You have not heard or read from me in a while, the reason being I have been on sabbatical! Now as I come to the end of my sabbatical and my tenure here at Notre Dame as fellow at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies http://kroc.nd.edu/facultystaff/2011visiting-fellows I look back with gratitude, for what has been a true gift of rest, renewal and of ‘lift your eyes and see’ (Is 40: 26). I have a lot to be grateful for – some highlights:
- Spending extended time in Uganda, at Bethany House & Malube, with family, and celebrating mom’s 86th birthday over Christmas!
- Ten days of travel in Ghana, experiencing the social & religious ferment currently underway in this first African country to gain independence (1957) whose history includes the ancient kingdom of Kumasi as well as the painful memory of Elmina and other slave trading castles along its cost. Breakfast with retired Archbishop Peter Sarpong of Kumasi, a truly amazing elder and inspiring pioneer in the movement of African inculturation theology, was a special honor and highlight.
Twelve days of travel in China — with my friends Jeff and Angie Goh (from our Leuven days ) and Angie’s brother Dennis and his wife, Margaret. A friend had half jokingly told me that all roads these days lead to China. I was able to see and experience why. China’s economic transformation, relentless energy and obvious determination to live into the destiny of its name – China – or “middle kingdom” (translation: center of the world) is both astounding and scary as well!
- Two weeks in Israel/Palestine in January: a pilgrimage of sorts: staying at Tantur Institute, near Jerusalem, from there visiting different holy sites including the Galilee. The highlight was spending a night at Bethany (al-Eizariya) – now in the West Bank – visiting the tomb of Lazarus, mass in the church of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, and getting inspiration for a set of reflections: Stories from Bethany: On the Faces of the Church in Africa.
- At the Kroc Institute, I have the opportunity to meet and interact with peace scholars and practitioners from around the world and of different traditions: Catholic, Protestant, Moslem, Jewish, secular, and to work on a research project: “Pursuing Reconciliation in Africa.” Born of Lament is emerging as the title of this book project on Hope in Africa. My time here also included some invited lectures mostly notably, the Inaugural Bishop Gerber Distinguished Lecture at Newman University (Kansas): http://www.gerberinstitute.org/events/emmanuel-katongole-to-give-bishop-gerber-distinguished-lecture/
- Sabbatical has also been a time of discernment about the future. Early this year, Notre Dame extended an invitation to me to join their faculty. After much discernment and prayer, I have said yes – and as of Jan 2013, I will move to Notre Dame as professor of theology and peace studies. I will be based at the Kroc Institute, but with a joint appointment in theology, where I will be the point person for Catholicism in the Global South. At the Kroc, I will also serve as a fellow for the Contending Modernities Project: http://kroc.nd.edu/research/religion-conflict-peacebuilding/contending-modernities.
- It has not been an easy decision to leave Duke, my home for the last 11 years, and particularly the Center for Reconciliation (CFR), which I co-founded (with my colleague and friend Chris Rice eight years ago. The CFR has been truly a gift and anchor for my life, scholarship and leadership at Duke. However, with Chris as director , a new leadership structure in place, and most importantly CFR’s vibrant programs at Duke and around the world, CFR is in a very good place, and set for the future. But I also see my joining the Kroc Institute at Notre Dame as an opportunity to try out, expand and deepen the vision and work of reconciliation that CFR is committed to.
- I now ask for your prayers. First, as I head back to Uganda today to celebrate together with my classmates, the 25th anniversary of our ordination on June 30, 2012. Secondly, as I return to Duke in August for my last semester of teaching at Duke and as I make the transition to start teaching at Notre Dame in January 2013.
- And finally, a gift: when Chris came to visit me at Notre Dame last December, he shared with me Mary Oliver’s poem: When I am Among the Trees, which has been a source of inspiration and constant reminder to me during the sabbatical, to “walk slowly and bow often.” I share the gift with you, with the wish that that you too, in your busy lives and amidst the many demands on your time, you will strive to “walk slowly and bow often”.
With much love and prayers