Father David Théroux, S.S.E. teaches Religious Studies at Saint Michael's College in Colchester, Vermont. He just received his Doctor of Education and his dissertation focused on how students are creating meaning in their lives from first-year religion courses. Photo taken on Sept. 18, 2019 by Lynn Monty.
Saint Michael’s College Campus is alive again and Father David Théroux, S.S.E. is reveling in the daily hustle and bustle after the long summer break. Too long for his liking, he said. This professor of Religious Studies knows a little more about this semester’s college students than he did last year. How? Well, he just received his Doctor of Education and his dissertation focused on how students are creating meaning in their lives from first-year religion courses!
Turns out, they ARE creating meaning—and a lot of it! In fact, students are expanding and clarifying their religious beliefs as well as becoming more sensitive and tolerant of the religious beliefs of others. “It is a good thing to find out,” Father Théroux said.
In short, this case study revealed students connected their religious beliefs to course content, expanded upon what they believed, and constructed meaning through an appreciation for the beliefs of others. However, helping students to connect their religious beliefs and personal spirituality to course content and to construct meaning in their lives was not a priority for faculty. Théroux recommends educators adopt a pedagogical strategy that helps students reevaluate what they believe and to construct new meaning in their lives through developing their voice and self-authorship in the classroom.
Shane Coughlin took Father Théroux's introduction to Christianity course his first-year at Saint Michael's College. He said he has become more empowered since then. He also has continued to speak regularly about academics, extracurricular activities, and a wide variety of other topics with Father Théroux. “Father Théroux has inspired me to move out my comfort zone and become a peer tutor as well as a tour guide,” Coughlin said. “He is a positive influence. His commitment to students is evident. He truly gets to know us. I am glad to have had him as a professor, and beyond the classroom, he has continued to be an educator for me.”
In The Beginning
Soon after becoming an Edmundite in the 1960s, Father Théroux obtained a Bachelor’s Degree from Saint Michael’s college. It was a double major in American Studies and Philosophy. He grew up in Plainfield, CT. His father was a carpenter who worked at Electric Boat, mostly on submarines. He worked on the Nautilus, the first nuclear-powered submarine, and received a medallion from Amy Eisenhower. Father Théroux is the oldest of three brothers and two sisters.
Why The Society of Saint Edmund? Father Maurice Boucher, S.S.E. came to his eighth grade class to talk about this religious community. “I had filled out a card and when I arrived home after school that day Father Boucher was sitting with my mother,” Father Théroux remembered. “He was following up with her because I had expressed interest. That impressed me a lot.”
After that visit Father Théroux left his family to attend an Edmundite sponsored minor seminary. Little did he know at the time, he would grow up to one day be the founder and principal of an Edmundite sponsored middle school in New Orleans.
He was pastor of Saint Peter Claver Church in New Orleans for a time. It was a significant period in his vocation because of the vibrancy of faith of African Americans, he said. He worked for three years at Xavier University, the only Black Catholic University in the United States and obtained a Master’s degree before founding that middle school for African American boys, Bishop Perry Middle School, in 1994. “It was a specialized school for street kids,” he said. “We focused on a specific portion of the population who needed help. Our aim in New Orleans was to attempt to take this population and get them to graduate from high school. We did that until Hurricane Katrina.”
His Novice Director was Father Maurice Ouellet, an Edmundite instrumental in the civil rights movement. Father Ouellet came to the aid of injured African Americans during the Selma Marches in the 1960s. “Maurice Ouellet taught me the importance of black ministry,” Father Théroux said.
This prompted Father Théroux to attend the Institute of Black Catholic Studies in New Orleans. “We took on black ministry according to the agenda and theology of black people. We were trained by African Americans to approach the study of theology from their perspective.”
Which makes him a perfect match for the Edmundite Center for Faith and Culture at Saint Michaels College and The Edmundite Center for Peace and Justice. Check to see what dynamic speakers he has invited to campus this year by clicking here! https://www.smcvt.edu/on-campus/events.aspx!
Speaking of dynamic speakers, homilies rarely receive standing ovations these days, but Father Théroux hit this message squarely out of the park! Read it here! He said what he finds most amazing about preparing homilies is that scripture is always different. “It has a lot to do with me being different, who is listening, and the circumstances,” he said. “If you can bring them together, it’s what makes a good homily.”
Jerome Monachino directs the liturgical choir on campus. He met Father Théroux in the early 90s. His initial impression was that he was smart and kind, he said. “He had a southern preaching style—big, loud and refrain-oriented preaching with long homilies. His homilies have always been a big hit.”
His homilies at mass are didactic for many—they are on the edge, Monachino said. “When I get obsessed with the mechanics of theology, he is great at getting to the heart of my question. He is a big part, still to this day, of my ongoing and changing faith.”
Edmundites offer us an intersection of intellectual academics, and pastoral ministry, in the context of humility and hospitality, Monachino said. “The interface of what they do helps me to see the Christ in everyone—their corporate skillset is being welcoming of all people. They are an excellent model of hospitality and humility.”
The Society of Saint Edmund is a religious community of Roman Catholic priests and brothers founded in 1843 with a mission is to serve where the need is greatest, a credo that has led to four core ministries: Social Justice, Education, Spiritual Renewal, and Pastoral Ministry. Their ministries are diverse and are carried out with the intention of making God known, and loved, in deep and meaningful ways. For more information about The Society of Saint Edmund please visit www.sse.org.
Father Edward Dubriske, S.S.E. (Padre Eduardo Dubriske) had to leave Venezuela after his retirement two years ago due to the precarious situation of the country. This has by no means cut him off from the country where he spent 50 years in pastoral work in a suburb of Caracas called Prados del Este. He is now living in a home for seniors called Willow Wood in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He celebrates Mass there every Sunday and once a month in Spanish for some of the Venezuela expatriates who live in the area. The S.S.E. generously accepted his request to retire to a warmer climate instead of New England after his many years of living in the tropics.
The parish of the Holy Trinity where he was pastor for many years, alternating with three other Edmundite priests, was founded in 1964 as part of a response to the request of St. Pope John XXIII to send priests to Latin America. The parish was supportive of the work in the neighboring parish of Las Minas called Our Lady of the Rosary of Fátima. This support continued through the establishment of a program for children and teenagers called Rincon Infantile San Edmundo. Father Dubriske continues to help with this program, now divided up into several units because the Edmundites no longer have care of the parish in Las Minas.
On Sunday, September 15, he was the principal concelebrant of a Mass in a neighboring parish, which wanted to show their support for the suffering Venezuelan people. The occasion was the feast of the principal Venezuelan avocation of the Virgin Mary called “La Virgen de Coromoto.” Many of the Venezuelans who come to the monthly Mass in the Willow Wood residence were present for the Mass.
The heart of the Society of Saint Edmund’s mission is serving where the need is greatest, a credo that has led us to four core ministries: Social Justice, Education, Spiritual Renewal and Pastoral Ministry. It is through these core ministries that we live out a faith-based life of service and make a real difference in people’s lives by bringing them closer to God.