Fr. Bryan Hehir, a Roman Catholic priest, theologian, and teacher of ethics, added perspective and context to Austin Prep’s shared theme for the 2020-21 academic year as this year’s St. Augustine Lecturer. The lecture was livestreamed Monday, April 26th across campus, with the Junior Class attending in person in Richard J. Meelia Hall. The event featured a welcome from School-Wide Student Body President TJ Dysart '21 and Head of School James Hickey, Ph.D., with members of the Junior Class participating in a question and answer segment with Fr. Hehir at the conclusion of his lecture. You can view photos from the lecture here.
The St. Augustine Lecture Series is a hallmark of the Austin Prep experience, designed to enrich the intellectual life of the school community by exposing students to accomplished individuals who share their experiences and lessons learned in life.
Fr. Hehir first provided historical roots and background to this year’s School theme, the words of Jesus from St. John’s Gospel, “I pray that they all may be one.”
“That phrase has stood before us, down through the centuries,” Fr. Hehir stated. “And because we are human and imperfect, unfortunately the phrase is still an aspiration. It’s what we hope to be. An aspiration, a mandate, a command, but unfulfilled.”
Fr. Hehir drew broader parallels by taking the school’s theme – a religious phrase – and relocating it to a secular setting, in this case, our own country. He referred to the traditional motto of the United States, E pluribus unim – Latin for “Out of many, one” – and how we use it as a beacon to guide us through difficulties we currently face, including challenges relating to race, immigration, ethnicity and religion.
“Great ideas usually are so rich they are always a step ahead of us. We grow into them. We violate them, we get up, and we start again,” Fr. Hehir said. “Just like ‘I pray that they all may be one’ is an aspiration, E pluribus unim is also an aspiration."
Fr. Hehir also integrated the teachings of St. Augustine into his lecture. During the question and answer segment, Olivia Doherty ’22, asked Fr. Hehir a question about what steps a school, rooted in the teachings of St. Augustine, can take to achieve unity in a community. Fr. Hehir offered praise of Austin Prep’s patron saint.
“First, understand how important St. Augustine is in the Catholic tradition. So, as you learn from St. Augustine, you must know you are in very good company.”
Fr. Bryan Hehir is the Parker Gilbert Montgomery Professor of the Practice of Religion and Public Life at the Harvard Kennedy School. He is also the Secretary of Health and Social Services on the staff of Cardinal Sean O’Malley in the Archdiocese of Boston. Previously he served on the faculty of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service (1984-92) and on the Harvard Divinity School faculty (1993-2001) including three years as the Chair of the HDS Executive Committee. In the Archdiocese of Boston, Fr. Hehir represents Cardinal O’Malley on four social service agencies and also serves as a liaison to Catholic health systems in the Archdiocese. His teaching, research and writing focus on ethics and foreign policy and the role of religion in world politics and in American society.
Fr. Hehir is a recipient of the MacArthur Award, the Laetare Award (University of Notre Dame), the American Academy of Religion’s Martin E. Marty Award for the Public Understanding of Religion, and the Kennedy School’s Carballo Award for excellence in teaching.
He is member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. He serves on the Board of the Arms Control Association and the Roundtable for Church Management.
The St. Augustine Lecture Series began in 2015. Previous speakers include: Brian Montgomery, former Deputy Assistant to the President and Cabinet Secretary in the Executive Office of President Bush and former Housing & Urban Development Secretary for President Obama; Major General Charles W. Whittington, Jr., the Deputy Commanding General of Operations in the U.S. First Army; Dr. Steven DiSalvo, current President of Endicott College and Austin Prep Trustee; Grace Cotter Regan, the first female president of Boston College High School; Rev. Raymond F. Dlugos, OSA, an Austin Prep Trustee and Merrimack College’s Vice President of Mission and Ministry; and Dr. Crystal Kuykendall, a recognized educator, attorney, author and motivational speaker who has continued to work with Austin Prep in our journey to continue the progress in building a diverse and inclusive educational environment, in support of our Augustinian values of veritas, unitas, and caritas.