John Courtney Murray Award 2006
Sandra M. Schneiders
The element of surprise may be missing in tonight’s tribute because the contributions of the colleague whom we honor are unparalleled in the Society. In these days of specialization to the point of fragmentation among the theological disciplines, this scholar can claim the remarkable achievement of having made original contributions to at least three distinct disciplines—biblical studies, spirituality, and theology. She has worked at the intersection of those three areas—and argued persuasively for their interrelationship—since the time of her doctoral studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University where she was awarded the S.T.D. summa cum laude in 1975.
Three decades later she continues to explore the topic of her dissertation—the Johannine resurrection narrative—with exegetical skill, hermeneutical sophistication, theological depth, spiritual wisdom, and pastoral insight. Prior to her doctoral studies in Rome, our colleague earned a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Social Sciences from Marygrove College in Detroit, Michigan, a Master’s degree in philosophy from the University of Detroit, and the licentiate in Sacred Theology from the Institut Catholique in Paris. She also has been the recipient of four honorary doctorates.
This versatile scholar has been elected to positions of leadership in three of the six major professional societies in which she is an active member. She has served as President of the Society for the Study of Christian Spirituality, President of the Western Region of the Society of Biblical Literature, and a member of the Board of Directors of our Society.
Her publications include nine books, four of which have merited national awards. In addition, our award winner has penned over eighty articles in academic and pastoral journals, more that fifty book chapters and major entries in encyclopedias and dictionaries, and more than thirty taped lectures. She has lectured around the globe on New Testament scholarship, the Gospel of John, methodology in the study of spirituality, the theology and spirituality of religious life, feminist hermeneutics, the Christian mystical tradition, patristic spirituality, the theology and spirituality of ministry, and spiritual direction.
Tonight’s awardee is widely known for her original scholarship that has helped to define the field of spirituality as an academic discipline. A pioneer in the field, she was a founding member of the doctoral program in Christian Spirituality at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. She also has served as Executive Coordinator of the Institute of Spirituality and Worship at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley where she has been Professor of New Testament and Christian Spirituality since 1976. Her intellectual acumen always remains grounded in the concrete life experience of the countless women and men for whom she has served as professional mentor, master teacher, or spiritual director. Her classroom extends to the large pastoral following who seek out her lectures, workshops, and summer courses as well as her books and articles. Her teaching skill, which we have witnessed first-hand in two of her CTSA plenary addresses, was honed in her early years in elementary and secondary classrooms.
Like Catherine of Siena, one of the mystics whose insights she has probed, tonight’s award-winner is firmly rooted in the tradition, unflinching in her pursuit of truth and passionately committed to the reform of the Church and the pursuit of justice—especially justice for women-- in both Church and world. Her writings, courses, and lectures on biblical hermeneutics and feminist theology and spirituality have opened the eyes of many to the need to engage feminist critique and hermeneutical strategies as integral to the claim that the Bible can be proclaimed as living Word of God in our day. Many have been tempted to dismiss the Bible as hopelessly patriarchal. This scholar has faced that problem squarely and articulated clearly what is at stake while offering hermeneutical strategies that have yielded an alternative reading of the Bible as revelatory text.
Celebrating her own Golden Jubilee as a vowed woman religious this year, our colleague remains passionately convinced that there is a future for both active and contemplative religious life. Her lived experience as well as her theological conviction about the value of the charism of religious life in the postmodern world are reflected in the title of the first volume of her award-winning trilogy on religious life in a new millennium—Finding the Treasure. Clearly this woman of the Word, this indefatigable and creative scholar, is never without oil in her lamp.
In recognition of her extraordinary gifts and accomplishments, the Catholic Theological Society of America presents its highest honor for distinguished achievement in theology, the John Courtney Murray Award, to Sandra Schneiders of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Monroe, Michigan.
Award text for 2006: Sandra M. Schneiders (pdf file)