BY GRAHAM O’DWYER
On Oct. 20, Sacred Heart University announced the establishment of the John Moriarty Institute for Ecology and Spirituality, located at one of their international campuses in Dingle, Ireland.
According to its website, the Institute’s mission is to “understand and consider the richness and wonder of the natural environment, and to promote a deeper reflection on human spirituality as an important and necessary element for a flourishing life of meaning and purpose.”
Last June, Sacred Heart hosted an event in Dingle titled “Sea, Land, and Spirit: Coastal Environment in the West of Ireland.” The event featured a number of different panels relating to the overarching topic of the earth and spirituality. One of the panels focused on the life and success of Irish philosopher John Moriarty.
Moriarty was a writer, poet, a philosopher and a native of County Kerry, Ireland. Upon his death, he left behind beautiful literary portraits of his surroundings, chronicling the deep connection humans have with the environment and its creation.
“The institute has developed very organically,” said Robin Cautin, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, who attended the conference. “The attendees of the Moriarty panel were so moved by what they experienced in the room, it was palpable. Many of us felt that it shouldn’t end with this conference, and we discussed how to harness what happened and do more.”
John B. Roney, professor and co-chair of the SHU in Dingle Council, met with Michael Higgins, professor of Catholic Thought, and others, to discuss the formation of the program and how it could be implemented into the Dingle curriculum as soon as possible.
“It was a real team effort and, throughout the summer, we began to develop a unique plan,” said Roney.
The group realized that Moriarty still had family living in Ireland, and with the help of Brother Sean Ahearn, a Moriarty disciple, they were able to get in contact with his relatives. The family blessed the idea of the institute.
“[The blessing] confirmed that Sacred Heart could be the steward of his legacy,” said Roney.
Higgins will be the director of The John Moriarty Institute for Ecology and Spirituality.
“Growing the different programs in Dingle will give more studetns the oppertunity to study abroad,” said graduate student Kristen Maurer, who went to Dingle in the Winter of 2017. “I hope they take advantage of the new facility because I wish I could be back there again learning something new.”
The institute will be housed in Sacred Heart’s new campus building in Dingle, a former Christian Brothers school.
“Although the school has been abandoned for about 15 years, it has good bones,” said Roney. “Completion of the purchase of the property should be done before the end of 2017.”
The new building will enable students and researchers to use library and archival materials, as well as shared space for offices and classrooms.
Overall, this endeavor fits with Sacred Heart’s overall goal of growth and development for the international campuses, as well as a more cultured and intellectual learning plan for the future.
“Sacred Heart is committed to developing the whole personintellectually, socially, emotionally, ethically, and spiritually—and this speaks directly to the mission of the Institute,” said Cautin.