Gerard Sloyan, a symposium and some sad news

A symposium in honor of Gerard Sloyan will be held at Catholic University on March 4, 2020. Father Sloyan, who was instrumental in articulating an American response to the Second Vatican Council at Catholic University and beyond, remained a guiding light for many in education, pastoral studies, and church life over the course of his long career. He turned 100 in December 2019.

As preparation for this gathering enters its final stages, we have just learned the sad news that Fr. Sloyan passed away on February 22. His death was a peaceful one, at the home of relatives, and in the company of a friend who was reading him the psalms.

About Father Sloyan

Fr. Gerard S. Sloyan was a priest of the Diocese of Trenton, NJ. He studied at Immaculate Conception Seminary, Darlington, NJ, and The Catholic University of America (S.T.L.; Ph.D.). He returned to CUA in 1950 to teach in the Department of Religious Education, serving as Department Chair between 1957 and 1967, developing courses in religion and theology for religious and lay students. He was subsequently Professor in the School of Religious Studies at Temple University, Philadelphia (1967–1990). Following his retirement from Temple, he returned
to CUA as Distinguished Professor in 1994, and became Distinguished Professor at Georgetown University in 1996. Fr. Sloyan’s numerous publications reflect his wide interests and influence. They include Liturgy in Focus (1964), The Passion of the Jews (with L. Swidler, 1984); John: A Biblical Commentary (1988), Catholic Morality Revisited (1990), and Preaching from the Lectionary (2004).

“Gerard S. Sloyan is one of those rare scholars who can claim an expertise in both Bible and theology that enables him to bridge the gap between exegesis and systematic theology” Frank Matera wrote in a publishing endorsement. A description of the full range of his contributions to education and inter-religious dialogue, as well as a bibliography of his numerous published works, can be found here.

About the Symposium in his honor

The Symposium will continue as scheduled and is open to the public. All are welcome. Here are the details:

Scripture, Liturgy, Catechesis, Dialogue:
A Symposium to Celebrate the Legacy of Fr. Gerard Sloyan at 100

March 4, 2020, from 10 AM to 3 PM
Caldwell Auditorium at Catholic University

Speakers and topics:
Philip CunninghamGerard S. Sloyan: A Post-Conciliar Polymath
Adele ReinhartzThe Gospel of John and the “Parting of the Ways” Between Judaism and Christianity
Rita Ferrone, Magnum Principium and the Reprioritization of the “Great Principle” of the Liturgical Reform
William LoeweErant Gigantes: Father Sloyan At Catholic U.

Sponsored by the Catholic University of American School of Theology and Religious Studies, and co-sponsored by the Diocese of Trenton

RSVP here.  For more information, and to request accommodation for persons with disabilities,contact Roxana Paalvast at paalvast@cua.eduat 


  1. Father Sloyan gave me constructive advice when I began writing and was in need of it. May we never lack for church leaders like him who speak from such authority and help us to avoid excesses in our reforming zeal.

  2. Friends: Perhaps Gerard Sloyan held on to 100 so that one more generation could see what a breadth of wonderful struggles, fields of study, causes to care about, such a dedicated human being can embrace. The Liturgical Conference he became part of almost eight decades ago wasn’t a bunch of liturgy experts but brought in all sorts of scholars and enthusiasts from Canon Law to history to “Catholic Action” to music to interfaith dialogue to preaching to scripture study to various arts to catechesis and on and on. The big tent of the Liturgical Conference was all of them and more.

    Gerard in his own person brought such a breadth of interests and commitments to all his words and deeds. My time to know him was the second half of the 1960s. Vatican II? He got it and ran with it. Take his homilies. He would write on the proverbial back of an envelope a few dozen lines of tiny words then pull any assembly into attention with how he would speak that text.

    When I learned of his death, I had to find a tiny piece of one of those homilies that later showed up in Liturgy Training Publication’s Sourcebook for Lent. As always, the scriptures of the day mattered and this is from a day when Luke’s gospel told of a rich man and of Lazarus. Gerard had this to say:

    “A tale like this raises the question whether Jesus was a radical social reformer. Did he seethe with indignation at the lot of the poor? It seems as if the answer is no. One senses that he would put Lazarus in torment just as readily if the beggar had put his trust in scraps from the table. Jesus was against poor fools as well as rich fools. He just thought the percentage of poor fools did not run so high.”

    Gerard lived and shared a whole century with us. Peace be upon him.

  3. In the summer of 1985 I took a counse in St. Paul, taught by Fr. Sloyan, at Mount Saint Mary’s (then) College. It inspired me to go forward with my thoughts on studying for a Masters in Religious Studies, depite having 8 kids. The thing that impressed me most in class was how Fr. Sloyan would close his eyes and seriously consider what he was going to say, before he said it. It was always understandable and often provocative. His words provoked an equally thoughtful resonse. My favorite part of the day however, was when Fr. Sloyan said mass and gave the homily. I knew, at the time, that this was a time of grace.
    He came to dinner one night, with all of bustle and confusion. He seemed just at home as he was in the classroom. He made friends with our three-year-old, who was not easily won over by many. Five years later he sent me heart-felt condolences and assurance of prayers when my husband died. It was a blessing and a priveledge to have had him touch our lives.

  4. I lived with Gerry for three years at Curley Hall at Catholic University (2014-2017). I knew his name because of his seminal writings and insistence on theological study for catechesis and catechists. But I didn’t know the man. I consider myself blessed to have shared his life in many rich and animated conversations over those years, in watching him age so gracefully and greatly, and in receiving such kind and devoted attention in every encounter. And I realize that I am just one person among the countless he touched and taught. The Church and all people in many faith traditions are in some measure influenced, perhaps even transformed, by his pastoral acuity and intelligent generosity. His life, as Fr. Raymond Studzinski, OSB, related in yesterday’s memorial liturgy “was a living homily.”

  5. I had the pleasure of meeting Father Sloyan when I began working at my father’s law office.
    One day, after Gerard left the office, my father, Leonard Gordon, explained, “Father Sloyan is a remarkable man. He has done great work in interfaith relations. There is a play performed in a small town in Austria put on every 10 years since the middle ages. The play is about the death of Jesus. The play has been a source of antisemitism in Europe. Father Sloyan worked with another professor and those producing the play to remove anti-Semitic narratives and stereotypes which helped make our people safer.
    According to Temple Professor Leonard Swidler, the Anti Defamation League reached out to the Mayor of Oberammergau about the Passion Play being a danger to the Jewish people. The Mayor asked for help in editing the play. The ADL found Professor Leonard Swidler who then asked Father Sloyan to write an analysis and rectify distortions in the play and negative stereotypes. Swidler said of Father Sloyan’s contribution, “Gerry was making sure my analysis was kosher.”
    When Professor Swidler saw the play in recent decades, the changes in the play were profound. Both Jesus and his disciples wore yarmulkes and tallit (the traditional Jewish skull caps and prayer shawls). When the townspeople or Oberammergau assembled on stage to play the townspeople of Jerusalem, they took the time to learn the Shemah in Hebrew to emphasize the early connection of Catholicism with Judaism. “Shemah yisrael, adonoi, eleohanu, adonoi el chad.” “Here O Israel, the Lord is my g-d the lord is one.”

    Gerard’s compassion for others was also reflected in his investing. When asked to help invest Father Sloyan’s funds. My father explained to me, “You are not allowed to invest in companies that hurt people. No tobacco stocks, no alcohols stocks, no military stocks, no gun manufacturers.” Father Sloyan was early on in the movement for ethical investing. There were a few funds in existence that did ethical investing, but this concept was rare…

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