Dorothy Day to be the focus of Chicago symposium

Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement and its newspaper, The Catholic Worker, is depicted in a stained-glass window at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in the Staten Island borough of New York. (CNS/Gregory A. Shemitz)

Dorothy Day's granddaughter and the publisher of her letters and diaries are among the speakers scheduled for a symposium about the Catholic Worker co-founder. "Revolution of the Heart: A Two-Day Celebration of Dorothy Day" will be held Feb. 16-17 at Loyola University Chicago's Lakeshore campus. It is free and open to the public.

Robert Ellsberg, publisher at Orbis Books, will give a plenary address Thursday evening, while Kate Hennessy, author of the newly released Dorothy Day: The World Will Be Saved by Beauty: An Intimate Portrait of My Grandmother, (Scribner, January 2017) will speak Friday morning.

Other panels include one on "Charting a Prophetic Vision: Dorothy Day and the 21st Century" and "The Catholic Worker since Dorothy: Doing the Work in the Midwest." An update on Day's canonization process will give given over a soup lunch. The event will close with the one-woman play "Haunted by God" about Day's life.

The symposium grew out of a unique course at Loyola, a seminar in American Catholic history and culture, endowed by Susan Ramonat, a Philadelphia-area businesswoman. The yearlong course offers an intense, engaged learning experience on a different topic each year and requires students to do original, archival research related to the topic. Last year, the first year of the course, was on Catholicism and immigration.

Michelle Nickerson, associate professor, proposed the topic of Day for this year's course because of her own interest and research on Catholic radicalism. "I wanted to know Dorothy Day, her work and her influence better, and I thought it would be a great journey to bring my students on," she says.

In addition to reading works by and about Day, the 10 students in the course have made field trips, including an overnight to an off-the-grid Catholic Worker farm in Missouri, and heard guest speakers, as well as worked on their own research.

Their projects include papers about Day's influence on Catholic Worker artists, Daniel and Phillip Berrigan, Sr. Helen Prejean, the Chicano movement and anti-Vietnam War radicalism on Chicago Catholic university campuses, among others. Each student will present his or her research at the end of the semester.

The symposium is also sponsored by Loyola's Joan & Bill Hank Center for the Catholic Intellectual Heritage, the Institute of Pastoral Studies, the Joseph A. Gagliano Chair in American Urban History and the John Courtney Murray, SJ Chair in Public Service.

For more information, contact the Hank Center at 773-508-3820.

Editor's note: NCR will be blogging and tweeting from the conference on Thursday, Feb. 16 and Friday, Feb. 17.

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