By J. Michael Parker
Oblate School of Theology (OST) formally installed Dr. Scott Woodward as its 19th President on October 23 in the Immaculate Conception Memorial Chapel. Dr. Woodward, who had been Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean since 2010, was chosen in January to succeed Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI, the School’s President since 2005.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, attendance in the chapel was limited to 40 people and the event was livestreamed on OST’s YouTube channel. Guests in the chapel included Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller, MSpS, Chancellor Sr. Jane Ann Slater, CDP, members of the school’s Board of Trustees, administrators, and faculty. Dr. Woodward’s wife, Dr. Cathy Woodward, DNP, clinical professor of pediatrics at UT Health San Antonio, and their son Matthew, who teaches at MacArthur High School were also present in the chapel while many other associates, students, friends, and relatives, including his parents, siblings and their families, followed the inauguration online.
Immediately preceding the installation ceremony, OST awarded Rev. Dr. J Alfred Smith an honorary doctorate in Pastoral Leadership. Rev. Ron Rolheiser introduced Dr. Smith and told of his many accomplishments, awards, and his lasting significance to OST as a founding member of the Sankofa Council of Elders. Dr. Smith received his doctorate and addressed the assembly through an internet video connection from his home in California. He was visible to the chapel and livestream audience through a monitor in the sanctuary of the chapel, “seated” alongside Rolheiser, Woodward, and Rev. Lou Studer, OMI.
Rev. Lou Studer, Chair of OST’s Board of Trustees, presided over the installation of Dr. Woodward. He handed Woodward a scroll which contained the school’s Statement of Purpose. Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI, then placed the Presidential Medal of Office over Dr. Woodward’s shoulders, symbolizing the transfer of responsibility.
In his installation address, moving seamlessly from English to Spanish, Dr. Woodward paid tribute to OST’s legacy and the work of his four most recent predecessors. Fr. Pat Guidon president from 1970 to 1995, expanded the school’s ministry from a theology school for Oblates to include diocesan seminarians, other religious communities — including communities of women, as well as lay women and men who wanted to study here. Guidon also encouraged OST to begin an outreach to the local church, which led to the Lay Ministry Institute and the Instituto de Formación Pastoral, a certificate program offered in English and Spanish
Fr. Bill Morell moved the School into new approaches to higher education and built a new library as President from 1995-2004; Fr. Warren Brown worked to share the Oblate charism and mission with everyone at the School from 2004-2005; and Fr. Ron Rolheiser “put us on the academic map” with a PhD program that has helped OST prove its academic excellence across the board.
Like his predecessors, Woodward said, OST now must maintain and strengthen what has brought it to today, reading the signs of the times and the issues now in a Church and society polarized and suffering through a pandemic such as has not been seen in more than 100 years.
He noted that “OST has a great reputation as a center of preparation for ministry in and for the Hispanic community. It is known as THE place to study spirituality. It has expertise in the ecumenical world and in cross-cultural theological education. It stands as a microcosm of the entire Church.”
Citing Pope Francis’ new encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, Dr. Woodward noted that the Gospel parable of the Good Samaritan calls us to “identify with the good,” but we often find many ways to exclude ourselves from this point, “frequently by making the victim other than what the parable gives us.” Theological education is important, he continued, because it moves us back to the point. “This parable is at the heart of our tradition. It’s about caring for one another—especially the ‘other,’ and especially when one is down. Welcoming the other, coming together, celebrating the other, is at the core of who we are as Christians. Finding ways of doing that during a time of pandemic and injustice calls for creative approaches; this is part of being missionary, and it’s a part of being Oblate—and OST does it well,” he said. “The Church will make its voice heard by caring for the poor and the abandoned. The Oblate charism calls us to be present to those whom the Church touches least,” he pointed out.
Native of Baton Rouge, LA., Dr. Woodward earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Religious Studies in 1980 and a Master of Arts in Religious Education in 1984, both at Seattle University. Moving to San Antonio, he studied at St. Mary’s University and was named a Distinguished Graduate with a Master of Arts in Biblical Theology in 1998. He earned his Doctor of Ministry degree in 2004 from Oblate School of Theology.
In 1990, Woodward became OST’s Associate Director of Lay Ministry, a post he occupied for three years. In 1993 he began teaching as an Assistant Professor of Pastoral Theology and also served as Associate Academic Dean. In 2005 he turned to teaching full time in the areas of Church History and Ecumenism. He continued his teaching when he became Dean in 2010. He has extensive experience in ecumenical and interreligious dialogue and has taught pastoral theology, including ecumenism, lay formation for ministry, the Second Vatican Council and its reception, and Church history.