Three Priests Receive Dominican Highest Honor

On April 28, 2002 Fathers Benedict Viviano, O.P. Richard Woods, O.P., and Donald Goergen, O.P. received the honorary degree of Master of Sacred Theology (STM) at the Dominican Conference Center in River Forest, Illinois. CLICK FOR PHOTO ALBUM

The Master of Sacred Theology, known as STM from the Latin Sacrae Theologiae Magister, is the highest honor the Dominican Order can confer on brothers outstanding in teaching, research,and writing.

For a Dominican Friar this degree signifies not only that a brother has shown himself to be an adept teacher, but also that his life exemplifies that devotion to study and the pursuit of truth to which each Dominican is committed by reason of his profession.

The degree arose in the medieval universities. But in order to receive it, the Dominican brother had to be recommended by his Province and approved by the General Chapter of the entire Order. Later the Order itself was allowed to grant the degree by Pope Benedict XI (1310). This degree shows the concern of the Order for excellence in striving for sound doctrine.

Study of truth is not an end in itself in the Order, nor is the granting of the degree. Rather, our Order's essential task is the preaching of truth in various ways (Congar). "The Order defined itself from the very beginning as entirely devoted to proclaiming the Word of God and to carry the evangelical message everywhere" (Chenu).

Thus the Master of Theology Degree does not only signify that a person is an excellent theologian but is concerned about the preaching of the word of God.

Benedict Thomas Viviano, O.P., Ph.D., was born in St. Louis on January 22, 1940. After a Catholic military high school (Christian Brothers College) and two years of classics at Loras College (Dubuque, Iowa), he entered the Central Province of the Dominican Order in 1959 and was ordained a priest in 1966. He pursued biblical (and patristic) studies after that, at Catholic University, Harvard University, the Pontifical Biblical Institute, Duke University, and the École Biblique et Archéologique Française de Jérusalem (besides summer schools at the rabbinical school in Cincinnati and at the University of Vienna). He received his doctorate in biblical studies from Rome in 1977. Starting in 1972 he was for twelve years professor of New Testament at Aquinas Institute of Theology, first in Dubuque, then in its present location in St. Louis, on the campus of St. Louis University. Beginning in 1984 he was professor at the École Biblique in Jerusalem, specializing in Matthew and rabbinics. While in Jerusalem he also taught at the Ecumenical Institute of Tantur and was a member and president of the Rainbow Club, devoted to Jewish-Christian interfaith dialogue.

Since 1995 he has been professor of New Testament at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland, the only bilingual university in Europe (French-German). He serves as a member of the commission of the Swiss Bishops Conference for dialogue with the Reformed Church of Switzerland, and also as a member of the Vatican team for dialogue with the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, as well as a member of a less formal Vatican team for dialogue with the Orthodox Church of Greece. Since 1972 he has been an active member of the Catholic Biblical Association of America and of the Society of Biblical Literature, and soon thereafter a member of the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas.

Benedict is the author or editor of six books and the translator of four others. He also worked on the third edition of the Bible de Jérusalem, and has published many articles and reviews. Among his works are a study of the rabbinic tractate Pirqe Aboth and its relation to Matthew (Study as Worship); The Kingdom of God in History (also translated into French); the commentary on Matthew in the New Jerome Biblical Commentary (translated into Italian, Polish and Croatian); a Dictionary of the Bible (translated into German); Trinity Kingdom Church: Essays in Biblical Theology. He has helped edit the Catholic Biblical Quarterly and the Revue Biblique. He is currently the editor of the series Studia Friburgensia.

He enjoys classical and folk music, walking and hiking. For relaxation he reads history and biographies, particularly histories of the Holy Roman and Austrian empires. He thinks his charisms are the encouragement of Christian intellectual life and academic counseling.

Richard John Woods, O.P, Ph.D., was born and reared in New Mexico, where he attended grade school and high school. Awarded a tuition scholarship, he began undergraduate studies in 1959 at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., but transferred to the University of New Mexico in 1960, where he decided to enter the Dominican Order. After an additional year of studies at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, he entered the novitiate in 1962 and professed first vows in 1963 and solemn vows in 1966. He was awarded the M.A. in philosophy (summa cum laude) in 1966 and the M.A. in theology in 1969 from Aquinas Institute. In 1969, he was ordained to the priesthood and assigned to the new Communications Center at the Dominican House of Studies in River Forest, Illinois.

After a year's work with the Center for Contemporary Celebration in Chicago, Richard was hired to teach at the institute of Pastoral Studies at Loyola University Chicago, where in 1971 he was asked to join the philosophy department on a part-time basis. He began work on his doctorate the following year. In 1974 -75, he spent a year conducting research in religious experience and attending lectures at Oxford University. In 1978, while visiting professor at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, he was awarded the Ph.D. in the Philosophy of Religion from Loyola University. Until 1997, Richard served on Loyola's graduate faculty in the Institute of Pastoral Studies while also teaching undergraduate theology and philosophy. In 1984-85, he also held the Endowed Chair in Philosophy and Theology at St. Thomas College, St. Paul, Minnesota. In 1981, he was made adjunct associate professor in the department of psychiatry at Loyola University Medical School, where he continues to work as a therapist in the Sexual Dysfunction Clinic. From 1991-99 Richard was part-time tutor and lecturer at Blackfriars Hall, Oxford University. In 1999, he was the Aquinas Scholar at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia and from 2000 to 2002 the Dominican Scholar at Dominican University, River Forest, Illinois, where he is now on the regular theology faculty.

Richard has published ten original books on spirituality and theology, co-authored one fiction work with Anne McCaffrey, and published one novel and three novelettes. He has edited three anthologies in religious studies, is completing a fourth, and has published over 75 articles on spirituality, theology, environmental issues, sexuality, and Celtic studies. From 1985 to 1991, he was executive editor of Spirituality Today. Co-founder and president of the Center for Religion and Society, Richard has served on the boards of directors of the International Eckhart Society, Lumen Multimedia, The Forge Institute for Spirituality and Social Change, and Friends of the Center (London). He is an honorary board member of the Brehon Law Society, Dublin, Ireland.

Since 1988, Richard has been a citizen of the Republic of Ireland, where he works part-time in research and writing.

Richard's Home Page:DRAGONTHORN   E-mail:

Donald. J. Goergen, O.P., Ph.D., the son of Julius and Sylvia Goergen, was born in 1943 in Remsen, Iowa, where he attended St. Mary's Grade and High Schools and was taught by Dubuque, Iowa Franciscan sisters. He was a student for the diocesan priesthood while attending Loras College (1961-65), majoring in Latin, Philosophy and French, and Mount St. Bernard Seminary (1965-68) in Dubuque, Iowa. In 1970 he became a novice in the Order of Preachers, Province of St. Albert the Great, making his first profession on December 19, 1971. He received his Ph.D. in Systematic Theology from the Aquinas Institute of Theology in Dubuque (1972), his dissertation being on the concept of person in the thought of Teilhard de Chardin.

From 1971-1981 Don was professor of systematic theology at the Aquinas Institute in Dubuque, Iowa, during which period he served as director of the M.A. and Ph.D. programs. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1975. From 1975-1981 he was also Regent of Studies for the Province of St. Albert the Great and was a member of the Provincial Council. He was co-director of the Parable Conference for Dominican Life and Mission from 1984 to 1985. From 1985-1994 he served as Prior Provincial for the Province of St. Albert. In 1996 he returned to the Aquinas Institute of Theology, now in St. Louis, Missouri, where he taught until 1999. Don was the first Director of the Walter Farrell Institute for Theological Reflection (1996-1999).

Don currently resides with the Friends of God community, a Dominican Ashram in Kenosha, Wisconsin, of which he is a founding member. He is also a member of the Forge Institute for Spirituality and Social Change. He is a preacher, teacher, lecturer and writer primarily in the areas of Christology and spirituality. His publications, a list of which is provided separately, includes The Sexual Celibate, The Power of Love, a theology of the spiritual life, as well as a four volume theology of Jesus. He has also edited two volumes on the theology of the priesthood. He has lectured in India, Thailand, the Philippines, as well as taught a semester at the Tangaza Seminary in Nairobi, Kenya, East Africa.

Ceremony of Conferral
Presentation Address

Thomas Aquinas Franklin O'Meara, O.P., S.t.Lr., M.A., Ph.D., S.T.M.
"Beyond Boundaries" In HTML.           In RealAudio

Letter from the Master of the Order

The Master of the Order appoints Donald Goergen, Benedict Viviano, and Richard Woods Masters in Sacred Theology, "and we enroll you in the company of Masters in the presence of the entire Order."
The Text of the Letter In RealAudio.

Profession of Faith

The profession of faith is by one of the candidates in the name of all three, attesting to their holding of the truths taught in the creed and by the church.

Presentation of the Rings

The giving of the rings testifies to the candidates' covenant with holy Wisdom. Further, the ring is a sign of their right to publicly teach and interpret Christian theology.

Seating in the Chair of Teaching

The master presides from the chair of teaching.

Presentation of the biretta

The biretta the master's cap, is a sign of his authority to teach theology.

Welcome to the Ranks of Masters of Sacred Theology

The Provincial shares the sign of peace with the candidates. This is followed by the peace being extended to them by all other Masters of Sacred Theology who are present.

The new Masters make a brief response.



Presider and Conferrer of the STM Degree
Edward Michael Ruane, O.P. Provincial, Province of St. Albert the Great
Frank Currier Quinn, O.P., Regent of Studies, Province of St. Albert the Great
Thomas Aquinas Franklin O'Meara, O.P., William K. Warren Professor of Theology, University of Notre Dame
Director of Music and Organist
Jordan James Kelly, O.P.
Capella Sine Nomine
Coordinator of Conference Center
John Joseph Meany, O.P.