2015 International Conference in Commemoration of the Fifth Centenary of the Birth of St. Teresa of Avila: “In Union with God: St. Teresa of Avila and the Contemporary World”
- 18 - 19 Dec 2015
St. Teresa of Avila International Conference
Organized by the Centre for Sino-Christian Studies (CSCS) on 18-19 Dec 2015
Writer (English version): Department of Religion and Philosophy
Translator: MENG Yuzhi, Gigi (Translation Programme)
In order to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the birth of the medieval Spanish nun St. Teresa of Avila, who was a Christian reformer of the Carmelite monastic tradition and promoter of personal spiritual formation, the Centre for Sino-Christian Studies (CSCS) organized an ecumenical-intellectual conference devoted to the study and critical assessment of her life and works. While there were nearly fifty persons involved as participants, there were also seven invited scholars from five cultural venues (Spain, Italy, Canada, USA, and Hong Kong) who offered impressive lectures followed by extensive periods for questions from those participating in the conference. Through translations across linguistic divides involving Spanish, Cantonese, English and Putonghua, the conference provided a rare opportunity to explore the cross-cultural scholarship on Teresa’s life and major works, and to consider their significance in relating the main theme “In Union with God” to the contemporary Christian settings found in Hong Kong and elsewhere in China. Prof. Emilio Gonzalez, a specialist in Teresan studies from the major research institute devoted to this research in Rome, claimed it was the most substantial intellectual-spiritual conference he had experienced internationally throughout the whole of the year 2015.
What made the conference quite remarkable included a number of unusual features created by the institutional cooperation and community support making the conference feasible. At the opening ceremony, the current Cardinal and Bishop of Hong Kong, the Rev. John Tong Hon, gave a stirring address in the presence of the President and Vice Chancellor of HKBU, Prof. Roland Chin and all the participants. Informed welcomed addresses were also made by the Associate Dean of Arts, Prof. Lo Ping-cheung, and the Head of the Religion and Philosophy Department, Prof. Kwan Kai-man.
Enlivening the venue were a beautiful statue of St. Teresa of Avila offered by one of the local Carmelite Orders, a large Chinese Bible donated for this purpose by the University Baptist Church, as well as a wide range of books published in Chinese related to Teresan studies that were made available for purchase at greatly discounted prices. Cooperation with Fu Jen University made it possible for HKBU to arrange for the lectures by international guests from the University of Toronto, the noted Chinese Roman Catholic philosopher, Prof. Vincent Shen Qingsong, and the worldrenowned scholar of Christian mysticism from the University of Chicago, Prof. Bernard McGinn. In addition to presentations by three members of the CSCS who gave stirring presentations from different philosophical, theological, and cultural perspectives, there was also a notable junior scholar from the China Graduate School of Theology, Dr. Annie Ng Pan Yi Jung, who provided insights of St. Teresa’s life from the perspective of contemporary Protestant studies in feminist theology. This cornucopia of intellectual and spiritual offerings culminated each evening in periods of ecumenical meditation and prayer, with the second night being led by two female representatives of Roman Catholic and Protestant traditions. Needless to say, this was an unforgettable experience that CSCS will continue to promote as a dimension of whole person education at HKBU, and as a contribution to the deepening of Christian spiritual formation disciplines within Hong Kong and elsewhere in China.