The book is a volume simultaneously published as Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Social Work: Social Thought. Authored by a host of technicians, the contents are from an interesting and exciting collection of twelve 'explorations' of why and how to design and implement a dual degree program in social work and divinity.
The writers represent widely dispersed university affiliations as well as professional backgrounds. Included are college professors, social work practitioners, theologians, pastoral care and pastoral studies leaders, a bishop and an ordained deacon. The co-editors both hail from Loyola University of Chicago.
A dual but nonetheless diverse entity, it was the book title that piqued my interest. A life-long interest in Catholic Social Teaching further attracted me. Though not a lengthy volume, the contents proved to be richly varied in approach —a variety of models designed to establish a dual degree program. The twelve papers comprising the book were all presented at the First National Symposium on Social Work and Divinity Dual Programs held at Loyola in 2002. The 12 presentations have a uniform style. Each is prefaced by a summary of the paper, a list of key words encountered in that paper, followed by the text of the presentation, a conclusion and a list of references used. The consistency is most helpful in comparing the study for similarities, variations, etc.
Both co-editors are from Loyola, Chicago. One is a professor of social work and coordinator for their Social Work and Divinity Master’s Program, the other is professor of pastoral studies and director of Field Communications, the Institute of Pastoral Studies.
Reading through the book is literally an arm-chair tour exploration of the topic. Practical suggestions abound. There is a richness and a confidence inspired by a peppering throughout of tables and charts of relevant, related statistics. Extensive references support the dual program initiative. See the models of spirituality to support a theology of social doctrine. This practical aspect of the book’s thesis continues throughout —textbooks listed for social work education, course outlines used in schools of social work, and ready-to-implement curriculum designs for a DDP (Dual Degree Program). Not only academic planning but academic advisement as well enhance this ever so practical “how-to” design.
One of the papers, written by bishop Edwin M. Conway, auxiliary in the Archdiocese of Chicago, entitled, “Collaborative Responses to the Demands of Emerging Human Needs: The Role of Faith and Spirituality in Education for Social Work”, is as specific as the areas covered not only in the Conway presentation but actually throughout. He explores "the integration and disintegration" existing between faith, religion, social work and learning. Each area he covers not only analyzes but finally leads to suggestions for practical development of a DDP.
Joe Holland (philosophy professor at St Thomas University) states that we are seeing emergence of a new planetary stage in the journey of human development. He concludes by noting this as a “profound transformation of human structures and consciousness”. Must read then is Holland’s implications for religion and social work.
What we have, then, in this rather slim volume is a menu of interesting suggestsions from a theoretical perspective for a special, practical program. Engaging are the varieties of possibilities for integrating religion and social work set forth in each of the papers: the contrasts, the sameness, the challenges. As one reads, and ponders, questions inevitably surface in the imagination. Each time, it is not much further in the reading before the answer is uncovered.
Truly, this book is a feast to the Catholic social scientist who continues carrying the banner of our Church’s post-modern history of commitment to social responsibility. The academic dean of a Catholic college would find this a reliable and ready blueprint for initiating a DDP. Educators, social scientists could take courage and find support for furthering the principles of Catholic Social Teaching for daily civic responsibility. Finally, in our fast-paced technological society, where we place a great value on leisure and pleasure, Christian higher education might find a path for continuing to influence the secular culture in our United States.