WASHINGTON (December 6, 2005)—Rev. James Massa, Ph.D., a priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn and professor at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington, NY, has been named Executive Director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
Father Massa succeeds Father Arthur L. Kennedy, a priest of the Archdiocese of Boston, who will return to teaching at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota.
USCCB General Secretary Msgr. William P. Fay announced the appointment, effective January, 2006.
"Father Massa is a gifted scholar and a fine priest with significant ecumenical and pastoral experience," Msgr. Fay said. "We are fortunate that he will direct an office whose mission is so vitally important to the life of the Church."
"I thank Father Arthur Kennedy for the extraordinary leadership he has given the Secretariat for these past three and one half years," Msgr. Fay said.
Father Massa completed undergraduate work at Boston College, where he earned a B.A. in Theology and History and at the University of Durham in England. He earned a Master of Divinity degree at Yale University Divinity School in New Haven.
After serving as a parish priest in Forest Hills, NY, and a campus minister at the City University of New York, Father Massa pursued doctoral studies at Fordham University, where he wrote on communion ecclesiology under Cardinal Avery Dulles. His doctoral dissertation was on "The Communion Theme in the Writings of Joseph Ratzinger."
Father Massa has published articles and book reviews on topics related to Christology, church and culture, and ecumenism. He is a member of the Society of Catholic Liturgy and the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars.
Over the past twelve years Father Massa has held teaching positions at Newman University in Wichita, Kansas and Blessed John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts. During that time he coordinated various programs for undergraduates and seminarians with the Jewish, Islamic, and Hindu communities. In addition to parochial duties in the Diocese of Brooklyn, he maintains formational responsibilities for men preparing for priestly service in the dioceses of Brooklyn and Rockville Centre, and the Vincentian Order. He is currently preparing a book-length manuscript on the ecclesiology of Pope Benedict XVI.
Father Massa's recent articles have included "The Lord's Day in the Theology of John Paul II" in Antiphon (January 2005), "Dean of Theology: Avery Dulles at Eighty" Crisis (September 1998), and "Joseph Ratzinger: Theologian to the Church" in Crisis (March 1996). His review of The Church in a Postliberal Age by Yale Divinity School Professor George Lindbeck appeared in the summer 2004 issue of the Thomist.
Father Massa has served at Good Shepherd Church, Marine Park, NY, St. Helen's Church, Westfield, NJ, Saint Mary's Cathedral, Wichita, KS, and Saint Joseph's Church, Long Island City, NY. He serves as the Bishop's Liaison to Seminarians of the Diocese of Brooklyn, Convenor of the diocesan Committee for Advanced Studies for Priests, and as Director of the Summer Philosophy Institute, Immaculate Conception Seminary. He is on the Board of the Curran Center for American Catholic Studies at Fordham University, and is a participant in the Fordham three year seminar, "Passing on the Faith, Passing on the Church."
Father Massa served as Theological Advisor to the U.S. Bishops' Committee on the Laity from 2003 to 2004.
The history of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs dates to 1964 when U.S. bishops meeting at the Second Vatican Council established a Commission, as it was then called, for Ecumenical Affairs. The Commission opened a staff office (the present secretariat) at the headquarters of the bishops' Conference, in Washington, D.C., on January 7, 1965.
Today the official dialogues in which the BCEIA Secretariat is engaged include the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation, the Joint Committee of Orthodox and Catholic Bishops, the Oriental Orthodox-Roman Catholic Consultation, the Polish National Catholic-Roman Catholic Dialogue, the Anglican-Roman Catholic Consultation USA, the Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue, the Roman Catholic-Reformed Consultation, the United Methodist-Catholic Dialogue, Faith and Order Commission, National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, and the Consultation with the National Council of Synagogues.
Other relationships include those with the African American Churches, the Pentecostal, Holiness and Evangelical Churches, the Mennonite, Brethren Churches and the Society of Friends, and the Christian Church/Disciples of Christ. The Secretariat also staffs the USCCB's participation in "Christian Churches Together in the USA," a new national ecumenical forum that is still in the process of formation.
Ongoing interreligious dialogues of the secretariat include the Midwest Dialogue of Catholics and Muslims, the Mid-Atlantic Islamic-Catholic Dialogue, the West Coast Dialogue of Muslims and Catholics, and the Northern California Chan/Zen-Catholic Dialogue.
The dialogues and relationships have produced numerous reports and special studies over the past four decades.