The Woodstock Theological Center will close June 30 after serving as a home for Jesuit-informed research and reflection at Georgetown since 1973.
Woodstock Center Director Fr. Gasper LoBiondo, S.J., said the decision was finalized in early January by the Jesuit Provincials of the Maryland, New York and New England Provinces, who own the ministry, which is independent from the university. The closure was not publicly announced, however, until Feb. 15.
LoBiondo said a lack of Jesuit staff and a dearth of options for leadership replacement was one of the main reasons for the center’s shuttering.
“This is a Jesuit center, and in order to keep it a strictly Jesuit center, there had to be some Jesuits here,” he said. “There just aren’t enough.”
The lack of manpower for Woodstock is partly due to the presence of Jesuit seminaries at Boston College and Santa Clara University. Because both centers are involved in training young Jesuits, they have priority in obtaining personnel.
Director of the Woodstock Theological Center Library Fr. J. Leon Hooper, S.J., confirmed the inability to find new leadership for the center as an additional cause for its closing.
“The youngest guy [at the center] is 68 now,” Hooper said. “We began to recognize that we needed some younger leadership for, if nothing else, the energy but also for dealing with more contemporary problems.”
While several of the center’s employees and fellows will be absorbed into university positions, placement for some has yet to be determined as the center is still in a transitional period.
Woodstock Fellow Fr. Thomas Michel, S.J., will go to the School of Foreign Service in Qatar, while Matthew Gladden, associate director for programs, administration and finance, has been hired by the psychology department.
Hooper also added that the center has been under financial pressure for some time. According to Hooper, the center’s staff was reduced last year to conserve funds, and closure had been considered for the past year and a half.
The university-funded Woodstock Center Library, which is located on the bottom level of Lauinger Library, will continue its operations as a leading source of Jesuit letters, reports and other written work. Although the Jesuits of New York and Maryland Provinces also own the collection, Georgetown has agreed to fund new acquisitions, allowing the library to remain open.
While current research — from business ethics to the church’s political involvement — funneled through the center will come to a close, past research will be preserved, and the mission of many fellows will continue without the center.
According to Rev. Raymond Kemp, a fellow at the Woodstock Center and a theology professor, the research conducted in the past has been in the process of digitalization over the last few years, and many of the center’s issues will continue to be addressed on campus.
“Those [research] items are going to be on my agenda forever,” he said. “I think they are items that are going to be on the agendas of a lot of people here at Georgetown.”
Kemp added, however, that the center’s closing signals the termination of what was once a vibrant institution.
“I do think it’s the end of an era, when we were flush with Jesuits and we had a lot of theologians that were ready to think through these issues,” he said. “I don’t think we’ll die. I think we’re going to morph — a different kind of phoenix will rise from the ashes.”