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Society of Catholic Scientists creates new chapter in Delaware; ‘Gold Mass’ set for Nov. 15 at St. Thomas More Oratory in Newark

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St. Thomas More Oratory in Newark.

NEWARK — The Society of Catholic Scientists, whose president is a professor emeritus at the University of Delaware, is expanding by creating college chapters, including one in Newark, he said recently. The society will also hold a Gold Mass at the St. Thomas More Oratory on Nov. 15.

Stephen Barr, who teaches and does research in physics and astronomy at UD, said he has been working on creating the chapter at the university with Oblate Father Tim McIntyre, the pastor at St. Thomas More.

“It will be not just the University of Delaware, but other colleges in Delaware,” Barr said, adding that there are about two dozen college chapters across the country.

“There are a number of major surveys … that one of the main reasons people leave religion in general is that they believe there is a conflict between religion and science,” Barr said.

According to the SCS, the organization has identified challenges to the common perception that faith and science are incompatible. SCS was founded in 2016 with the mission to foster fellowship among Catholic scientists, provide mentors and role models for young Catholics going into the field; to give witness to the world of the harmony between science and faith; be a forum for discussion of science-faith questions; and be a resource for pastors, lay people, educators, journalists and the general public.

Membership has grown to approximately 1,600 scientists in 53 countries, according to SCS. Most are in North America. It is inspired by the words of Pope St. John Paul II: “Those members of the church who are either themselves active scientists, or in some special cases both scientists and theologians, could serve as a key resource. They can also provide a much-needed ministry to others struggling to integrate the worlds of science and religion in their own intellectual and spiritual lives.” This was taken from his 1988 letter to the director of the Vatican Observatory.

The Gold Mass was inspired by those for other professions that are also given color-coded names — blue for first responders, white for healthcare, red for legal. Barr said the SCS started the idea for the Mass a few years ago.

“They’ve been celebrated by bishops, and some have been on major campuses,” said Barr, brother of former U.S. Attorney General Robert Barr.

“It’s not just for members of our organization. We want any Catholic involved in science in any way, including high school teachers and grade school teachers, people doing research. It’s open to any Catholics who are involved in science.”

The idea is to worship together and form a community of people involved in science. A reception will follow the Gold Mass that Barr said would be an opportunity for spiritual and intellectual fellowship. High school teachers will have an opportunity to meet people doing research in various fields.

Hopefully, he said, when Catholics involved in science get to know each other, “good things are going to happen.”

Another event sponsored by the Society of Catholic Scientists is the St. Albert Initiative, which is scheduled for Nov. 13 in Washington, D.C. Originally scheduled to occur in June, the initiative will host a half-day event at the Catholic University of America for high school teachers, students and parents, as well as the public.

It will include a pair of opening talks, one on science and faith, the other on cosmology and extraterrestrial life. There will be two “lightning round” talks on a number of topics, and a chance to meet Catholic scientists one on one. Registration is open through Nov. 6, and the cost is $25. Registration is available at https://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/eventReg?oeidk=a07eiha8qat7977d987&oseq=&c=&ch=.