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Spirituality and the professions

The first ever international conference on ‘Spirituality in Society and the Professions‘ will take place in the Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT), May 16-18, 2019 in Waterford, Ireland. The conference has attracted speakers from various parts of the USA, Australia, mainland Europe, UK, and Ireland. It is a collaboration between WIT and the Spirituality Institute for Research and Education (SpIRE), headed up by Dr Michael O’Sullivan SJ and Dr Bernadette Flanagan, along with the European Institute for Spirituality in Economics and Society (SPES). You can book for the conference by clicking here.

The topic of the conference is related to the Routledge International Handbook of Spirituality in Society and the Professions (2019) edited by Laszlo Zsolnai and Bernadette Flanagan. This book, and four other works in spirituality by SpIRE board members, will be launched at the conference, which makes the launches, also, a unique event in Ireland.

Some of the issues and questions to be addressed at the conference include: What is the understanding of spirituality in different professions? How do materialistic worldviews dominate social practices and the professions? How does spirituality influence social practices and the professions in a world detached from its religious and spiritual roots? What is the role of non-materialistic (spiritual) models in social practices and the professions? Which are promising spiritually-grounded working models and approaches indifferent professions? How are professional associations making spirituality a vital perspective in their professions – medicine, law, psychotherapy, education, etc. How can professional education be enriched by a spiritual perspective and orientation? In which ways can “spiritualized” social practices contribute to personal and collective well-being, happiness, justice and peace? What are the most promising interdisciplinary and cross-professional collaborations employing the spiritual perspective?

Speakers at the conference include Dr David Coghlan SJ, whose topic is ‘Developing a Spirituality of Scholarship’, Gavin Murphy, blogger and part of the team in Irish Jesuit Communications, speaking on the ‘Psycho-Spiritual Inspiration of Three Saints’, and SpIRE director Michael O’Sullivan on ‘Spiritual Capital: Spirituality for Social & Planetary Well-being’. Petra Sebek is a recent graduate from the MA in Applied Spirituality with SpIRE and she will be speaking on her thesis topic, ‘Spirituality in the Selfie Culture of Instagram’. Her thesis is now published as a book which will be launched at the conference.

In this interview with Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications, Michael O’Sullivan and Bernadette Flanagan outline the significance of this international event, and give a brief sketch of the book on which it is based. The Routledge handbook features 68 contributors from a wide variety of professions and the arts, who write about the role of spirituality in their respective disciplines. Architecture, business, economics, healthcare, the food industry and tourism all feature, as well as articles on spirituality in film, literature and poetry. Many of those who have written for the book will deliver papers at the conference.

Spirituality involves a type of spiritual alignment and authenticity, according to Bernadette Flanagan, who notes in the interview that many professionals are integrating elements of spirituality and the concrete wisdom traditions of various religions into their own working practice and disciplinary areas.

She speaks about the significant developments in the linking of psychiatry and spirituality in the last 15 years, explaining how the chapters of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in both Ireland and Britain have been conducting ground-breaking work in this area. Larry Culliford MD, co-founder of the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Spirituality and Psychiatry Special Interest Group, will deliver a paper at the conference entitled, ‘Wisdom: What is It? Why We Need It and How to Get It’.