Madison professor to speak at Eucharistic Congress Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Thursday, Jun. 07, 2012 -- 12:00 AM
Dr. Robert Enright

Give us this day our daily bread,
 and forgive us our trespasses, 
as we forgive those who trespass against us . . . — From the “Our Father”

MADISON -- Dr. Robert Enright, founder of the International Forgiveness Institute (IFI) based in Madison, will be speaking at the International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) to be held in Dublin, Ireland, from June 10 to 17.

Enright, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has been a leader in the scientific study of forgiveness since 1985. Time Magazine called him “the forgiveness trailblazer.” He has written over 120 publications.

A member of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Monona, Enright said he feels “very honored” to be able to give a presentation at the congress on Thursday, June 14.

He will also be giving a presentation at the Theology Symposium in Maynooth, Ireland, on Thursday, June 7. The symposium is an academic warm-up for the congress.

Pathway to forgiveness

Enright’s congress paper is based on a book he recently published, The Forgiving Life: A Pathway to Overcoming Resentment and Creating a Legacy of Love.

In his session at the IEC, he will share a pathway to forgiveness that can help reduce anger and sadness and increase happiness despite injustices suffered in the world.

Enright explained that this session will focus on the moral virtue of forgiveness by asking these questions:

  • What is forgiveness and what is it not?
  • Why forgive? This will include the question: What are the consequences when we forgive?
  • How does one go about forgiving? He will describe a pathway that has proven to be effective in helping people forgive.
  • How can we take forgiveness into our own communities for good, for the healing of others?

“We believe that forgiveness is a choice,” said Enright. “If you have been deeply hurt by another, you can choose to forgive rather than hold on to debilitating anger and resentment. In doing so, an amazing transformation begins.”

He explained, “When you forgive, you may benefit the person you forgive. But you benefit yourself far more. By liberating yourself from pain and sorrow, you can reclaim your life and find the peace that your anger had stolen.”

Pioneering work

Enright pioneered this thinking about forgiveness in 1985 and created the first scientifically proven forgiveness program in the country when he founded the International Forgiveness Institute in Madison.

By using the institute’s 20-step forgiveness process model, anyone — individuals, families, communities, even governments — can experience the benefits of forgiveness.

The IFI has created forgiveness education curriculum guides aimed at children from kindergarten through high school.

Forgiveness education

Enright pointed out that he began forgiveness education in schools in Belfast, Northern Ireland, about 10 years ago. “Ireland has become my second home,” he said.

He is working with an ecumenical community in Ireland, which is bringing people together. Teachers are trained to use the IFI forgiveness program in classrooms. “It’s going very well,” said Enright. “It’s being used in about 40 classrooms each year reaching about 2,000 students.”

He said children participating in the program show remarkable improvement. “They often come to school angry and depressed. This program reduces anger to normal levels in one year and reduces depression,” he said.

The program is also being used in schools in Wisconsin, including schools in the inner city of Milwaukee and at Edgewood High School of the Sacred Heart in Madison. The IFI has found that students’ academic achievement can go up one entire grade level after participating in the program. “Forgiveness has a way of cutting through resentments, from grade one up,” he said.

One of the newest countries to implement the forgiveness program will be Liberia. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011, has asked Enright to train teachers in Liberia, which is recovering from 14 years of civil war.

“There are a lot of other counties which have asked for our materials,” said Enright.

Forgiveness and Eucharist

As a Catholic, Enright said he appreciates the connection between forgiveness and the Eucharist. In fact, his paper for the theology symposium in Ireland is entitled, “Being Eucharist for One Another.”

He explained, “When we forgive, like our master Jesus Christ, we suffer for the ones who hurt us. We love them and pray for them through our pain.

“Blessed Pope John Paul II said in his apostolic letter Salvifici Doloris that we can elevate our suffering by offering own suffering for the salvation of souls.”

His books

Enright believes his new book, The Forgiving Life: A Pathway to Overcoming Resentment and Creating a Legacy of Love, is the “best work I’ve done.”

He is also beginning work on another book, The Church as Forgiving Community, to be published by Our Sunday Visitor. Cardinal Raymond Burke will be writing a chapter for this book, as will Bishop Robert C. Morlino of Madison and Bishop Salvatore Cordileone
 of Oakland, Calif.

On Thursday, June 7, Enright will be addressing St. Teresa’s Carmelite Church in Dublin on the topic of that new book, “The Church as Forgiving Community.”

Facebook community

Enright has recently begun a new initiative: a Catholic community on Facebook called The Healing through Forgiveness Society. It has started a 21-day online forgiveness retreat run by Enright and Amber Flesch of Madison’s Cathedral Parish.

People from throughout the world are participating. Interested persons can apply for the online community and can “catch up” with the retreat.

For more information on the International Forgiveness Institute, go to its Web site at

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