Michael O’Sullivan SJ announced the establishment of a new Spirituality Institute for Research and Education (SpIRE) at a public event on 22 June in Milltown Park, a launch timed to coincide with the centenary of the birth of Thomas Merton. The aim of SpIRE is to raise awareness of spirituality as an applied academic discipline. Michael explained “we are trying to keep spirituality studies going in Ireland”, and referred to the warning some years back that Ireland not only needed to be recapitalised financially but also spiritually. Michael has founded SpIRE along with Dr Bernadette Flanagan PBVM, his colleague in the school of spirituality in All Hallows College. Both were previously on the staff of Milltown Institute.
SpIRE has already negotiated to have an MA in Spirituality on offer to students under the auspices of Waterford Institute of Technology by Autumn 2016, and hopes that in time doctoral research will become accredited too. In addition to the academic course and research, the institute will also be involved in organising a number of conferences, public lectures and summer schools, such as the recent one in spirituality which took place between 17-21 August at Milltown Park. SpIRE will also host a series of public lectures this Autumn at the Arrupe Room, Milltown Park. On Saturday 5 September Prof Mark Burrows from Germany, a past-President of the international Society for the Study of Christian Spirituality, will speak on the topic “The Ripening: Imagining a truer God (and self) with the poet Rainer Maria Rilke”; while on Tuesday 6 October Dr Riaan van der Merwe from South Africa will give an interactive presentation “A Multimedia Engagement with the Spirituality of Vulnerable Embodiment of Henri Nouwen”.
Michael has also been busy over the summer months promoting the study of spirituality. He was one of the keynote speakers at the first international Spirituality in Healthcare Conference at Trinity College Dublin on 25 June, giving the opening address entitled ‘Holistic Health and Spiritual Self-Presence’. On 5 July he preached at the Sunday liturgy in Christ Church Cathedral, at the invitation of the Dean, Very Rev. Dermot Dunne. Dermot did the MA in Applied Christian Spirituality, of which Michael is the Director, at All Hallows College, and he described the experience as “life-transforming” to the congregation. The Residential Priest-Vicar at the Cathedral, Rev. Garth Bunting, did the MA with Michael when he directed, lectured, and supervised research in the programme at Milltown Institute. Meanwhile a recent article written by Michael ‘Reading John 7:53–8:11 as a narrative against male violence against women’, was published by HTS Theological Studies – a leading online journal in South Africa, and has attracted considerable interest there.
In October Michael will address the Healthcare Chaplains on the topic ‘Spiritual but not religious’, while in November he will give a public lecture ‘Spiritual Experience in Childhood as Foundational in a Life’ at the School of Nursing and Midwifery in Trinity College Dublin. He will also travel to Atlanta at that time where he will be part of an international panel about researching spirituality and where he will be exercising international leadership roles to do with the study of spirituality as a result of his membership of the editorial board of Spiritus, the leading international journal about the study of Christian spirituality, and of the international relations committee, and the promotions committee, of the Society for the Study of Christian Spirituality.