Supple honored for support

Tracy Deutmeyer

Exactly 50 years after he established St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, an endowed chair has been selected in his name.

The first holder of the Monsignor James Supple Chair of Catholic Studies at Iowa State is Jaime Vidal, a director of the Hispanic Ministry Program at the School of Theology of the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio.

“The fact that he was hired at the Pontifical College Josephinum means that he is very qualified for the chair position,” Supple said.

Vidal said he was both humbled and excited when he was chosen as the endowed chair.

“One never feels that good for something like this,” Vidal said.

The Supple Chair was established with a $1 million endowment created through donations from Catholic students, alumni and the Supple Endowment Fund, said Karen Piconi, St. Thomas Aquinas development director.

Vidal will serve as a full-time faculty member beginning in August, said Mary Sawyer, an associate professor of religious studies.

He will teach courses in Catholic studies and courses on the Latino religious experience and will also give public lectures on issues related to Catholic studies, according to a release.

“As a lay theologian, I speak from the Church, not for the Church,” Vidal said.

Monsignor James Supple founded the St. Thomas Aquinas parish in 1947.

The campaign for the visiting scholar program began in 1994. The Supple Endowment Fund, which was created in 1980, contributed $100,000 for the scholar program, Piconi said.

“There are not many programs like this around,” Piconi said.

Supple said, “We’ve wanted this for a long time.”

Supple said the University of Iowa has a permanent chair for Catholic studies, but that program is supported by the Diocese of Davenport.

“We’ve collected a million dollars ourselves,” Supple said.

Supple said Vidal will not only serve as an academic chair, but also a spiritual chair.

Vidal said this is the first time he will teach at a state university.

“I’ve been in the Catholic school system since the fourth grade,” he said.

Vidal also said he has never taught at a university as large as ISU.

Vidal has been an associate professor at the Pontifical College Josephinum since 1994. He was also assistant director of the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism at the University of Norte Dame in Indiana; an assistant professor of religious studies at Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J., and a professor in the Hispanic Diaconal Training Program, Archdiocese of New York.