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Seton Hall Seminarian Accepted to Groundbreaking Program for Future Religious Leaders  

Photo of Andrew DeSilvaDeacon Andrew J. DeSilva, a seminarian who completed his fourth year theology at Immaculate Conception Seminary at Seton Hall University and a resident of Westfield, NJ, is one of 13 seminary and divinity school students and early-career clergy chosen for the 2018 Seminary Program of the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics (FASPE). As a part of FASPE, DeSilva will participate in a two-week program in Germany and Poland this summer, which uses the conduct of clergy and religious leaders in Nazi-occupied Europe as a way to reflect on contemporary professional ethics.

Now in its ninth year of operation, FASPE provides a unique historical lens to engage graduate students in professional schools as well as early-stage practitioners in five fields (business, journalism, law, medicine and seminary) in an intensive course of study focused on contemporary ethical issues in their professions.

The FASPE Seminary program offers an approach to ethics and professionalism that differs from the usual classroom experience by providing a holistic curriculum that looks beyond the specifics of formal rules to focus on the ethical dilemmas faced by individual clergy and other religious leaders in the contemporary setting. Daily seminars are led by specialized faculty who engage fellows in discussions and critical thinking about both the historical and the contemporary. The Seminary program is strengthened by the diverse perspectives of its participants and the power of place and context.

"By educating students about the causes of the Holocaust and the power of their chosen professions, FASPE seeks to instill a sense of professional responsibility for the ethical and moral choices that the Fellows will make in their careers and in their professional relationships," said David Goldman, FASPE's founder and chairman.

FASPE studies the perpetrators to emphasize the essential role of professionals and to ask how and why professionals abandon their ethical guideposts. The FASPE Seminary program examines the roles played by the clergy in the Nazi state, underscoring the reality that the moral codes governing clergy of all religions can break down or be distorted with devastating consequences. With this historical background, the Seminary fellows are better positioned (and more willing) to confront contemporary issues.

"Today's world is particularly complicated morally. Moral positions, once taken for granted, are now often uncertain," said De Silva. "The experience at FASPE is a serious opportunity to reflect on and discuss past ethical dilemmas with a view towards gaining insight into contemporary ethical problems. I feel strongly that this will permit me to be both a more informed and more effective religious leader."

De Silva, who grew up in Ojai, CA, received a bachelor's degree in liberal arts from Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, CA and worked in the wine industry before joining a monastic religious community. During his nine years as a Religious Brother with the Dominican Community of St. John, De Silva lived in Illinois, New Jersey and France. He has ministered to youth and college students, as well as to cadets and soldiers in the United States Army, with which he is currently a candidate for the chaplaincy. He was a year in the parish of St. Helen's in Westfield leading up to his ordination as a deacon in May 2018 at the Cathedral Basilica by Cardinal Tobin. He will be ordained a Catholic priest in May 2019 for the Archdiocese of Newark. 

In 2018, the FASPE Seminary program will be led by Father Steven Bell, CSP, who serves with the Paulist mission, and Rabbi James Ponet, the Howard M. Holtzmann Jewish Chaplain Emeritus at Yale University.

De Silva joins a diverse group of 64 FASPE fellows across all five programs who were chosen through a competitive process that drew applicants from across the U.S. and the world. FASPE covers all program costs, including travel, food and lodging.

The experience of the Seminary fellows is enhanced by traveling alongside the Medical fellows, who together—in formal and informal settings—consider how ethical constructs and norms in their respective professions align and differ. In 2018, the two groups will travel from June 16 through June 29, beginning their trip in Berlin and then traveling on to Krakow and Oświęcim (the town in which Auschwitz is located), Poland. In Berlin, the program includes museum visits, meeting with a Holocaust survivor and educational workshops at the House of the Wannsee Conference, the site where state and Nazi Party agencies convened in 1942 to coordinate plans for the Nazis' "Final Solution." In Krakow, fellows will continue their seminars at Jagiellonian University, one of Europe's oldest and most prestigious universities, and at Auschwitz, they will be guided by the distinguished educational staff of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum.

After the program, each fellow will submit an essay focused on a contemporary ethical issue of his or her choice. Select essays are published in the annual FASPE Journal, which showcases work in all five disciplines.

FASPE maintains long-term relationships with its fellows in order to sustain commitment to ethical behavior and to provide a forum for continued dialogue. To date, FASPE has nearly 450 alumni across its five programs.

"FASPE fosters an active network of alumni and provides a variety of opportunities for fellows to exchange ideas and to meet to continue the dialogue started during our trips as they move forward in their careers," said Thorin Tritter, FASPE's executive director. "The centerpiece of these efforts is our annual Alumni Reunion & Symposium where fellows from all years discuss current issues in their respective fields and participate in various interdisciplinary networking activities."

Categories: Faith and Service

For more information, please contact:

  • Laurie Pine
  • (973) 378-2638