Deacon Justin McDonnell was awarded the degree of Master of Theological Studies in a ceremony held at St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral on the 18th of March. Deacon Justin completed his studies at Catholic Theological College, which is one of the teaching colleges of the Melbourne College of Divinity, now renamed as the University of Divinity. His studies in theology at CTC were carried out over three and a half years.
The Master of Theological Studies is designed to provide an expansive horizon of theological enquiry to those who already hold a primary degree in theology. Deacon Justin completed his Bachelor of Theology at the United Faculty of Theology, Melbourne College of Divinity, in 2005, so the MTS was ideally suited to his needs. In general terms the value of this degree, as taught at CTC, resides in its flexible structure, assisting students to demonstrate and develop theological sensitivity for the depth and integrity of the Catholic tradition on the one hand, whilst on the other, always seeking new pathways and a contemporary setting for presenting the tradition in convincing and persuasive ways that are open and responsive to the unique challenges and characteristics of today’s world. Students are tasked with the responsibility of drawing on their prior learning in various theological subjects. The guiding principle of the MTS is therefore inherently cumulative, as students are required to demonstrate their mastery of these disciplines by producing a written synthesis of theological insight. This includes developing a thematic structure through which the student can show the ways in which the various facets of theology relate to one another.
Deacon Justin was able to contribute to this overall task in very specific ways, which inherently belong to being an Eastern Christian in a western cultural setting. In all of the subjects undertaken Deacon Justin was committed to giving a consistent voice to the Eastern Christian tradition in general, and in particular to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church’s theological and spiritual patrimony. In many ways the UGCC provided the very best basis for this, as it is in an essential relationship with both eastern and western cultural and religious spheres, synthesizing and resolving within itself many of the tensions and misunderstandings that have arisen between the western and eastern halves of the Church’s tradition. The UGCC is a unique and essential dialogue partner in the world of contemporary ecumenical contacts, and is at the very heart of the historic “east meets west” tangent of modern theology. The events of Maidan, and its coincidence with the programme of Church renewal, “The Vibrant Parish”, became fundamental points of reference in the later part of Deacon Justin’s studies.
Not to be overlooked is the great value and esteem that Deacon Justin wishes to convey to Vladiko Petro Stasiuk and to the clergy and people of the UGCC here in Australia. The gift and trust of the diaconate has given a real and living context in which he has been able to put into practice all that he has learned, and discovering the presence of God in the midst of His people. For all of the prayerful support of the clergy and people of our Church, warm thanks and gratitude are given.