When Dr. Conor Sweeney was last in the classroom, he was helping students finish up their degrees at the John Paull II Institute for Marriage and Family in Australia. Now, the theology professor and author is helping students earn their undergraduate degrees at Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia — a place full of “life, faith, and hope” inside and outside the classroom.
Sweeney moved all the way from Melbourne, Australia to join the faculty of Christendom. His wide range of theological expertise, along with his three books, makes him an excellent addition to the theology department and an incredible resource for students.
According to Sweeney, teaching at Christendom has already been an enriching experience. While seeing the institute where he taught for seven years close was a sad experience, Sweeney is excited to be back in the classroom at a school as passionately Catholic as Christendom.
“I’m told that things on campus are a little bit different this year, thanks to the year that is 2020. But I’ve seen more than enough to convince me that this is a place where faith, learning, and fellowship are taken seriously,” Sweeney shared.
This academic culture paired with Christendom’s commitment to the magisterium have made the long move from Melbourne worth it for Sweeney and his family.
“It’s never easy pulling up roots and leaving friends, but we feel really blessed to be here,” shared Sweeney. “It’s by no means getting easier to find places where academic theology can be pursued in and from a deeper point of faith. I’m therefore deeply grateful to be in such a place.”
In his first semester at Christendom, Sweeney is teaching introductory doctrine and moral theology, having a chance to instruct both freshmen and upperclassmen. Yet with such extensive areas of expertise, including sacramental theology, evangelization, and more, Sweeney is sure to teach a variety of courses in the future.
“I think what most attracts me about teaching at Christendom is being able to teach so many different areas of theology. I’m not really a specialist, so to be able do a variety of things and find ways to unify and integrate it for my students is pretty much living the dream for me,” Sweeney shared.
Teaching at a place where both colleagues and students are committed to not only learning the faith, but living it, is a true blessing for Sweeney.
“Seeking and finding truth, especially theological truth, is about more than simply communicating information. In the classroom, it has everything to do with whether truth is experienced only as facts ‘out there’ or also perceived as bearing some living relation to the person who presents it. I think of the search for truth as a deeply dialogical and dramatic enterprise, so time spent in the classroom is certainly meaningful for me,” Sweeney shared.
Sweeney hopes that his time in the classroom will augment his research and writing. Sweeney has already authored three books on a wide range of topics, Sacramental Presence after Heidegger: Onto-theology, Sacraments, and the Mother’s Smile (2015), Abiding the Long Defeat: How to Evangelize Like a Hobbit in a Disenchanted Age (2018), and The Politics of Conjugal Love: a Baptismal and Trinitarian Approach to Headship and Submission (2019).
Currently, Sweeny is working on developing “baptismal anthropology,” which considers baptism not as a mere adjustment to the human person, but the radical transformation of one’s very existence.
“I’m fascinated by the opportunities that I believe can be found in a turn back to thinking about baptism as more than a ‘tweak’ to our being, but the ground of an embodied sacramental and existential living of the mystery of faith,” Sweeney explained.
Sweeney traveled an entire ocean to teach at Christendom College, enriching the college’s theology department and classroom experience as a result. Without a doubt, Sweeney’s academic expertise and enthusiasm will serve Christendom’s students well in the years to come, as he helps them learn the true, the good, and the beautiful in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.