Seminar in American Religion named to honor Cushwa’s founding director

Author: Cushwa Center

The Cushwa Center’s long-standing marquee event will soon bear the name of the scholar who established it. Beginning in spring 2024, the newly styled Jay P. Dolan Seminar in American Religion (SAR) will commemorate the legacy of the center’s founding director, who died in May.


Jay P. Dolan (right) at the Seminar in American Religion on March 18, 1995, with Roger Finke (left) and R. Stephen Warner.

Inaugurated by Dolan in 1980, the SAR convenes each spring and fall at the University of Notre Dame to discuss a notable book recently published in the field. Along with faculty and graduate students from Notre Dame, several dozen scholars from throughout the Midwest regularly travel to campus to attend as invited guests of the Cushwa Center.

The featured author joins the group, and the seminar includes two commentaries, one from a Notre Dame faculty member and the other from an outside scholar. The Saturday morning sessions are free and open to all.

Darren Dochuk and David Lantigua, the William W. and Anna Jean Cushwa Co-Directors of the Cushwa Center, decided to honor Dolan’s influence on the field by attaching his name to these cherished gatherings.

“Jay Dolan was truly a giant in our guild of religious history, a scholar whose unmatched work with the pen redefined the way we study, teach, and understand modern America,” Dochuk said. “As a graduate student at Notre Dame who aspired to write like Dolan, I looked forward to attending these seminars to see him apply his knowledge and skills in a forum he created.”

Within a few years of its launch, the SAR had become Cushwa’s most popular and well-known regular event.

Past titles have included numerous acclaimed books in the field, such as Robert Wuthnow’s The Restructuring of American Religion (1988), Nathan Hatch’s The Democratization of American Christianity (1989), John McGreevy’s Parish Boundaries (1997), Leslie Woodcock Tentler’s Catholics and Contraception (2005), Brad Gregory’s The Unintended Reformation (2012), Catherine Brekus’ Sarah Osborn’s World (2013), Mark Noll’s In the Beginning Was the Word (2016), and Kristin Kobes Du Mez’s Jesus and John Wayne (2021).

Joining the list of authors whose work has been chosen for a seminar is recognized as a distinct honor among scholars of American religion.

“SAR participants always felt Dolan’s presence and respected his voice, and I quickly came to see why the seminar flourished as a critical epicenter in our scholarly community,” Dochuk said. “Re-named in his honor, these meetings will continue to serve as an anchor for the guild and a site of rich and generative interdisciplinary exchange, all in the generous spirit that he instilled at the seminar’s founding.”

This announcement appears in the fall 2023 issue of the American Catholic Studies Newsletter.

Originally published by Cushwa Center at on October 07, 2023.