Priest: Coming to SA to Spread Happiness
Fr David Marcotte SJ will deliver this year’s Winter Living Theology lectures in South Africa, Botswana and Eswatini on the subject of happiness.
When Jesuit Father David Marcotte presents his talks at this year’s Winter Living Theology conference, his focus will be the subject of happiness.
The associate professor of psychology and director of clinical training at the Jesuit-run Fordham University in New York will travel to several centres in the conference region to deliver his series of lectures, “How to live a happy life. The spirituality and psychology of wellbeing”.
He will look at stress, burnout, depression, anxiety, compassion-fatigue, suicide and addiction, and offer participants practical skills to counter these and advance wellbeing.
Fr Marcotte believes that meditation and contemplative practices are an essential part of wellbeing and he has done empirical studies which he will share with participants.
The annual Winter Living Theology lecture series is jointly staged by the Jesuit Institute SA, the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference and Fordham University.
Fr Russell Pollitt SJ, director of the Jesuit Institute, spoke to Fr Marcotte.
Fr David, we are looking forward to welcoming you in South Africa. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m really looking forward to coming to South Africa!
I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, on the Pacific coast. I am one of four, I have two brothers and a sister.
After school I went to St John’s Seminary in Camarillo, California, for undergraduate studies in philosophy. I then attended the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, for theological studies.
I did my doctoral studies in clinical psychology at the New School For Social Research in New York City and later did post-doctoral work at Yale Medical School.
How did you get into the field of psychology?
I became interested in psychology during theology studies after working as a chaplain at San Francisco General Hospital in one of the HIV units. I thought that it would be really interesting to investigate this further.
Later, during and after my doctoral studies, I specialised in substance-abuse treatment for HIV-positive individuals.
You seem to have focused more recently on wellbeing. Is this your area of interest now?
Yes, that is true. More recently I have focused on the psychology of wellbeing and how contemplative practices support the development of character strengths and human flourishing.
I have done a number of studies with people who have struggled with substance abuse using contemplative methods and have discovered fascinating things. I hope to share some of these studies with the folk in South Africa during Winter Living Theology!
How long have you been working at Fordham University?
I have been at Fordham for 12 years, at the Rose Hill campus which is in the north Bronx area. It is a beautiful campus, established in 1941.
I teach courses like an introduction to psychology, psychology and human values, and personality assessment. I also do a number of what we call seminars on clinical theory and supervision. I am also the director of clinical training at Fordham.
Why did you become a Jesuit?
Interesting question! It is quite simple really: I had Jesuit spiritual directors and read several Jesuit documents that inspired and attracted me to Ignatian spirituality and to the Jesuit educational mission.
I spoke to Jesuits, liked the men I met—and the rest is history!
What will you be covering in Winter Living Theology, and what are you hoping to achieve?
I hope to present emerging research on the psychology of wellbeing and contemplative practices.
I will be looking at how these practices can helps us navigate our way through stress, burnout, depression, addiction—all those things so prevalent in our social sphere today.
I also hope to provide training in skills developed in recent research that can increase wellbeing.
Have you been to South Africa before?
No, this is my first trip and I am very much looking forward to visiting your country and meeting the people of South Africa.
Most importantly, I look forward to sharing what I can with South Africa and hope that, in a small way, this will help to increase human flourishing so that people can reach their full potential.
Details of Winter Living Theology 2019
Fr Marcotte will give an evening lecture at Christ the King church in Queenswood, Pretoria, on June 3. From June 4-6 he will speak at the Lumko Institute in Benoni.
He will then visit Cape Town (June 11-13 at St Francis Xavier Seminary), Durban (June 18-20, St Joseph’s in Morningside), and Port Elizabeth (June 15-27, St Luke’s Retreat and Conference Centre).
He will give a one-day lecture in Manzini, Eswatini, on June 22 and, for the first time this year, Winter Living Theology will also be presented in Gaborone, Botswana, for a one-day workshop on July 3.
For more information or bookings go to www.jesuitinstitute.org.za/index.php/wlt2019/ or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org