Catholic Studies

Catholic studies at VCU explores the world’s oldest and largest expression of Christianity from a perspective that is global, interdisciplinary, and comparative. Study of such a globalized faith as Roman Catholicism is undertaken in a transnational framework within the VCU School of World Studies.

Many students complement their study of Catholicism with foreign language courses, particularly Spanish, Portuguese, French and Italian, which are spoken by millions of Catholics.


Taught by the Bishop Walter F. Sullivan Chair in Catholic Studies, R. Andrew Chesnut, Ph.D., classes adopt a humanistic, comparative approach to understanding Catholicism. Coursework includes discussions of Catholicism as it relates to social justice, Latin America, history and more. Check out the VCU Bulletin for more information about classes in Catholic Studies.

Lecture Series

In addition to classes, the annual Bishop Walter F. Sullivan Lecture Series brings diverse speakers including academics, artists and clergy to speak on a range of issues related to Catholicism. Previous lecture topics have ranged from the Haiti earthquake to Catholicism in Asia.

All lectures are free and open to the public.

Bishop Walter F. Sullivan Chair in Catholic Studies

The Chair in Catholic Studies at VCU’s School of World Studies is unique in central Virginia for offering a global perspective on Catholicism focused through an academic lens. The Chair strives to engage a wide audience regardless of religious affiliation through an interdisciplinary focus by using sociological, historical and anthropological analyses.

Bishop Sullivan

bishop walter francis sullivan and andrew chesnut
Bishop Sullivan and Andrew Chesnut, Ph.D.

Bishop Walter Francis Sullivan served as the Eleventh Bishop of Richmond, Virginia from July 19, 1974 to September 16, 2003.

Born in D.C., he attended seminary at St. Charles College and St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore. In 1960, he was awarded a degree in Canon law by Catholic University. Bishop Sullivan was ordained as a priest for the Diocese of Richmond on May 9, 1953, and in 1960 became Secretary of the Diocesan Tribunal. He was installed as the Bishop of the Diocese of Richmond on July 19, 1974.

Bishop Sullivan was widely recognized for his service as a national leader within the Catholic community in the cause of justice and peace. For a decade, between 1991 and 2001, he served as Bishop-President of Pax Christi USA, the national Catholic peace movement. He passed away in 2012 at the age of 84.