Rev. Walter J. Burghardt, S.J., To Receive Honorary Doctorate, Speak at Seminary Commencement


LATROBE, PENNSYLVANIA – The Rev. Walter J. Burghardt, S.J., will receive an honorary doctor of divinity degree from Saint Vincent Seminary at the Seminary’s 152nd annual commencement, to be held Friday, May 8 at 7:30 p.m. at Saint Vincent Archabbey Basilica.

Father Burghardt served for 45 years as the managing editor/editor-in-chief of the scholarly journal, Theological Studies. In 1974 he was elected a senior fellow of the Woodstock Theological Center, a research institute established by the Maryland and New York Provinces of the Society of Jesus, which aims to apply theology to contemporary social issues. He established and directs the center’s Preaching the Just Word program, which assists priests and other ministers of the gospel in being more effective in preaching social justice. The program has reached over 2,700 preachers in the United States, Australia, Canada and Jamaica since its formation in 1991.

Father Burghardt has received 21 honorary doctoral degrees from colleges and universities across the United States, including Xavier University, Cincinnati, Ohio; the University of Notre Dame, Indiana; St. Bonaventure University, New York; Loyola College, Baltimore, Maryland; Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and John Carroll University, Cleveland, Ohio. He is the author of 17 books, including Preaching the Just Word (1996); Love is a Flame of the Lord: More Homilies on the Just World (1995); Preach the World with Boldness: Homilies for Risen Christians (1994); and others. He has also edited numerous books, and written articles for dozens of publications ranging from New Catholic World, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Our Sunday Visitor, and Catholic Digest to the National Catholic Reporter, Jesuit Educational Quarterly and Serran.

He was ordained at Woodstock College, Woodstock, Maryland, in 1941. He earned three graduate degrees from Woodstock, including the M.A. in 1937, the Ph. L. in 1938 and the S.T.L. in 1942; and the S.T.D. from the Catholic University of America in 1957.

In addition to his work at Woodstock, he has been co-editor of Ancient Christian Writers series since 1958, president and co-editor of The Living Pulpit since 1991, a member of the Board of Directors of the National Center for Pastoral Leadership since 1992, and co-chair of the academic conference, Future of the American Church since 1990. He has been professor emeritus at the Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., since 1978.

He was a theologican in residence at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. from 1978 to 1990; a professor of Patristic Theology at Woodstock College from 1946 to 1974; a research associate at Woodstock Theological Center, Washington, D.C., from 1974 to 1990; and has been a lecturer at Union Theological Seminary, New York City (1971-1974); a visiting lecturer in theology at Princeton Theological Seminary (1972-1973); professor of Patristic Theology at the Catholic University of America (1974-1978); advisory editor for Encyclopedia of Bioethics (1974-1978); co-editor of Woodstock Papers (1957-1967); and a member of numerous academic councils, diocesan commissions and other boards and committees. He has served as president of the Mariological Society of America (1961-1962); president of the North American Academy of Ecumenists (1967-1970); president of the Catholic Theological Society of America (1967-1968); and president of the American Theological Society (1974-1975).

His awards include the Mariological Award for distinguished contributions to Marian theology; the Cardinal Spellman Award for outstanding contributions to sacred theology; the Andrew White Medal from Loyola College; the Catholic Press Association Award for outstanding contributions to Catholic journalism; the President’s Medal from the Catholic University of America; the William Toohey, C.S.C. Award for distinguished Catholic preaching from the University of Notre Dame; the Distinguished Catholic Leadership Award by the Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities (FADICA); the Warren Distinguished Catholic Service Award from the University of Tulsa; and the President’s Distinguished Service Award of the National Organization for Continuing Education of Roman Catholic Clergy. He also received the Twelve Most Effective Preachers (in the English-speaking world) Medallion from Baylor University, Waco, Texas, in 1996.

Father Burghardt has been listed in Contemporary Authors, Two Thousand Notable Americans, Personalities of America, Who’s Who in the East, The Directory of American Scholars, The American Catholic Who’s Who; Dictionary of International Biography; The International Authors and Writers Who’s Who; Who’s Who in America and a number of other publications. He has also been featured on national radio and television programs and has lectured at colleges, universities and seminaries across the United States.

Thirteen students from five dioceses, three Benedictine monasteries and the country of India will take part in the Seminary’s commencement ceremonies.

Saint Vincent Seminary currently serves students from 16 dioceses and seven Benedictine monasteries. The Seminary has graduated and prepared more than 2,300 men for the priesthood since its founding by Boniface Wimmer, O.S.B., in 1846. Ordination students preparing for the priesthood this year are from the dioceses of Altoona-Johnstown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Columbus, Steubenville and Youngstown, Ohio; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Charleston, South Carolina; Charlotte, North Carolina; Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia; St. Thomas, the Virgin Islands; Beijing, China; and the Archdioceses of Atlanta, Georgia and Campinas, Brazil.