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Graduate Student's Research Explores Humility in Summa Theologiae

headshot of Emma NewgardenGraduate student Emma Newgarden ’22 recently published her research on humility within Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologiae – known worldwide as one of the most influential works of theology – in the esteemed scholarly journal, New Blackfriars.

Her article, "The Virtue of Humility: Interpreting the Summa Theologiae's Minimalist Approach," challenges one interpretation of Aquinas' work, offering that the Summa Theologica does not undermine the importance of humility in the Christian moral life. 

Newgarden, a second-year graduate student pursuing an M.A. in Theology with a concentration in moral theology, argues the Summa’s overall scope and Aquinas’ system of organizing virtues does not imply a lesser significance of the virtue compared to others by examining the nuances of humility within the theological framework. 

“It can seem like a very specific and technical subject, but I think it’s relevant for a fruitful, ecumenical approach to the Christian moral life. Even though the Summa’s organizational system is drawn from a mostly non-Christian philosophical background, we don’t have to move humility from the place Aquinas gives it within that to be able to grasp its meaning and importance,” explained Newgarden. 

The article’s foundation was rooted in a paper she wrote for her Fundamental Moral Theology II class last spring. Her professor, Justin Anderson, Ph.D., encouraged her to submit her work for publication, providing support and guidance to transition her classroom paper to a now-published article.

“Professor Anderson advised me at every stage from recommending New Blackfriars to pointing to areas of my original paper that could be delved deeper into, and offering additional sources I could use to improve my argument,” reflected Newgarden. “Even at the very last stage, he walked me through the different options for publication and copyright. Everything that was new or confusing to me, he explained and prepared me for.”

Founded in 1920 as a focus of Catholic Christian reflection on current events, New Blackfriars publishes articles and book reviews of general interest, with an emphasis on theology, philosophy and cultural studies.

“Emma’s recent publication serves as an eloquent witness to both her theological acumen and disciplined work. These qualities, in fact, are on daily display for all of those who have the pleasure of pursuing their studies alongside Emma during her time at the Seminary School of Theology, and I have no doubts of the great things she will do for Christ and his church in the future,” commented Anderson.

As a Seton Hall undergraduate, Newgarden double majored in Classical Studies and Religion with an English minor – a combination that deepened her interest in virtue and human flourishing, leading her to continue her academic journey as a graduate student at the University. 

“I chose to pursue an M.A. in moral theology because I wanted to learn more about who Christ is and how that understanding changes what it means to live well as a human person,” said Newgarden. “I wanted to be able to articulate and share these truths that are so often missing in our secular culture, and I knew that this time spent pursuing a deeper knowledge of my faith would help me to conform my own mind and heart to Jesus.”

The personal and professional experience of having her work published equally affirmed her passion for writing and editing as she prepares to graduate. “This experience confirmed my desire to one day work in media and publications, ideally at a Catholic journal or institution. It taught me to be more precise and thorough as a reader, writer, researcher and editor. I know these skills will serve me well, wherever my career may lead me,” added Newgarden.

Visit the article listing to read Newgarden’s published piece, "The Virtue of Humility: Interpreting the Summa Theologiae's Minimalist Approach."

For more information about the M.A. in Theology or other graduate programs within Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Technology, please contact [email protected]

Categories: Faith and Service, Research