemplating the importance of forgiving. Holding a Ph.D. in educational psychology and acting as a marriage and family therapist, he decided to attend a convention in Maryland on forgiveness.

In the presence of scholars in fields ranging from law to sociology, Murray found that the subject matter was even greater than he had originally considered and began to take more of an interest in the interdisciplinary nature of forgiveness.

By June 2005, this notion formed into the Forgiveness Project at Villanova. Sponsored by the Office for Mission Effectiveness, Murray now acts as the project’s coordinator and hopes to extend its research, events and values to all in the Villanova community.

The project’s main concern is the healing power of forgiveness in all areas of life, from professional to personal and spiritual.

“If we don’t forgive, we don’t grow,” Murray said, offering the core value of the Forgiveness Project.

Since the formation of the project, Murray and others involved have been working toward completing research on the Villanova community’s use of forgiveness and hope to educate students, faculty and others on its use, importance and appearance across all disciplines.

As the ongoing research continues, Murray notes that this interdisciplinary nature continues to become even more apparent.

Forgiveness being more than a religious or ecumenical idea, the project invites all who are interested from any field to participate, including students.

Those on the project committee also hope to show the value of forgiveness in all types of relationships and overall health.

“Forgiveness is more than just a project,” Murray said. “Hopefully it is a way of life, of helping relationships.”

In addition to research and education, the project also works to sponsor events, discussions and speakers at Villanova.

One such event sponsored in part by the Forgiveness Project is this week’s lecture series surrounding the visit of Dr. Jonathan Shay, psychiatrist, classicist, and author.

Shay has written two books, “Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character” and more recently “Odysseus in America: Combat Trauma and the Trials of Homecoming.”

Acclaimed for creating classical metaphors for the effects of war on its soldiers, the books highlight Shay’s work with soldiers plagued by post-traumatic stress disorder.

He has done a great deal of military consulting on minimizing the effects of PTSD in soldiers and, as in his latest book, their re-entry into civilian life.

Shay is currently a psychiatrist for the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs in Boston and continues to speak and write on preventing harmful psychological effects on those who serve in the military.

Shay’s visit began yesterday with a faculty luncheon and continues tonight with his lecture “Soldier’s Homecoming: Trials and Obstacles.” Taking place at 7 p.m. in Bartley 1011, the event is free and open to the general public.