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  • Writer's pictureProfiles in Catholicism

An Interview with Father Alejandro Crosthwaite, O.P.

Gordon: Where did you attend seminary and what was your favorite course, and why was it your favorite?

Father Alejandro: I underwent my studies at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley, California, an institution closely linked with the Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus (Western Dominican Province). During my time there, I delved into the realms of (Thomistic) philosophy and theology, finding my religious home at St. Albert's Priory in Oakland, California. My academic inclinations led me to gravitate towards courses that revolved around social ethics and morals, a domain I found profoundly engaging. My focus within this sphere was honed on the intricate dynamics and cooperative undertakings between international organizations, NGOs, and the Catholic Church.

Gordon: Why did you choose to be a Dominican?

Father Alejandro: My path toward the priesthood was initiated by a profound sense of calling that struck me at the tender age of seven, coinciding with my reception of First Holy Communion. As my high school years unfolded, my ambitions matured towards the goal of becoming an educator within the realm of higher learning. The Dominican Order, renowned for its dedicated commitment to communal and private prayer, diligent study, vibrant community, and impactful preaching, seamlessly harmonized with my aspirations. In this sacred tradition, I discovered the avenue to embrace a life devoted to contemplating upon eternal truths and disseminating that very wisdom to the broader world through the art of teaching and preaching.

Gordon: You have attended several Universities and Schools, please list them and the degrees that you earned?

Father Alejandro: I obtained a B.A. in (Thomistic) Philosophy and an M.Div. in Theology from the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology. My academic journey continued with an M.A. in (moral) Theology from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. Furthering my educational pursuits, I dedicated time to studies at St. Thomas Aquinas University in Rome, culminating in the attainment of an STL in (social moral) Theology. The culmination of my academic pursuit was marked by the successful completion of my Ph.D. in Theology and Society from Marquette University located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Gordon: Can you share your experiences as an instructor in various institutions and your favorite memories?

Father Alejandro: I've been blessed to have the opportunity to instruct a diverse array of courses throughout my early academic mission. In the year span of 1999-2000, my instructional efforts were dedicated to teaching catechesis topics in Spanish. These sessions were designed for Latino individuals who were on the path towards religious education instructor certification and also for participants in the Permanent Diaconate Program. These classes were held at the Diocesan Institute of the Dioceses of San Diego. My pedagogical journey then led me to the University of San Diego, where I guided students in courses on Foundations of Catholic Theology and Introduction to Biblical Studies between 1998 and 2000. In 2002, I took on the challenge of instructing Western Religions at the University of Alaska Anchorage, an experience that demanded a delicate balance in presenting an array of faith perspectives in the Christian, Jewish and Muslim traditions in a secular educational environment. Additionally, my involvement extended to teaching preaching courses and marriage preparation sessions in Spanish at St. Francis de Sales Seminary in Milwaukee. Among these experiences, one aspect that has stood out and brought me tremendous satisfaction were the spirited class discussions. These discussions, at times fervent, offered an invaluable platform for young students to actively engage with and internalize their Catholic faith, allowing them to grapple with its complexities and emerge with a more personal understanding.

Gordon: What did you teach at Marquette University?

Father Alejandro: During my doctoral program at Marquette University, I was honored to be selected as the teaching assistant for Dr. Michael Duffey. In this capacity, my responsibilities were multi-faceted, involving activities such as grading assignments and exams, creating innovative examination materials, providing supplementary assistance to students requiring additional support, and conducting comprehensive research in the library to bolster Dr. Duffey's course content and research. The subjects he covered spanned a wide spectrum, encompassing topics like Muslims & Christians in Dialogue, Theology of Church, Christian Discipleship, and Theology of Violence & Nonviolence. Personally, one area that particularly ignited my interest and passion was the exploration of theology related to violence and nonviolence. Engaging with these intricate matters not only captivated my intellect but also provided a sense of deep fulfillment as our collaborative efforts delved into these essential ethical considerations.

Gordon: How long have you serve as Professor in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (the Angelicum) in Rome and and what courses have you taught?

Father Alejandro: For a duration spanning seventeen years, I've had the esteemed privilege of serving as a Professor of Catholic Social Teaching, Social & Political Ethics, and Cultural Studies in Cinema at the Angelicum in Rome. Guiding these subjects, predominantly in Italian, to an assembly of diverse lay students hailing from every corner of the globe has constituted an exceptionally rewarding journey. My pedagogical portfolio has consistently encompassed an array of courses, including but not limited to Social Doctrine of the Church, Political Ethics, Spirituality and Politics, as well as Peoples, ethnicity, and culture in film. At this juncture, I'm embarking upon a particularly ambitious undertaking: the teaching of the History of Catholic Social Thought. This scholarly journey is poised to comprehensively delve into the tapestry of thought from the Old Testament through to the early 18th century. While I acknowledge the impending challenges, I am ardently enthusiastic about embracing them, fully expecting this endeavor to be the most demanding yet immensely rewarding facet of my academic odyssey.

Gordon: When did you serve as Dean and what were some of the challenges that you had to address?

Father Alejandro: During my eight-year tenure as the Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, I encountered a range of challenges, with one paramount obstacle standing out: the abrupt transition to online teaching necessitated by the global COVID-19 pandemic. The task of acclimating both educators and students to a virtual learning landscape, particularly for those less familiar with technology, was a daunting endeavor. Moreover, the absence of face-to-face interaction posed a unique set of hurdles, particularly when instructing culturally diverse students whose primary language was not Italian. Amidst these adversities, the unwavering determination of the Faculty prevailed. We collectively rallied to provide crucial financial support to students grappling with pandemic-induced economic hardships, further exemplifying our commitment to nurturing their educational journey despite the unprecedented circumstances.

Gordon: What initially interested you about Human Trafficking?

Father Alejandro: The Faculty's resonance with the Holy See's priorities, notably channeled through the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, served as a catalyst for my intense interest in addressing human trafficking. The resounding call of our Holy Father to confront this deeply concerning matter struck a profound chord within me, leading me to direct my scholarly pursuits in the realms of Catholic social teaching and political ethics to this important topic.

Gordon: Do we as individuals have a moral responsibility to address Human Trafficking?

Father Alejandro: Certainly, human trafficking undeniably constitutes a mortal social sin and a grievous affront to humanity. Flourishing within the realms of indifference and exclusion, this distressing reality is a matter our Holy Father consistently highlights. Confronting a crisis of such global significance calls for a collective undertaking surpassing the capacity of any solitary individual or community. It is of utmost importance not to be complacent in the face of this malevolence, but rather to actively champion the inherent dignity and liberation of those ensnared by the clutches of trafficking.

Gordon: Is there something that individual parishes could do to inform parishioners about Human Trafficking and how we as individual should try to do to address this challenge?

Father Alejandro: The Catholic Church stands as a beacon of numerous worldwide initiatives devoted to combating human trafficking. Both parishes and individuals can actively participate by connecting with organizations like the Santa Marta Group, which offers valuable resources and exemplary practices. Initiatives such as COMPASS, the Trafficking Victim Assistance Program, and The Amistad Movement present avenues for engagement. Prayer, specifically through the intercession of St. Josephine Bakhita, the patroness of trafficking victims, holds the potential to bestow strength and solace upon those affected. Moreover, keeping February 8th as a day for prayer and heightened awareness against human trafficking serves as a powerful method to further amplify awareness and understanding.

Gordon: Thank you for an exceptional interview and the important work that you are doing.


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