An award-winning biography and a desire to learn more about Catholic Cardinal Joseph Bernardin has opened doors for one university professor.
Steven Millies, an associate professor of political science at the University of South Carolina Aiken, will be leaving at the end of this semester to take over as the director of the Catholic Theological Union’s Bernardin Center in Chicago.
His book, Joseph Bernardin: Seeking Common Ground, won first place in the biography category of the Catholic Press Association book awards for 2017, but his interest in the late archbishop has spanned many years.
“I remember watching him on the nightly news,” said Millies, a native of Chicago and a Catholic.
Bernardin was born in Columbia, S.C. He was the son of Italian immigrants, and he grew up in the South, where Catholics are typically in the minority.
Bernardin served as the archbishop of Chicago from 1982 until his death in 1996. Prior to that, he was the archbishop of Cincinnati. He was known for voicing his opinions and refusing to back down. He repeatedly denounced nuclear weapons, abortion and capital punishment. He spoke out against racism and called it a sin.
His opinions influenced many and found their way into the political arena.
Millies was intrigued by Bernardin for many reasons.
“I can’t think of anyone else who was so influential in Catholic life in America,” he said.
Millies said he was not only interested in Bernardin because of their shared Catholicism, but because of Bernardin’s influence in political matters. Millies’ concentration is in political theory, which studies why things are the way they are, rather than how. Questions of ethics also play a role in this subject.
Millies’ interest was further piqued through a set of Bernardin lectures at the University of South Carolina’s Department of Religious Studies.
Millies started writing his book in 2014, and it was released in 2016.
He said he’s looking forward to returning to Chicago and the possibilities his new post offers.
“I’m singularly stunned,” he said.
He said he’s enjoyed his years at USC Aiken and the opportunities he had while there.
Millies is in the middle of writing a second book, about the Catholic vote in the 2016 presidential election. He expects it to be released by mid-2018.