This month, we talk with Fr. Dennis Holtschneider, CM, who serves as President of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities. We thought we’d ask Fr. Holtschneider a few questions.
What was your favorite course or subject in school and why?
From my youngest days, it was always math. I even became a math major in college. I never felt like I had homework, but a bunch of puzzles to solve every night. The only downside of being a math major was I could never talk to my friends about what I was working on. As soon as they heard my major, they always quickly changed the subject. (laughter)
What movie have you seen the most times? Please explain.
Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. I loved the books when I was young and Peter Jackson did an amazing job with them.
If you could ask Saint Vincent de Paul one question, what is the question and why?
How in the world did you find time to write so much? We have 15 published volumes of letters and conferences, and enough new ones recently discovered that could create a 16th when it is published. And those are just the ones that have survived the centuries that we have found. In the midst of an insanely busy life caring for the poor; training the clergy; running vast international enterprises of laity, Daughters of Charity and a Congregation of brothers and priests; doing all the political work; the fund-raising; attending to the lawsuits from those who opposed you; not to mention the opposition you led to the Jansenist movement of your time, how did you ever manage to produce so much powerful writing to so many?
Besides connecting with family and friends, what do you like to do in your free time?
I try to read a book every two weeks. I don’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t love reading. I also still play the piano after all these years. My dad taught me the first Schirmer’s book when I was 5, and my parents paid for lessons through high school. These days, I’m working on some preludes by Poulenc, Scriabin and York. I’m not good enough for the public, so I call myself a “home pianist.” It makes me happy.
If you could have dinner with one non-religious historical figure (dead or alive), who would it be and why? What might you ask them?
I’d love to meet Heinrich and Elizabeth Holtschneider, my 2nd great-grandparents, who left Germany in the upheaval of 1871 with their infant, Otto (my great-grandfather), to come to the U.S. I’d love to know their story. I assume it had something to do with Bismarck’s ban on Catholics, but we don’t actually know. All we have is some vague, unattributable story about Heinrich’s bakery being intentionally burned down in the middle of the night. It would be great to know my family’s immigrant story.