A History of Black Catholic Studies with Father David Théroux, S.S.E.
Father David Théroux, S.S.E. is known for his dynamic homilies. Jerome Monachino, director of the liturgical choir on Saint Michael’s College campus, met Father Théroux in the early 90s. His initial impression was that he was smart and kind, Monachino said. “He had a southern preaching style—big, loud and refrain-oriented preaching with long homilies. His homilies have always been a big hit.”
Father Théroux 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.”
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.”
As a professor of Religious Studies, Father Théroux works with students to help them connect their religious beliefs and personal spirituality to course content. He does this through 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.”
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, 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. “We took on black ministry according to the agenda and theology of black people,” he said of his time in New Orleans. “We were trained by African Americans to approach the study of theology from their perspective.”