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VCU Catholic studies lecture series to offer three public talks, including one on ‘Catholic UFOs’

As part of the Bishop Walter F. Sullivan Lecture Series at Virginia Commonwealth University this spring, three scholars will deliver public talks on topics such as the material culture of Catholic men, the Cold War’s liberation theology legacy, and “Catholic UFOs.”

“The all-star lineup for the spring lecture series reflects the robust diversity and globalization of Catholicism, a faith tradition that claims 1.2 billion members across the planet,” said R. Andrew Chesnut, Ph.D., the Bishop Walter F. Sullivan Chair in Catholic Studies and professor in the School of World Studies in the College of Humanities and Sciences. “All Rams and Richmonders are welcome at the three intriguing lectures.”

The lecture series is organized by the Bishop Walter F. Sullivan Chair in Catholic Studies at VCU, which was established in 2003 in honor of the Most Rev. Walter F. Sullivan, who served as the 11th bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond for 30 years. The lecture series features unique and engaging talks that take a global, multidisciplinary approach to Catholicism.

The full schedule follows:

Alyssa Maldonado-Estrada
Alyssa Maldonado-Estrada, Ph.D., Kalamazoo College

Devotion and the Making of Catholic Men

Tuesday, March 17
4-5:30 p.m.
Student Commons, Richmond Salons I-II
Alyssa Maldonado-Estrada, Ph.D., Kalamazoo College

Maldonado-Estrada’s talk will focus on how men come to be a part of a Catholic community through material culture—costumes, objects, tattoos—and explore how devotion is as much about bodily fluency as it is about belief.


David Kirkpatrick
David C. Kirkpatrick, Ph.D., James Madison University

Beyond Liberation Theology: Social Christianity in the Shadow of the Cold War

Tuesday, March 31
4-5:30 p.m.
Student Commons, Richmond Salons I-II
David C. Kirkpatrick, Ph.D., James Madison University

Drawing on bilingual interviews, archives and personal papers from three continents, Kirkpatrick adopts a transnational perspective to tell the story of how a Cold War generation of progressive Latin American Christians, including seminal figures such as Ecuadorian René Padilla and Peruvian Samuel Escobar, developed, named and exported their version of social Christianity to an evolving coalition of global evangelicals and Catholics.


Diana Walsh Pasulka
Diana Walsh Pasulka, Ph.D., University of North Carolina Wilmington

Catholic UFOs: Trend or a New Religiosity?

Tuesday, April 14
4-5:30 p.m.
Student Commons, Richmond Salons I-II
Diana Walsh Pasulka, Ph.D., University of North Carolina Wilmington

A study of UFOs and extraterrestrials by Pasulka, who has traveled from Silicon Valley to the Vatican Secret Archive and Space Observatory exploring the intersections of technology and religion. Her recent book, “American Cosmic: UFOs, Religion, Technology” by Oxford University Press, has received critical acclaim.

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