Peter Gilmour

gilmour

Early in my decade long career in secondary education when I taught both English and Religion, some of my students who I had for both subjects told me I was teaching the same thing in both classes. At first I thought their comments typical of adolescent bantering. After all, I prepared carefully for my classes, and had different material to cover in each subject. Eventually, though, I came to realize the truth of their insight.

In addition to my English major that solidly grounded me in the literary classics through many required survey courses, I also encountered two fascinating theology teachers in my undergraduate years at Loyola University Chicago. John L. McKenzie, the great biblical scholar, author of ground breaking The Two-Edged Sword, was then in the process of writing his book on the New Testament, The Power and the Wisdom, and also the Dictionary of the Bible. Michael Gannon, had recently returned from theological studies at the Institut Catholique de Paris, and introduced his classes to the theology that undergirded the Second Vatican Council. Like John XXIII who said, “I want to throw open the windows of the Church so that we can see out and the people can see in,” these two teachers expanded my horizons greatly and significantly contributed to my subsequent career in Religious Education.

In college I was in the midst of the sea change both in American culture and in the Catholic Church. The year I graduated from college, the aforementioned Michael Gannon was beginning a new summer program leading to a Master’s degree in Religious Education at Loyola University. I worked for him that first summer and met a group of fascinating and caring educators both in the faculty and in the student body of the program that became known as the Institute of Pastoral Studies (IPS). These were people I wanted to more fully associate with, and I returned to IPS in summers both to work as a graduate assistant and to go through the program.

During the academic year I taught both English and Religion at St. George High School in Evanston, IL and, when that school closed, St. Patrick High School in Chicago. St. George High School was progressive, led by an educational visionary, Joseph C. Rost (who went on to write the ground breaking book, Leadership for the 21st Century). St. Patrick High School, by comparison, was stuck in the 1950s. So a group of five teachers, myself included, started an interdisciplinary studies mini school there, i.e., a school within a school. I was the religion teacher in this mini school named “I-Project”. My background both in English and in Religious Education served me well in this innovative program.

After a decade in secondary education, I began teaching at IPS part time and writing a variety of religious education materials for St. Mary’s Press, The William C. Brown Publishing Co, and the Religious Education Office of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Eventually, I became a full time faculty member at IPS and continued until retirement in 2007. Many of the courses I taught centered on narrative and storytelling, autobiography and memoir. Narrative theology became the focal point for many of my scholarly and professional publications. Those high school students at St. George were right!

Looking back on all this, at the sunset of my academic career, I am gratefully aware of the solid education I received in Catholic schools from the sisters and brothers in elementary and secondary school who first taught me how to read, write, communicate, and think. I am grateful for the education I received in college in both English and Religious Education that gave both roots and wings to my professional career. Most of all, I am forever grateful to the spectacular and generous people who first attracted me to the field of Religious Education and allowed me to accompany them on their personal and professional journeys of faith.

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