Fairfield's Anne Drummey O'Callaghan Lecture to feature scholar and author Michele Dillon probing the question: "Can Catholic women revitalize the Church?"



Image: Michele DillonFairfield University's 11th Annual Anne Drummey O'Callaghan Lecture will suggest how Catholic women can harness their spiritual energies to help restore the credibility of the Church in this post-sex abuse crisis era. Michele Dillon, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Sociology at the University of New Hampshire, will deliver the free, public lecture on Wednesday, October 5 at 7:30 p.m. Taking place in the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts, the event is co-sponsored by the O'Callaghan Family, Fairfield University's Department of Religious Studies and the Center for Catholic Studies.

"In my talk, I plan to explore what it is about Catholic women and about Catholicism that propels so many women to remain loyal to the church notwithstanding the conflict they frequently encounter between their own views and official Church teaching on issues of gender and sexuality," said Dr. Dillon. "I will suggest that the nature and contours of women's relationship with the Church uniquely situates them as a force for its revitalization in this time of rapid cultural change in the Church and in American society."

Dr. Dillon, who is president-elect of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, will probe an array of questions concerning Catholic women revitalizing the Church, drawing on, among other sources, newly collected 2011 survey data from American Catholic women and men.

The Anne Drummey O'Callaghan Lecture on Women in the Church honors the memory of O'Callaghan, formerly of Norwalk, who dedicated herself to religious education, especially as it relates to liturgy. In addition to being active in the Diocese of Bridgeport, she served as youth minister and director of religious education at both St. Jerome and St. Joseph parishes. The lecture series is designed to acknowledge the advanced role of women in the Church and provide a forum to converse on other important religious issues.

Dr. Dillon said it was "a wonderful honor" to be invited to Fairfield to give the talk. "It is not often that women's contributions to the church and society are celebrated, and so this distinguished event is extra-special for me both as a Catholic woman and as a researcher focused on Catholicism and women's commitment to the Church," she said.

A graduate of the University of California-Berkeley, her research focuses on religion and culture, with a particular interest in authority, autonomy, and tradition in Catholicism. She is currently is collaborating with William D'Antonio, Mary Gautier, and Greg Smith on a national survey of American Catholics.

Her publications include "Catholic Identity: Balancing Reason, Faith, and Power" (Cambridge University Press, 1999); "In the Course of a Lifetime: Tracing Religious Belief, Practice, and Change" (with Paul Wink; University of California Press, 2007); "Debating Divorce: Moral Conflict in Ireland" (University Press of Kentucky, 1993); "Handbook of the Sociology of Religion" (editor; Cambridge University Press, 2003); "Introduction to Sociological Theory" (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010), and over forty research articles and book chapters. Professor Dillon is past-chair of the American Sociological Association section for the sociology of religion, and past-president of the Association for the Sociology of Religion.

For more information on the lecture, visit http://www.fairfield.edu/cs/cs_ocallaghan.html.

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Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726, mmccaffrey@fairfield.edu

Posted on September 12, 2011

Vol. 44, No. 37