At the start of the 2021-2022 academic year, Sacred Heart Major Seminary will welcome Dr. Oana Gotia, professor of Moral Theology and Catholic Social Teaching to our esteemed faculty. Dr. Gotia has studied and taught moral theology across the globe, most recently at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family. Learn more about Dr. Gotia, and please join us in prayers of thanksgiving for the excellence she will bring to Sacred Heart.
What drew you to a career in moral theology?
I began studying theology 25 years ago, when I was studying English Letters in university in Romania. At that time, my goal was to become an English teacher like my mother. I pursued the simultaneous theology degree simply to better understand my faith. I never imagined I would be a professor of theology rather than English. In time, God changed my plans…
Moral theology was a discovery I made most especially at the John Paul II Institute in Rome - where I learned that it had nothing to do with moralism (i.e. a blind obedience to obligations out of fear), but rather with first encountering the Lord and with wanting to respond to His love which renews our actions. And thus, moral theology helps us to understand more deeply also our freedom as being relational, rooted in love and its truth, as Veritatis splendor states.
I also love the fact that moral theology is by nature interdisciplinary, since there are so many fields — anthropology, sciences, the arts, etc. — which, when they are not ideologized, can support our faith.
Tell us a bit about your early life, education, and career background?
My parents were both professors. I have one sister and three brothers, one of whom is a priest who paints icons and churches. Growing up in communist Romania made me deeply grateful to have been raised in a Catholic family that kept the faith alive, even when Catholics were persecuted. Our Byzantine-Catholic bishops were imprisoned and died as martyrs there; seven of them are now beatified.
After the fall of communism in 1989, once I finished high-school, I began studying English Letters and theology in my hometown, Cluj-Napoca, earning my degree in those subjects in 1996. Wanting to study both subjects further, I enrolled in the four-year program at the International Theological Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family in Gaming, Austria, which was then led by Prof. Michael Waldstein. It was a very enriching international experience, both academically and spiritually.
What are your proudest accomplishments from your time at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family?
I found the application of theology to the realm of the family to be truly beautiful, lifegiving, and extremely necessary for our culture. So, in 2002, I went to Rome to earn my STL at the John Paul II Pontifical Institute, which was then being led by Msgr. Livio Melina. I was asked to stay for the doctorate program, which I did, writing my thesis on the virtue of chastity in St. Thomas Aquinas. I learned a lot from the Angelic Doctor on both the beauty and the integral truth of human love, topics that I continued to explore and deepen in my later teaching years with other authors.
After finishing my doctorate, I wanted to return to Romania to teach, but was unexpectedly asked to remain in Rome and teach at the JPII Institute. In fact, for 10 years — from 2009 to 2019 — I was blessed to teach courses in moral theology mainly at the JPII Institute in Rome, but also in its other sections around the world, including the United States, India, Australia, Mexico, and Spain, a precious experience that I will cherish always. I was very grateful to have had wonderful colleagues and the community of students and professors was very much like a family.
Why did you decide to come work for Sacred Heart Major Seminary?
I was very impressed by the quality of teaching and the eagerness of the students to learn deeply and clearly about the richness of our faith. Another aspect that I truly admire is the desire of the Sacred Heart formators to evangelize and, facing all the challenges of our days, to pass this knowledge and experience of God on to all who seek Him.
What classes will you be teaching at the seminary? What do you hope students take away from your courses?
I will be teaching courses in fundamental and applied moral theology, social teaching and perhaps bioethics. I hope that the students will come to see how and why the Church cannot stop treasuring and proclaiming the life-giving divine plan on human love, and therefore the great dignity of our bodies, expressed in each specific state of life called to bear fruit.
Do you have a devotion to any saints or any favorite prayers?
Yes, I cherish especially the devotions to Our Lady and St. Joseph, who have been very good to me in so many ways. I love many saints, but especially St. Philip Neri, Francis de Sales and Mother Teresa.