Category: Georgetown Magazine, Spring 2023

Title:The Last Word

Author: Jane Varner Malhotra
Date Published: April 17, 2023
a priest stands in front of a chalkboard
Photo by: Phil Humnicky/Georgetown Univ.

Otto Hentz, S.J., theology professor since 1973, on his calling to serve students

On academic life

One thing I love about teaching is getting to know people. Currently I teach a course for seniors. It’s a wonderful group. When seniors sign up for Catholic theology, they want to be there.

Theology addresses utterly fundamental matters, touches the meaning of everything.

Today students are much busier. They’re under more pressure to succeed and do well and prepare for jobs. Their life is much faster. It’s not just this place—it’s cultural.

On pandemic teaching

The last few years have been tough because of the pandemic. So much of college life is about people. In many ways that’s the most formative part of the experience— the fish you’re swimming with. This crowd lost about a year of that. Many seniors were in the area so we’d get Wisey’s sandwiches and have the quadrangle to ourselves.

In virtual classes I liked having their faces very clear on the computer screen, but my students told me it’s tough being on camera under everyone’s eyes all the time. Sometimes the technology was bonding: I’d run into trouble and the students are geniuses so they’d help me.

On campus faith life

I first came to Georgetown in the 1960s as a seminarian. Back then every Catholic had to make a yearly weekend retreat, take four courses in theology and six in philosophy, no electives. It was basically watered-down seminary.

Today the university is Catholic in another way. One cannot be on campus very long without noticing the attention given to matters of social justice. And the number and variety of spiritual retreats is extensive. But participation, as it should be in such matters, is voluntary. You have to want to do it.

We have chaplains from many different faiths, and that pluralism is important to all we do.

On God, and retirement

A Catholic believes that God is a loving Creator who sustains and enables all created reality. To use a crude image, God is not another player in the cosmos but the one who creates and sustains and enables it, the means to grace with love.

Catholics believe that God decisively reveals the embrace of love and identifies with humankind in the person of Jesus Christ. So Catholic faith is, if you will, an earthy faith.

As for retiring, some Jesuits do but it depends. We tend to be pretty active, maybe slowing down because of the limitations of aging.

More News

a woman comes out of a set of glass doors

Part of an ever-growing experiential learning ecosystem, the Capitol Applied Learning Labs offers undergraduate students of all majors the opportunity to live and work in downtown DC for a semester.

students posing by glacier

Students in the Science, Technology, and International Affairs program gain practical skills for careers in a wide range of fields, including environmental science, technology policy, and global health.

Clockwise from top: Amy Kenny, the inaugural associate director of the university’s Disability Cultural Initiative and author of My Body Is Not a Prayer Request; Tiffany Yu (B’10), founder of the student group Diversability, now a nationwide community network; and Dominic DeRamo (C’23), student advocate and member of the Georgetown Disability Alliance.

The Disability Cultural Initiative is the most recent among an expanding number of academic and student programs designed to promote disability access, awareness, and empowerment.