This post is part of a series of interviews with our incoming class for the “Virtue & Happiness” 2016 Summer Seminar. Father Jason Welle, OFM of the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in Washington, D.C. is a doctoral student at Georgetown University in Theology and Religious Studies, with a focus on Christianity and Islam.
Valerie Wallace: Where are you from?
Jason Welle: I grew up in Albany, Minnesota, a small farming town in the central part of the state. After completing a B.A. at St. Olaf College and an M.T.S. at the University of Notre Dame, I joined the Assumption BVM Province of Franciscan Friars, centered in Wisconsin. I currently live in Washington, D.C., where I’m completing a doctorate at Georgetown University. In the fall I will begin a visiting professorship at the Pontifical Institute for the Study of Arabic and Islam in Rome.
VW: Tell me about your research.
JW: Georgetown’s doctoral program focuses on religious pluralism; my subject areas are Christianity and Islam. I’m interested in Muslim-Christian relations broadly-speaking, especially in the middle ages and in connection with the Franciscan tradition. My dissertation focuses on medieval Ṣūfism, specifically on the concept of companionship in the writings of the Ṣūfī master ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Sulamī (d. 412/1021). In short, I chose this because I am interested in how people become better people. Medieval Ṣūfīs had an acute sense for the way our friendships shape our relationship with God and our growth in the spiritual life. My dissertation engages the theoretical work of Alasdair MacIntyre, arguing that he offers helpful resources to reconsider notions of virtue, character, and the role of a community’s practices within an Islamic context.
VW: What are you most looking forward to about this summer’s Virtue and Happiness seminar?
JW: I’m thrilled by the diversity of the participants. While we all have an interest in virtue and character, I know that the different approaches to those themes will spark questions about my work that I had not anticipated. Specifically, the seminar will help me advance one research project on which I’ve done some initial work: the role of emotions in the thought of Bernard Lonergan. I intend to bring Lonergan’s framework into conversation with Martha Nussbaum’s research on “negative emotions” like shame and anger, looking at the way these can impede proper cognition. The section of the seminar with Owen Flanagan on destructive emotions will assist me in developing my thoughts on this for publication.
VW: What are your non-academic interests?
JW: I remain gratefully active in sacramental ministry, celebrating masses and hearing confessions at our shrine church in Washington. I am a pilgrim guide in the Holy Land and travel there once or twice a year to lead groups. My brother Scott turned me into a marathoner; I train year-round and we run a full marathon together, shoulder-to-shoulder, at least once a year. Outside of Christmas and Holy Week, this is one of my greatest joys.