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The Catholic Historical Review 88.4 (2002) 812-814

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A Campus Ministry. Monsignor Edward J. Duncan and the Newman Foundation at the University of Illinois in the Twentieth Century. By Patrick J. Daly, Jr. (Champaign: University of Illinois Services. 2001. Pp. xii, 328; 81 photographs. $29.95.)

How does the Catholic historian assess the effectiveness of a university campus ministry? By the opportunities it affords students to sustain, broaden, and deepen their faith at a critical time in their maturing lives? By the number of new converts it receives into the Church? By the number of men and women who through campus ministry opt for the priesthood and the religious life? By the sensitivity the chaplaincy displays to Hispanic, Asian, and African-American Catholic students and faculty? By the level of spiritual counseling and direction the chaplaincy provides? By the prudent financial management of properties and material assets of the chaplaincy? By the simple and edifying life of the chaplaincy staff, especially that of the head chaplain?

The subtitle of this book reveals its contents: it is both a biography of Father Edward J. Duncan (1915-) and a broad sketch of the Newman Foundation at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Because Father Duncan was chaplain at Illinois for fifty-five years, 1943-1998, what one priest has called "a [End Page 812] record for almost any (pastoral) assignment in the United States," the story of the Foundation is inextricably tied up with Father Duncan.

He descended from a prominent business family in La Salle, Illinois, received his formative education with the Benedictines of St. Bede's Abbey in Peru, Illinois, then with the Jesuits at Holy Cross. The decision as to a career, whether in business or law, was resolved at a Holy Thursday dinner in 1937 when another guest, Francis Spellman, then Auxiliary Bishop of Boston, "gave" Duncan his vocation to the priesthood. Theological studies, begun at the University of Innsbruck in Austria but curtailed by the Anschluss, were completed at the Catholic University of America. Bishop Joseph Schlarman of Peoria ordained Duncan to the priesthood in June, 1941. In May, 1943, he received a doctorate in theology, having written a thesis in patrology. The following August Bishop Schlarman appointed him chaplain of the Newman Foundation at Illinois.

He inherited a staggering debt, a religious education program in chaos, buildings in disrepair, few resources, and the care of 1600 Catholic students plus 400 military trainees (for the war effort). The author traces Duncan's efforts in resolving the debt, building the loyalty and solidarity of students during the war years, and his response to the hordes of returning students after the war. Student activism in the 1960's, the high hopes of many for a more liberal church following Vatican Council II, the anti-war movement of the 1970's, the drug scene, the entire changing campus culture that mirrored changes in the broader society—these caused Father Duncan no little discomfort. In clinging to a conservative traditionalist approach, he may have gratified some faculty and students; whether he responded to the intellectual and spiritual needs of most students and helped prepare them for the highly secular culture in which they would live is another question.

Patrick J. Daly is an assistant professor of English at Indiana University, Southeast. He has consulted a wide range of sources, including studies of the national Newman movement, histories of the University of Illinois by the distinguished scholar Winton U. Solberg, and Monsignor Duncan's own rich archives and extensive memories. Dr. Daly writes well, with vivid appreciation. He attests to Duncan's enormous energy; his shrewd financial acumen; his strict adherence to the Church's magisterium; his genuine concern for the faith of students entrusted to his care,as he understands the terms "faith" and "church." But Daly has produced a highly slanted panegyric, a one-sided encomium, not a judicious or balanced study of his subject; other interpretations of "church" or "faith" are dismissed.



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