By Professor Shusuke Kobayashi
In this fall semester, Notre Dame Seishin University (NDSU) in Okayama, Japan will offer a new course called Christian Study VII which explores the theme of “Living the Spirit of St. Julie Billiart in a Global Society.” This special course consists of lectures by five Sisters of Notre de Namur from the U.S. and will be conducted as online hybrid classes. The President of the University, Sr. Aoi Tsuda, SNDdeN and I, Professor Shusuke Kobayashi, are coordinating the course.
Purpose of Course
The purpose of the course is twofold. It is designed to give students an opportunity to become familiar with the spirit of St. Julie, and universal values beyond time and place, that is, the pleasures of living in the grace of God and serving people in need. The course will also help students consider problems in our global society and then reflect on how they could contribute individually to the solution of such problems.
Educational Philosophy for Students
How did we come to conceptualize this course? We want our students to broaden their perspectives and widen their hearts by fully understanding our educational philosophy and its background. Our school is one in a long line of educational missions of St. Julie. Her Charism, which was God’s gift and blessing, has been passed on and is living today in educational practices all over the world.
Notre Dame Seishin University in Okayama, Japan
Students will come to realize that our school is and has been a part of a world-wide network to which they themselves are linked. This course is only one example, we may say, in which the Congregation has been engaged through various kinds of social justice work, in accordance with Catholic Social Teachings. We intend and hope that this course will teach our students the value of thinking and acting globally and in working for others.
COVID Invades Plans for Face-to-Face
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have adopted online lessons. For this course, which involves participants on two continents, we decided to make the most of this style, connecting our school in Okayama with lecturers in the U.S. and our students at home, via the internet. Lectures have been
pre-recorded and can be viewed on an on-demand basis, and students can send questions to the lecturers. We intended to have real-time classes as well as face-to-face discussion sessions in actual classrooms where students can exchange with each other their ideas inspired by the lectures. Now, with the escalation of the pandemic everywhere, we are unable to have these classes. We are proceeding with every lecture and class online.
“Living the Spirit of St. Julie Billiart in a Global Society.”
Themes of SNDdeN Lecturers
Six Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur have collaborated so frequently with us at NDSU in preparing this course. Now, prior to the series of lectures, Sr. Aoi Tsuda offers us an introductory lecture. Then the lectures follow and explore three major themes sequentially. The initial theme is “The Spirit of St. Julie and the Missions of Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.” Sr. Lorraine Connell (Massachusetts, SNDdeN General Treasurer) explains the Congregation’s Hallmarks and the Jubilee Fund. This will give the students general ideas about the Congregation’s missionary activities. Then, from theological and
historical viewpoints, Sr. Judith Merkle (New York) discusses the implication and manifestation of St. Julie’s Charism in the 21st century.
The second theme is “Global Society and Christianity.” Sr. Marie Ann Prefontaine (Massachusetts) introduces the topic of Catholic Social Teachings, focusing on its eleven foundational principles in the time of globalization. Then, Sr. Jean Stoner (California) brings in the topic of current global realties and examines seven “ethical coordinates” which can guide us when we try to move forward together as global citizens into the future.
The third theme, “The Global Mission of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur” is exemplified by Sr. Amarachi Grace Ezeonu (New York) in her ministry as the Congregation’s Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Representative at the United Nations. She explains several global issues on which the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur focus at the UN, such as migration, anti-trafficking and extractive industries.
It is our great pleasure and honor to have as lecturers the Sisters serving in the United States who are specialists in their fields, in universities, as super educators and as experienced NGO Representatives at the UN. Our connections with them is a valued asset for which we are deeply proud as a Catholic University in Japan. We hope that this new endeavor will be followed by further international and intercultural collaboration at our University, and that it will also strengthen our ties with the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur all over the world.