Three years ago I had the pleasure of introducing John R. Donahue, S.J., as our Word columnist. He joined the roster of successors to Vincent P. McCorry, S.J., who had written the column for 20 years until 1973: Thomas H. Stahel, S.J., George McCauley, S.J., Joseph A.Tetlow, S.J., John C. Hawley, S.J., Monica Hellwig, Gary Seibert, S.J., Patrick J. Ryan, S.J., John F. Kavanaugh, S.J., and Dennis Hamm, S.J.
We chose Father Donahue because he is an outstanding Scripture scholar who has a keen interest in issues of justice. I had come to know him through his involvement with the Preaching the Just Word project of the Woodstock Theological Center as well as through his book, The Gospel in Parable, which I found an essential resource for preaching. I expected he would be a perfect fit for America, and I was not disappointed.
During his three years writing the Word column, John’s clear and forceful writing explained the Sunday Scripture readings and helped them pierce our hearts like a two-edged sword. By adding “Praying With Scripture” to the column, he moved beyond scriptural exegesis and homiletic preparation to foster prayerful meditation.
John has received rave reviews for his column. Just ask John W. Donohue, our associate editor, who is constantly receiving compliments for a column he does not write!
Last week, John R. Donahue came to the end of the Lectionary’s three-year cycle of readings for Sundays. These columns will eventually be published in three volumes, one for each year. In fact, the first has already been published by Liturgical Press, Hearing the Word of God: Reflections on the Sunday Readings, Year B, just in time for the new liturgical year.
Now it is my pleasure to introduce our new Word columnist, Dianne Bergant, C.S.A., professor of Biblical Studies at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. She was president of the Catholic Biblical Association of America (2000-1) and has been an active member of the Chicago Catholic/Jewish Scholars Dialogue for the past 16 years.
Sister Dianne is now on the editorial board of The Bible Today, after serving as its general editor for five years, and is also on the editorial boards of Biblical Theology Bulletin and New Theology Review. She brings to her task a wealth of expertise in biblical interpretation and biblical theology, and a particular interest in issues of peace, ecology and feminism.
Her publications include Israel’s Wisdom Literature: A Liberation-Critical Reading; The Earth Is the Lord’s: The Bible, Ecology and Worship; The Song of Songs: The Love Poetry of Scripture; People of the Covenant: An Invitation to the Old Testament; aswell as the three-volume Preaching the New Lectionary.
We are delighted to have her as part of the America team because we believe that a prayerful reflection on Scripture must enrich the Christian community as we work together to open the world to God’s reign. Without continuous nourishment by God’s word, we can grow weak and dispirited in facing the challenges of a culture that sees no need for God and promotes self-interest as the ultimate value.
The church encourages all of us to delve into the Scriptures for our spiritual nourishment. I have often thought that the difference between a truly adult Catholic and one who is still a child is whether they read and reflect on the Sunday Scriptures before they go to church.
I therefore urge you to read the Sunday Scriptures and our Word column, and pray over them before going to church on Sunday. This can be done individually or in small groups. My dream is to see thousands of Catholics with the Scriptures in one hand and America in the other.
Once again, I want to thank John for his consistently excellent column, and thanks also to Sister Dianne for taking up this challenging task, for which she is so well suited.