Department of Religious Studies

Smith Hall
Chair: Caroline E. Johnson Hodge
Academic Administrative Coordinator: Katherine Barrett

Virginia Ryan, visiting lecturer in religious studies, interacts with students in Rehm Library. 

Distinguished Faculty

The distinguished faculty of the religious studies department is comprised of researchers, writers, and editors, whose teaching and research interests span the world’s religions: Buddhism, Catholicism, Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, and Native American religion. They follow a variety of methodologies appropriate to the study of religion, which include historical, sociological, cross-cultural, and theological. These faculty members offer students excellent academic instruction along with mentoring, throughout their time at the College and beyond.

Faculty Experts

Faculty members in the department are frequently quoted in the media and have had their op-eds published in national media outlets. Caner Dagli has appeared on CNN to discuss "The Study Quran," a translation and commentary of the Quran that he co-edited; reporters far and wide turned to Todd Lewis to make sense of the April 2015 Nepal earthquake; and Joanne Pierce and Mathew Schmalz are regular contributors to The Conversation

Deepening Our Understanding of Religion

The religious studies department approaches the discipline of religious studies from multiple perspectives. Majors learn the language and etiquette of inter-religious dialogue, while also understanding the place of religion in a culturally and politically complex world.

A Magical Course on ‘Harry Potter’

Rev. William Reiser, S.J., professor of religious studies, teaches a popular theology seminar titled Defense of the Dark Arts, which explores the intersection of J.K. Rowling’s series and the Gospels. The course was included in a Huffington Post article titled “The Magical ‘Harry Potter’ College Courses For True Ravenclaws At Heart,” and Fr. Reiser wrote about the course for America Magazine

Advanced Studies

The department offers a wide range of learning opportunities to meet the interests of those who want to explore their own faith and for those who wish to broaden their knowledge of and perspective on the religious experience of people around the globe. Majors are invited to pursue a particular area of their own interest in-depth, which can range from a particular religion to a specific dimension of religion, e.g., ethics or spirituality. Students have the opportunity to take intensive seminars or tutorials in their area of concentration.

Multiple Avenues to Explore Religion, Ethics and Culture

The Rev. Michael C. McFarland, S.J. Center for Religion, Ethics and Culture housed at Holy Cross supports the College’s mission by providing a forum for intellectual exchange that is interreligious as well as interdisciplinary, intercultural, and international in scope. The McFarland Center hosts a wide range of conferences, lectures, discussions, and other programs throughout the academic year. Most events are free and open to the public to attend, and many are recorded and available as video or audio online.

The McFarland Center also houses Catholics & Cultures, a scholarly initiative to chronicle the religious lives and practices of contemporary Catholics in diverse countries and cultural contexts around the world. The project includes a robust and growing encyclopedic website, international conferences on lived Catholicism, and the scholarly, peer-reviewed Journal of Global Catholicism.