Father Chiola, with Sister Sharon Zayac, OP, releases book on science and Christ

      Managing Editor

Father Richard Chiola, a priest of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois and pastor emeritus of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish in Springfield, made good use of his time during the years that were touched by the COVID-19 pandemic. That when he wrote and went on to publish a book called Science and Christ: a Dialogue. Springfield Dominican Sister Sharon Zayac, OP,  collaborated on the work with him.  The book is dedicated in memory of Sister Ann Regina Baker, OP (1920-2021) who suggested the two work together on this project.  

The 226-page book shows how the traditional teachings about Jesus Christ relate to the Big Bang, the evolution of humans, environmental concerns, and the future of the universe. The authors are well-versed in these subjects. Father Chiola, a long-time priest, studied and taught theology for over 50 years. Sister Sharon has studied and taught cosmology — the science of the origin of the development of the universe — for 30 years.

In his forward to the printed work, Father Donald Goergen, OP,  said, “This is not just another book about Jesus, nor another about a new story of the universe, but a well thought out, highly integrated, well researched, much needed Christian cosmological vision. The authors have built important bridges which have significant consequences for our future and the future of the Earth.”

Science and Christ: a Dialogue begins by comparing the perspectives of cosmologists and theologians on the Big Bang and closes by showing that cosmic evolution finds its fulfillment in Christ, said Father Chiola, who has a doctorate in historical theology and a master’s in developmental counseling.

“Cosmology over the last 50 years has developed from a science based in physics and astronomy into a philosophy of the natural world,” said Father Chiola. He added that the book can help those who know a little about cosmology to expand their understanding of how cosmology and our religious faith can work together.

He makes the point that neither cosmology nor technology are as absolute as they appear to be. “Both must deal with the fact that the cosmos is evolving and, therefore, what we think we know about creation and the creator continues to develop. Science and theology answer different questions. Science asks what something is and how it functions. Theology asks why something is; its relationship to the whole to which it belongs.”

Sister Sharon said, “It is our creation stories that provide the context for understanding who we are, how we relate to the whole, how we come to understand the Divine, particularly as we delve into the meaning of our faith in Jesus the Christ. The cosmology being revealed to us through science tells us new stories about creation based in empirical data. This data must become the context for the whole of our theology. The new cosmology can help unwrap for us the meaning of Jesus the Christ in our present day.”

The president of Catholic Theological Union, Chicago, Sister Barbara Reid, OP, had words of praise for the work. She said, “For some time theologians have been asserting that in light of our new understandings of cosmology, there is a need to reformulate all our most important theological assertions:  how we understand God, the Christ, the Spirit, creation, incarnation, sin, death resurrection — truly a daunting task!

“Only when scientists and theologians work together can we arrive at a closer approximation to religious and scientific truth,” Sister Barbara said. “Richard Chiola and Sharon Zayac model such collaboration and provide a splendid, easily understandable contribution.  A must read!”

Science and Christ: A Dialogue is available on Amazon in Kindle, paperback, and hardcover; or paperback copies are available at $18 each by emailing Father Chiola at rchiola@dio.org.