Ireland Challenged: Active Citizenship in Context
Posted on: 03 December 2008
Vincentian Historian Dr Thomas McKenna Gives Public Lecture: ‘Frederic Ozanam: Lessons from an Extraordinary Life’
What impact does consumerism have on active citizenship and social justice? In honour of Frederic Ozanam, founder of the St. Vincent de Paul, TCD’s student volunteering body, the Trinity Volunteering Opportunities Forum (TVOF), hosted a public lecture this week to investigate how his extraordinary life was relevant to consumer society and efforts to encourage active citizenship and social justice in modern Ireland. The lecture was delivered by renowned author and Vincentian historian, Dr. Thomas McKenna. The lecture titled, ‘Frederic Ozanam: Lessons from an Extraordinary Life’, contrasted Ozanam’s ideas with a discussion of consumer culture and its impact on modern society. Lessons from the life and ideas of Ozanam were presented as strategies to embolden active citizenship and social justice against the tide of consumer culture. The lecture was followed by a panel discussion titled ‘Modern Ireland and Ozanam’s Ideas,’ involving Dermot McCarthy, Secretary General, Department of An Taoiseach, Elaine Bradley, CEO of Volunteering Ireland, John Monaghan, Vice President of the St. Vincent de Paul and Orla Gilligan Quinn, a student volunteer.
The inspiration for the lecture was Frederic Ozanam (1813 – 1853), who founded with fellow students the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul in 1833. With a double doctorate in Laws and Literature, Ozanam was a leading French scholar and critic in the neo-Catholic movement during the first half of the 19th Century. Ozanam’s zeal for challenging the growing individualism and materialism of French society through both social activism and academic prowess is a story of great relevance, with many lessons for contemporary society.
The key note speaker, Dr. Thomas F. McKenna has been a member of the Congregation of the Mission since 1963. He taught Spirituality at the Theology Department of St. John’s University and has published a book on Vincent de Paul He completed a nine-year term as Provincial Superior (Eastern USA) in June 2008.
The panel discussion was chaired by Dr Patrick Geoghegan of TCD’s Department of History and Presenter of ‘Talking History’ on Newstalk.
The lecture was organised by the umbrella body for student volunteering at TCD, Trinity Volunteering Opportunities Forum (TVOF). TVOF aims to facilitate, support and promote the spirit of volunteering and the ethos of civic engagement between students, staff and the wider community. The lecture was following on from a hugely successful symposium on volunteering organised by TVOF in June 2008. The current Chair of TVOF, Niall Walsh, believed the lecture “represented a chance to acknowledge the immense contribution of Frederic Ozanam to Irish life and an opportunity to assess Ireland’s current commitment to active citizenship and social justice”.
Notes to the Editor:
About Dr Thomas McKenna:
The key note speaker, Dr. Thomas F. McKenna has been a member of the Congregation of the Mission since 1963. He grew up in Brooklyn, New York and received an M.A. in Philosophy from St. John’s University in 1973 and a Th.M. from Mary Immaculate Seminary in 1974. In 1982 he earned a Doctorate in Systematic Theology from the Catholic University of America. For ten years he taught Spirituality as a tenured member of the Theology Department of St. John’s University. Dr. McKenna has published a book on Vincent de Paul and articles in various theological journals. He completed a nine-year term as Provincial Superior (Eastern USA) in June 2008.
Dr Patrick Geoghegan, School of History, Trinity College Dublin; Dr Thomas McKenna CM; Elaine Bradley, CEO of Volunteering Ireland; Dermot McCarthy, Secretary General, Department of An Taoiseach; Niall Walsh, TVOF; Orla Gilligan Quinn, Student Volunteer.