By Sister Cecelia and Brother Christopher
On November 29th two of the nuns and three of the monks traveled to Boston to be present at Boston College for our friend and Companion Teva Regule’s doctoral defense. Her dissertation, Identity, Formation, Transformation: The Liturgical Movement of the 20th Century and the Liturgical Reform Efforts of New Skete Monastery, was the culmination of several years of research, study, and writing that included a number of extended visits at New Skete to interview monastics and to clarify the many aspects of our liturgical practice. When she first proposed the idea to us, we were both humbled and surprised: “Really? You’d like to do your dissertation on us?” but as the scope of her work grew we ourselves came to appreciate in a new way the cumulative efforts that have spanned the fifty-plus-year history of our community. We felt it was important to be present at this occasion as a sign of our support and appreciation of her hard work.
None of us had ever been to a doctoral defense, and since the defense was to take place on the morning of the 30th, we traveled to Boston the afternoon before. The three monks were graciously offered hospitality by the Jesuit community at Boston College, while two of the sisters stayed with friends in the vicinity. All of us were impressed with the elegant beauty of the campus and to see hundreds of students moving from building to building took some of us back to our own days of university years ago. The biggest difference was seeing how many students were walking with ear pods and holding various devices in their hands!
Doctoral defenses are open to the public and when we arrived at the appropriate classroom we became part of about fifteen observers in addition to the examiners. The atmosphere was relaxed and expectant and Teva didn’t seem bothered by runaway nerves. The four examiners were Fr. John Baldovin, S.J., Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, Fr. Robert Daly, S.J., from Boston College, Fr. Alkiviadis Calivas from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, and Rev. Karen Westerfield-Tucker of Boston University. After Teva was invited to give an opening introduction of about twenty minutes that summarized her work, each examiner was given the opportunity to ask pertinent questions and follow-up Teva’s responses with further observations and queries. The questions put to her by the panel were insightful and stimulating and Teva’s answers showed how great is her grasp of all the various aspects of her research. She did a staggering amount of research and after looking at the Liturgical Movement of the 20th century, she was able to trace efforts at liturgical change in the Christian East more broadly, and specifically how they have been expressed at New Skete. She interviewed the monastics, chapel community members, and many who are familiar with the monastery. By studying the history of the many Traditions and traditions of liturgical practice, her study highlights positive directions that can edify, encourage, and renew the worshiping community.
One of the experiences that each of us commented on to each other afterward is what it was like to be observers listening to others talk about our community’s life work. Actually, it was inspiring, giving us encouragement to be faithful to the particular path we have been called to. It was also gratifying to hear the examiners commend Teva’s hard work and encourage her to make use of it in books, articles, and even video resources that enrich both academics as well as ordinary churchgoers (the rest of us). Finally, it was a joyful moment to share with Teva when her director, Fr Baldovin said at the end of the proceedings, “Teva it is my pleasure to be the first to be able to address you as ‘Dr. Regule’. Congratulations!” Indeed, Teva: Congratulations! Many Years!