Raised in the capital of Ireland, after receiving his Master’s Degree at University College Dublin, Declan O’Byrne pursued his License in Systematic Theology at the Pontifical Athanaeum Milltown and his Doctorate at Dublin City University. He is one of the central figures of the new academic courses available at Sophia in 2017/18. He responded to our questions regarding the characteristics of theological studies for a young person at IUS.
Why should a young person decide to pursue studies like Trinitarian Ontology today? And why at Sophia?
The Trinitarian Ontology Department at Sophia offers a unique opportunity to study the most profound and fascinating dilemma that humanity faces: the question of meaning, of being, of the universe, the human person and history. At Sophia these topics are viewed from a perspective that emphasizes aspects like relationality, reciprocity and unity. In contrast with other universities, where these topics are addressed from a single disciplinary viewpoint, philosophy or theology or natural science, at Sophia one is able to explore these subjects in an interdisciplinary fashion. Instead of being limited to the resources of a single discipline, here we aim at creating those conditions whereby a student can explore an area that could be considered a “frontier” among different theorists as well as different disciplines. In this way it is possible to study and learn from some of the greatest masters of all time and participate directly in the everlasting search of humanity for meaning. Many young people are aware that the search for meaning and happiness cannot find an answer in the latest gadgets available on the market. Sophia’s proposal offers the ideal setting for setting down roots in fertile ground not only from Greek antiquity, in biblical terms, in the Christian traditions, and various currents in modern theories, but also a setting where study and life experience go hand in hand.
Why have you called the department “Trinitarian Ontology”?
The name of the department is an attempt to express: 1) “ontology” involves the study of fundamental topics, the very meaning of being itself; 2) “trinitarian” is meant to express the fact that in the coursework at Sophia Wisdom (the meaning of “Sophia” in ancient Greek) is rooted in God who communicates himself through his Son, through whom the world was created and toward whom all history is directed. The wisdom that IUS hopes to offer is not a result of studies alone, but it is also through participation in a life that tries to be always open to the Truth.
What are the specific characteristics of this course of study?
In our program, special attention most certainly is given to biblical, Christian tradition. This is not meant to represent a narrow confessional or academic approach. The limitations of the various study areas are respected. The students study with people of other religious traditions: Sophia is viewed as a place where dialogue among people of different faiths and cultures is favored. In addition to this, together with courses in philosophy, theology and scientific reasoning, students also take courses in economy, political science and sociology. Because of this, they are continually faced with the challenges and promises of the world today. To study Trinitarian Ontology at Sophia opens one up to the vast and profound horizons of life, with full responsibility for the world in which we live, and which we are called to build together.
What scientific contribution does Sophia give to these studies?
Sophia is the only university in the world that offers a degree in Trinitarian Ontology. At a scientific level, the department, as part of Sophia, offers something unique: it is committed to studying in depth the ideas outlined by philosopher and Catholic Bishop Klaus Hemmerle through research, seminars and publications aimed not so much at developing a new area of study, but rather a new school of thought that lives and flourishes in that space where we meet others and the Other. Among the many initiatives promoted by this department, there is an important project that is worth mentioning: the publication of a dictionary of Trinitarian Ontology in two volumes.