Acclaimed Pope St. John Paul II biographer George Weigel spoke on Monday, April 12 at the University of Dallas in the Art Auditorium. His lecture, “Seeing the World and the Church through the Eyes of JPII,” focused on the evangelization of the Catholic Church.
Weigel, whose two daughters are alumni of UD, is known for his praise of the University. In 2014, Weigel called UD the best undergraduate education in the nation. During his lecture, Weigel reaffirmed his position.
In Weigel’s commencement speech at the 2014 graduation ceremony, he charged the graduating class to go out and lead the charge of a cultural renewal. In an interview exchange with The University News, Weigel said he reiterates such a charge to the 2021 class.
“Although the challenge has become even greater. It’s become ever clearer that the “rescue” of the American democratic project requires a truth-based moral and cultural renewal in our country, and UD graduates are uniquely equipped to participate in — even lead — that renewal,” Weigel wrote.
“I’d also suggest in 2021 that at least some of UD’s Class of 2021 get into political life. Turning the culture around is essential, but so is the reform of politics, and that takes good people, not people who get into politics as a kind of performance art,” Weigel added.
Weigel thinks that UD is in a unique position to produce such leadership.
“I think UD does an excellent job of teaching its students to learn the truth and abide in the truth — and, indeed, to be happy in the truth.That’s as good a way to fight woke totalitarianism as anything I know,” Weigel wrote.
Weigel’s talk primarily focused on St. JP II’s call to new evangelism of the Catholic faith. The University News asked Weigel what this type of calling for Catholics, especially young Catholics such as UD students, looks like from a practical perspective.
“The best thing UD students can do during their college years is to deepen their friendship with Christ through the sacraments and deepen their understanding of the Catholic faith through their studies — and that doesn’t just mean theology, although it certainly includes that,” Weigel wrote.
The University News asked Weigel how college students can answer the call to missionary discipleship.
“Dante teaches us a great deal about the Christian vision of life! Working with the campus FOCUS missionaries is a good way to get some practical experience in retail evangelization,” said Weigel.
Emily Ashman, a junior business major with a pastoral ministry concentration, attended the lecture and said his talk perfectly summarized her UD education.
“I feel like this is the culmination of the UD education in this talk. And I was thinking about my sister who’s a junior in high school and how she’s between UD and Franciscan [University of Steubenville] and I was just like, she has to go to UD. After hearing this talk, I need to sit down with her and be like, ‘A UD education is what you need,’” Ashman said.
During his lecture, Weigel posited the need for a new evangelization of the Catholic church, which complemented Ashman’s pastoral ministry studies.
“As a pastoral ministry major, we talk about the New Evangelization a lot as something that has been forgotten in the church for so many years. The fact[of] the church’s role in evangelization, and that by virtue of our baptism we are called to be missionary disciples to the entire world,” Ashman said.
“We are not just called to go to Mass and participate in the sacraments ourselves, we are called to be Catholic in every aspect of our life and if we don’t do that we are not fulfilling our mission as Christians.”
Similarly, freshman Molly Zepeda was impressed how Weigel tied the liberal education to St. JP II’s call to a new evangelization.
“I was struck by the hope that Mr. Weigel gave liberal arts students to imitate St. JP. II’s call to missionary discipleship. I can see how institutions like UD are integral in a renewal in the Church,” Zepeda said.
Emily Grant contributed to this article.