Donald Lee Wallenfang, OCDS, PhD, joined the Sacred Heart Major Seminary (SHMS) family in time for the Fall 2019 semester, as the newest professor of Theology and Philosophy. In addition, he also assumed the role of lay formator, working closely with the Institute for Lay Ministry in teaching lay students at SHMS as well as the seminarians in his classes.
Dr. Wallenfang’s road to an academic career was not as direct as others in his field. In his young adult days, he focused on athletics, playing quarterback in high school before switching to receiver during his years at Albion College. In addi-tion to being an athlete, Dr. Wallenfang began college as a pre-med student and eventually completed his undergraduate degree as a trumpet performance major. He served in parish pastoral ministry as a full-time youth minister for nine years before transitioning into academia.
“This path in life greatly shaped my re-search techniques as well as how I view theology and philosophy,” Dr. Wallen-fang said. “I believe that my experience of the world provides a good background that will help me in forming seminarians as well as serving as lay formator.”
Dr. Wallenfang and his wife Megan are both fully professed members of the Sec-ular Order of Discalced Carmelites. “Dis-calced” derives from a partial translation of a Latin word that means “shoeless.” This order focuses on contemplative prayer, living a sacrificial way of life, pro-fessing to live according to the evangeli-cal counsels (poverty, chastity, and obedi-ence), and studying the teachings of St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross.
His Carmelite name is Emmanuel Mary of the Cross, inspired by the life and work of Jewish philosopher, Emmanuel Levinas, the Blessed Mother, and Sts. John of the Cross and Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.
Dr. Wallenfang acknowledges that being a member of this order is a big part of his life and lends greatly to his outlook on philosophy and theology. It also influ-ences how he and his wife raise their six children: Ellen Agnes, Aubin Augustine, Tobias Xavier, Callum Ignatius, Simeon Irenaeus, and Oliver Isidore.
Influenced by the Carmelite tradition of contemplative prayer and solitude, his family gravitates towards cloistered spaces. They view their home on Harsens Island as a domestic monastery where they can focus on raising their family surrounded by the natural elements.
A native of Kalamazoo, Michigan, Dr. Wallenfang earned his doctoral degree in Constructive Theology from Loyola University Chicago. Before he came to the Archdiocese of Detroit and SHMS, he taught Theology at Walsh University in Canton, Ohio—a position he held for eight years.
“I was drawn to Sacred Heart because of the great emphasis on teaching the New Evangelization,” said Dr. Wallenfang. “I was also drawn to Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron’s Unleash the Gospel movement.”
Dr. Wallenfang had been content in his position at Walsh University (Ohio) with no thoughts of leaving when a former student showed him a video from the archdiocese that ignited a passion for the mission of the Church and what was happening in Detroit.
“I view my entrance into the Sacred Heart family as an opportunity to fully engage in an authentically Catholic philosophy and theology program,” he said. “It is the chance to practice my Carmelite spirituality through thinking about the connection between contemplation and evangelization.”
In addition to teaching, Dr. Wallenfang has many publications attributed to his name. He’s published four mono-graphs that study the relationship be-tween phenomenology, metaphysics, and the Gospel. He has an autobiography in the works, as well as a book on Carmelite spirituality titled Shoeless: Carmelite Spirituality in a Disquieted World set for release this year (2020).
He actively works with University of Notre Dame professor Dr. John Cavadini to co-edit the Global Perspectives on the New Evangelization, a book series with volumes one and two available, and more to come through 2022. When Wallenfang is not teaching or writing, he might be found traveling both nation-ally and internationally giving academic paper presentations.
Dr. Wallenfang also looks forward to his time at SHMS and hopes to grow more deeply in his faith and his everlasting conversion. No matter what activity, event, or publication, he is currently working on, he knows to always remain centered in his Catholic faith.
“The overall goal is union with God,” he said. “That’s where we’re all headed.”
Join Sacred Heart Major Seminary on Tuesday, March 12, 2020 as the Institute for Lay Ministry hosts author and international speaker Donald Wallenfang, OCDS, PhD. This is a great opportunity to meet Sacred Heart’s newest faculty member, and to enjoy an engaging presentation on “Gathering Up the Fragments: Pastoral Ministry in a Postmodern World.” Visit shms.edu/ministry for more information and to register for the free event.