Fr. Louis Renner

Fr. Louis Renner
(Jesuit Community) published “A Kindly Providence: An Alaskan Missionary’s Story” (Ignatius Press). The book provides a rich history of the Catholic Church in Alaska and the autobiography of Fr. Renner, a dedicated missionary in Alaska for 40 years.

Excerpt from “A Kindly Providence: An Alaskan Missionary’s Story”

Chapter 1
Childhood on a North Dakota Farm: 1926-1937

Religion was a major, an essential, part of our family life. A picture of the Sacred Heart hung on the wall in the kitchen above the dining table. Before it, with hands piously folded, we said grace before and after meals. There were morning prayers, and there were night prayers. On one of the living room walls hung a picture of Pope Pius XI. That, and going faithfully to Sunday Mass at Saint Lawrence Church in Flasher—sometimes by car, sometimes by wagon or sledge, depending on weather and road conditions—gave us kids a broader sense of religion. During our latter years in North Dakota, the evening Rosary became part of family devotions. One evening, on the radio, we boys were listening to a boxing match between Joe Louis and James Braddock. After a few rounds, Mom told us it was time for the Rosary. Reluctantly, we turned the radio off—and said Hail Marys with a speed never matched thereafter (Joe Louis won the fight and, with that victory, the world championship).

Religion was practiced in the home rather than preached or formally taught. For systematic training in the Catholic Faith, we were sometimes sent to summer catechism classes in Flasher. One summer, while preparing for my First Holy Communion, I was staying with my cousin, Nicholas J. (Nick) Gustin, and his wife, Aunt Emelia, in Flasher. By this time, I had, for a year, attended the Catholic school in Fallon, a small settlement some four miles east of our farm. This school was staffed by Benedictine sisters, who taught us catechism formally and systematically. One morning, convinced that I had little new catechism to learn in Flasher, I got up early and, without saying a word to anyone, walked the three miles home. The family was quite surprised to see me there for breakfast. There was no scolding. They may have assumed that it was homesickness for them that prompted me to cut short my stay in Flasher. I am sure it was not homesickness that motivated my self-authorized departure from Flasher. Homesickness, in spite of my lifelong and deep attachment to all my family, has, throughout my life, been but a rare personal affliction. The one time in my life that I experienced a genuine kind of prolonged, painful “homesickness” was during the first several years after I made the permanent move out of Alaska in the year 2002.

Ignatius Press, ISBN # 9781586172367

John Wright, S.J.

(’45) (’46 M.A., deceased) published “Divine Providence in the Bible: Meeting the Living and True God – Volume I: Old Testament” (Paulist Press). This account of the teaching of the Old Testament on God’s Providence is set in contrast to the overreaction of St. Augustine to the errors of the Pelagians.

Excerpt from “Divine Providence in the Bible: Meeting the Living God – Volume I: Old Testament”


Sources and Final form: J, E, P, D
Modern scholars continue to work at identifying the sources of the Pentateuch. For our purposes, however, it is not necessary to sustain any particular position on this. Most commonly they note the contributions of four principal sources: the oldest, the Yahwist or J document, composed about the tenth century B.C, probably in the reign of Solomon; the Elohist or E document, about a century later, written in the Northern Kingdom; the Deuteronomist or D document, in the seventh century B.C., written in the Southern Kingdom and preserving the Mosaic traditions of the Northern Kingdom; and the Priestly or P document, completed in the sixth century B.C. during the Babylonian exile, or shortly thereafter. These documents were combined in various ways in the course of time, and the final redaction giving us the Pentateuch in its present form comes, as we have noted, from around 400 B.C., more than a century after the return from Babylon. …

The anonymous author of the J document is one of the most creative theological minds of the Hebrew Scriptures. His major contributions to the Torah are two: 1) establishing the basic pattern of recounting Israel’s origins and 2) showing the dialogical manner in which God leads history to its fulfillment. …The Yahwist’s theology of Providence, a theology which will remain basic not only to the Pentateuch, but to the whole of the Old and New Testaments, may be characterized as dialogical, i.e. a theology of the divine guidance of history through an ongoing dialogue between God and his intelligent, free creatures. …

The structure of this dialogue embraces basically three moments: 1) the divine initiative, seen in creating, electing, commanding, promising, threatening, granting a covenant, etc.; 2) the free human response to God’s initiative, either in obedience, gratitude and adoration, or in disobedience, rejection and idolatry; and 3) God’s response to the human response, blessing or punishing, a response that contains within itself all the power and purpose of the original divine initiative, and which hence opens up new initiatives of divine mercy even as it makes human refusal itself contribute somehow to the advancement of God’s purpose. We should add in this context that in the OT the Yahwist alone, by the story of the Fall in Genesis 3, attempts to tell how human history became a history of sin; and it is he who shows God’s radical response of mercy to this sinfulness by situating the call of Abraham in Genesis 12 against the dark background of primeval wickedness, especially the universal pride of the story of Babel.

The Elohist
The E document does not have the same breadth as J. It begins with patriarchal history rather than creation and primeval history. Its characteristic theological emphasis is on divine transcendence, as God frequently communicates with human beings not directly but through dreams and angels. It also makes explicit what is often only implied in J, especially (for our purposes) the guiding and invincible power of God at work within human history, in spite of evil choices and hostile resistance.

Paulist Press, ISBN # 0809146177

John Heffernan

(’63) recently published “Not One Drop of Blood: The Human Side of Prison Versus Probation” (Gray Dog Press). The memoir chronicles Heffernan’s career supervising probationers, inmates and work release. “Prison life shocks citizens who learn fear, anger, guilt, loneliness, a loss of humanity; and the humiliation of strip searches and lost dignity,” Heffernan writes. “I say we go too far.”

Excerpt from “Not One Drop of Blood: The Human Side of Prison Versus Probation”

Not one Drop of Blood:
The Human Side of Prison versus Probation

The most human ability is to make choices. A professor at Gonzaga once said, “Man always selects the perceived good.” If that is true, then perception is the main driver for behavior. But how could I change a client’s* perceptions?

Criminals act impulsively in the moment; mature logic is not an influence, and my caseload was mostly young men. Immaturity was to be expected.

“What is maturity?” I wondered, and how would I know it when I saw it? Maturity is a person’s ability to function at his age level. There are types of maturity-social, physical, and emotional-so judging it gets quite complicated.

Old folks broke laws, but committed quiet crimes. The majority of my cases were young adults, middle-aged drunks, or burnt-out old-timers seeking to vanish and retire. Crime was often the result of bad influences.

Their usual refrain was simply, “Tell me what I have to do.”

History is history. We cannot alter it, but we can learn from life’s harsh lessons. Yet we have a capacity to block experiences if they are too painful, and the potential lesson can vanish.

In interviews, I tried to raise awareness. I stressed options and the importance of making good choices. I tried to sort out each client’s way of thinking. I did not impose my views; we each must make our own choices, and people who are dependent on others lose that ability.

I used a client’s vocabulary to increase my effectiveness. Vocabulary conveys one’s level of perception and indicates our values and ability to change.

Clients with average intelligence saw my plan and flooded me with small, useless facts that didn’t really explain anything about them or what they were really doing. I had to step back and select topics I felt were important for public safety: income, friends, plans, beliefs, or their methods of dealing with trouble.

I was annoying to clients, but I had no set program. When I supervised someone, he saw that punishment was alive and well in Washington. I worked to know where clients stood on primary topics.

If clients struggled with behavior, I forced them to focus by limiting their goals. This created small successes, and success bred success. Small victories assured future effort, as they created a good attitude that influenced decisions.

*Editor’s Note: “clients” are those on parole and being supervised by a probation officer.

Gray Dog Press, ISBN # 978-1-936178-01-8

Robert Leo Roberg

(’66) recently published “Pacifism in the Hebrew Bible” and “Pacifism in the Old Testament and in the New Testament” (Peacemakers’ Press). Roberg has always been troubled by the wars in the Old Testament. He wrote this book as an answer to the question: “Is Yahweh a war God?”

Excerpt from “Pacifism in the Hebrew Bible”

Pacifism in the Hebrew Bible

My Amish Friend Obi (he won’t let me print his last name) and I were discussing the Genocidal Wars in the Hebrew Scriptures. How could the God of the Old Testament, who seemed be continually at war, be the same God that Jesus told us was a Peacemaker who sends rain and sun on the righteous and the unrighteous alike, who is full of forgiveness and mercy and daily sheds grace on everyone.

Obi writes:
“We wanted to see if YHVH was really the Father of Yahshuah (Jesus), who commanded us to love our enemies.  If YHVH delighted in bloodshed, we didn’t see how he could be ‘One’ with Yahshuah, the ultimate nonviolent resister.  Since the whole issue of war has been debated by Christians for 1700 years, you’d think someone would have sat down and analyzed all the OT wars to see if YHVH was really behind them.  Many people take as a given that he was behind them all.  But what the research seems to be saying is he was ultimately behind very few of them.

You have heard many people reject YHVH on the grounds that he was a war-monger.  We hope the raw data at will help to exonerate him of that charge. The data shows if you analyze what really happened, YHVH hates human violence and he loves peacemakers, and always has.

Roberg’s books are available online at

Vikki (Lamb) Moormann

(’68) recently published her second murder mystery: “Murder Is a Pain in the Neck.” This novel and her first mystery, “Murder is Only Skin Deep,” were co-written with two other retired English teachers. Here, a popular young high school teacher collapses and a murder investigation follows.

Excerpt from “Murder is Only Skin Deep”

Chapter One
Calamity in the Classroom

Jean Smiley could not believe her ears! Just as she was about to turn the key in her classroom door, a loud, shrill scream pierced the air and sent chills down her spine. The scream kept coming, and Jean realized it was coming from Toni Fletcher’s classroom right next door! With her heart pounding, she paused for a moment while trying to see into the room through the small window slot in Toni’s door. There she caught a glimpse of Toni, still screaming and pointing her finger toward the back corner of the room opposite of where she was standing.

Jean hesitated for a second because she didn’t want to confront someone who might have a weapon, but she could simply think of no other option; she took a deep breath, said a brief prayer, and opened the door.

As she entered the room, she saw Toni, who seemed on the verge of imminent collapse. Cautiously she made her way toward her friend and heard no one ordering her to stop. Mentally girding her loins, Jean looked to the back corner of the room where the video cabinet was. There was no one in sight.

Then carefully Jean extended her gaze downward, and now she couldn’t believe her eyes. There on the floor was Clark Stevens, laying with his arms akimbo and legs folded up beneath him. With scarcely a break in stride, Jean made her way to the back of the room telling Toni, “Stay here. I’m going to see if Clark is okay and if there is anything I can do for him.”

She rushed quickly toward his body. Clark’s normally handsome face was a pasty shade of white and was covered with sweat. “Oh, my Lord,” Jean thought. “He’s had a heart attack!” Kneeling beside Clark’s inert body, she tried to find a pulse in his neck. It was there, but very irregular.

Realizing that Toni would be no help, Jean rushed to the phone to call the office. Quickly she told the secretary what had happened and asked to speak to the vice-principal, Violet Bishop.

Violet answered the phone, and Jean hurriedly told her, “Violet, this is Jean. I’m in Toni Fletcher’s room, A-5. Clark Stevens has collapsed in the back of the room. His face is white and sweaty. There’s a very weak but rapid pulse. He may have had a heart attack. What should I do?”

Violet responded quickly, “Don’t move him. Have Toni stand in the hall and steer her fifth period students into the library. I’m going to put the school into lockdown as soon as class starts. We’ll call the ambulance and bring them down to Toni’s room.”, ISBN # 1449515584

Michael Cook, S.J.

(Faculty) published “Trinitarian Christology: The Power That Sets Us Free” (Paulist Press). Cook discusses a Trinitarian and ecumenical approach to the current emphasis on and renewal of Spirit Christology.

Excerpt from “Trinitarian Christology: The Power That Sets Us Free”

Chapter One
Context: An Emergent Universe

1. The Horizons of Evolutionary Science

The most important social location for contemporary theologians is the ‘world’ of science. Cultural concerns about appropriate theological language, religious concerns about meaningful dialogue with other traditions, social concerns about the emancipation of the poor and the marginalized1 converge in a universal care and concern for being, not in an abstract sense of being in itself but in each and every particular being. …

Science within certain defined limits can get along perfectly well without theology, but theology needs the experience of the world that only science can give. … Here, the most important question for the theologian is not so much whether God acts or interacts with creation but “what is the character of the creation in which God acts and with which God interacts?”2….

First, how far does the logic of scientific rationality take us into “the mind of God” (Paul Davies)? Second, in what sense can the unfolding of cosmic evolution be understood as “God’s story” (Diarmuid O’Murchu)? Third, does God have a vision of the future that is differently revealed in the openness of creation to “novelty” (John F. Haught)? Finally, how does Jesus embody the divine intention for the fullness of “the human being” (Walter Wink)? …

As Neil Ormerod reminds us, theology must always remind the sciences of the problem of evil and the limits of science.4 Nonetheless, we must retain the utopian hope of future convergence. As C.G. Jung puts it: “Sooner or later, nuclear physics and the psychology of the unconscious will draw closer together, …

… Paul Davies has “come to the point of view that mind—i.e., conscious awareness of the world—is not a meaningless and incidental quirk of nature, but an absolutely fundamental facet of reality.”7 In a key chapter, he speaks of “the mathematical secret” and asks why mathematics is at the very heart of science. If our human intellectual powers are determined by biological evolution, as some would say, why is it that they are tuned to the extravagant quest of understanding the entire universe (referring to John Barrow)? The human brain has a dual capacity for knowing the world. One is the kind of direct perception that we share with the animal world and that serves the biological need for survival. The other is the power of abstract reasoning, as the “unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics” (Eugene Wigner), that serves no apparent biological need. Indeed, we can know something without knowing everything because, while the world is an interconnected whole, we must attend to individual parts in the various scientific specializations for progress to be made at all. Science “works” and so inseparably does mathematics.8 …

“The central theme that I have explored in this book is that, through science, we human beings are able to grasp at least some of nature’s secrets. We have cracked part of the cosmic code… Through conscious beings the universe has generated self-awareness. This can be no trivial detail, no minor byproduct of mindless, purposeless forces. We are truly meant to be here.”9 If the universe is aware of itself, what is our role as humans if not to bring an appreciation to that awareness? …Our role, in my view, is not to endorse an anthropocentric view as if humans were the center and purpose of the universe, but to contemplate beauty as the most “reliable guide to truth.”11 From a faith perspective, after all, our story is really God’s story., ISBN # 0809146576

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