Judith K. Schaefer, OP, Ph.D.


As Catholic institutions of higher education attempt to engage in conversations around the role and limits of civil law and canon law in their operations and mission, and at a time when shared governance requires deeper conversation with faculty, Trustees, and sponsoring religious congregations, an understanding of the nature and structure of the Catholic Church itself can prove instructive. The twentieth century model known as communion – the church as koinonia/communion, a communion of communions – provides an informative resource for conversations about inclusion, partnership, Catholic identity, and mission in Catholic higher education in the twenty-first century. The medium of Catholic higher education can provide a critical forum for understanding multivalent expressions of communion ecclesiology and its implications, as well as the value and constraints of the var­ious interpretations that are currently operative.


Communion theology; American Catholic Higher Education; Lasallian pedagogy;


“Straining Toward Communion:” Implications of Communion Theology

About the Author

Sister Judith Schaefer, O.P., Ph.D.

Sister Judith Schaefer, O.P., is a tenured Associate Professor of Theology at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. As a teacher, she is primarily responsible for supervision and training of pastoral and youth ministry majors, as well as teaching first year students and seniors within the Lasallian Core Traditions Program. Prior to her tenure at Saint Mary’s, Sister Judy ministered in parishes across the country in the areas of catechesis and religious education. Sister has also served as a facilitator of group process for the Mission and Ministry Council of the Midwest District of the Christian Brothers, INSECT (International Network of Societies of Catholic Theology), Communicative Theology Symposium, and various local and regional organizations. Sister Judy completed her doctoral work at Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI, in Theology and Society, with an allied discipline of psychology. Her doctoral dissertation on the intersection of theology and psychology on the topic of religious obedience has been accepted as a book in a series with the German publisher, LitVerlag. She has a Masters of Divinity degree from Aquinas Institute in Saint Louis and a Masters in Pastoral Studies from Loyola University in Chicago. Sister Judy did her undergraduate work in elementary education and received a bachelors degree from Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago. Sister Judith is a professed member of the Sinsinawa Dominican Congregation, Sinsinawa, Wisconsin.

ISSN: 2151-2515
© Christian Brothers Conference 2023.