Pietas: The Soul of Christian Learning

June 23- June 28, 2024
Portsmouth Abbey
Portsmouth, Rhode Island

Residential Tuition: $1,850. Includes seminars, accommodations, meals (breakfast, lunch, and communal dinners), cultural excursions, and materials.

Non-Residential Tuition: $1,500. Includes seminars, meals (lunch and communal dinners), cultural excursions, and materials. Overnight accommodations and breakfast are not included.

Graduate credit offered by the University of Dallas Classical Education Graduate Program. Email institute@portsmouthabbey.org to inquire.

Scholarships: Thanks to the support of generous donors, scholarship support is available on a limited basis by application. Early application is encouraged, with scholarships being awarded as funds are available. For questions, please contact Chris Fisher at cfisher@portsmouthabbey.org


Ecce pietas est sapientia—Behold: piety is wisdom.”
— St. Augustine

Pietas invites teachers from all educational backgrounds and disciplines into a contemplative celebration of the Catholic intellectual life. Participants encounter the best in literature, philosophy, and theology in a communal, monastic setting.

By becoming students once more—and reencountering the wellsprings of their own passion for learning—Catholic teachers are thus equipped to share with their students a love of learning grounded in the Catholic intellectual tradition.

Pietas explores the essential questions facing Catholic educators: What is the purpose of Catholic education? What is distinctive about the Christian teacher and student? How can I orient my discipline towards God? How can I bring the wisdom of Christian education into my classroom?

These questions are addressed in an intensive six-day program of shared seminars, lectures, and meals. We read, discuss, and pray alongside the writings of St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. John Henry Newman, Flannery O’Connor, C. S. Lewis, and more.

Pietas imparts intellectual formation and spiritual rejuvenation. Engagement with the monastic rhythms of prayer inspires contemplation and cultivates a space to recognize grace at work in our lives.

“This retreat was truly reinvigorating. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to set aside
time to communally pursue truth and draw closer to Christ.”


What will we study?

We will read, discuss, and pray alongside the writings of St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Thomas More, St. John Henry Newman, Jacques Maritain, Jean Leclercq, O.S.B., and many others in order to discern the truly distinctive character of a Christian education. Questions we will explore include:

What is the purpose of Christian education?

What is distinctive about the Christian teacher, or the Christian student?

How can the discipline I teach—whether explicitly religious or not—be oriented towards God?

How can I put the wisdom of Christian education to use in my classroom?

What are we reading?

We are thrilled to provide registrants a beautiful, bound copy of the seminar readings from Cluny Media, published exclusively for Pietas attendees. The book will be mailed to you upon registration, and a digital copy sent to your email.

Seminar Readings Include:
The Rule of St. Benedict (excepts)
St. Thomas Aquinas, Disputed Questions on Truth: On the Teacher
Raymond Carver, Cathedral
C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man (excerpts)
Simone Weil, Reflections on the Right Use of School Studies
with a View to the Love of God
Jean Leclercq, The Love of Learning and Desire for God (excerpts)

Presented in partnership with the University of Dallas Classical Education Graduate Program.

The Classical Education Graduate Program combines the ethos of the university’s Core Curriculum tradition with a focus on the theory and practice of classical education, bringing these to working and aspiring classical school teachers, school administrators, and others both locally and around the country.

Sponsored by the Saint Ambrose Center for Catholic Liberal Education and Culture.

The Saint Ambrose Center supports K12 schools through teacher professional development, school leader coaching, parent formation, curriculum resources, and school operations assessments. We assist educators with forming students in wonder, faith, virtue, and wisdom. 

Who are the program faculty?

Darryl De Marzio, Ph.D.

B.A., Philosophy, Drew University 
M.A., Elementary Education, Montclair State University 
M.Phil., Philosophy and Education, Columbia University 
Ph.D., Philosophy and Education, Columbia University 

Dr. Darryl De Marzio teaches in the Humanities and History departments at Portsmouth Abbey School. Prior to joining the faculty at Portsmouth Abbey in 2022, Dr. De Marzio was Professor of Foundations of Education at the University of Scranton since 2007 where he taught courses in philosophy and educational theory. He completed his M.Phil. and Ph.D. degrees at Columbia University in Philosophy and Education with a scholarly focus on the role that the study of philosophy plays in the ethical formation of teachers. He was awarded the Merryman Prize for excellence in the graduate study of philosophy and education and his dissertation, The Teacher as Ethical Subject, was awarded distinction by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Columbia University. He has served as President of the Middle Atlantic States Philosophy of Education Society and on the Committee for Pre-College Instruction in Philosophy of the American Philosophical Association. He has worked and researched in education for over twenty-five years. 

Michael West, Ph.D.

B.A., University of Dallas
M.A., University of Houston

Ph.D., Columbia University

Dr. Michael West is Assistant Director of the St. Ambrose Center and Affiliate Assistant Professor of Humanities at the University of Dallas, where he teaches courses in the Classical Education Graduate Program. His research focuses on Renaissance literature, especially the theater of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. He has previously taught courses in literature, writing, and Catholic Studies at the University of Houston, Columbia University, and Sacred Heart University. He is also the host of the Liberal Learning for Life Podcast

Kale Zelden

B.A., Literature, Thomas More College
M.A., English, Louisiana State University

Kale Zelden is the chair of the Humanities department at Portsmouth Abbey School, where he has previously served as both Academic Dean and Dean of Faculty. After graduate school and a stint in teaching, Kale went to Los Angeles to work in the entertainment industry, where worked with other writers in story development as a creative producer and was a programmer for the top student film festival The Angelus Awards. After returning to teaching, Kale won Portsmouth Abbey’s Dom Peter Sidler Award for teaching excellence. He became the Academic Dean in 2010 and in 2015 he became the Dean of Faculty. He notes that nothing is more thrilling than introducing students to the best that has been thought and written. “Reading the classics, and allowing them to delight and instruct the contemporary skeptic, has been challenging and rewarding.” Kale has worked in education as a teacher and administrator for over twenty years.  

Dan Caplin

B.A., History, Providence College
B.A., Theatre, Providence College
M.A., History, Providence College

A Portsmouth Abbey alum, Daniel met his future wife, Catherine, at freshman orientation in 2006. After graduating from Providence College in 2014, Daniel decided to come back to Portsmouth in the Fall of 2018. In 2020, he received his Master’s in History from Providence College. Daniel has given lectures at the Linda Hall Library in Kansas City, as well as Northeastern University. In 2023, he received the Dom Peter Sidler Award for Excellence In Teaching. Daniel has been an instructor at the Portsmouth Institute since 2022, and recently presented “The Subversive Self: Rules for a Discursive Formation on Artificial Intelligence” at the Institute’s 2024 Hildegard Forum. Daniel and his lovely wife live in Saint Mary’s dormitory with their sons Westley and Walker, their dog Fagan, and their cat, Duck.

Stephen Zins, Ph.D.

B.S., Biochemistry, University of Michigan
Ph.D., Pathobiology, Brown University 

Stephen Zins co-directs the Center for Science and the Liberal Arts at the Portsmouth Institute and Portsmouth Abbey School which seeks to inspire both knowledge of and a sense of wonder towards the created world. He earned his Ph.D. at Brown University in the pathobiology program where he studied how human polyomaviruses are controlled by the human immune system. He developed a desire to teach high school students through the Summer@Brown program, where he developed his own course on infectious disease and introduced students to scientific research through laboratory modules. He has co-authored eight manuscripts published in peer-reviewed journals, and his Ph.D. research is published in the Journal of Virology.

In 2017 Stephen was awarded Portsmouth Abbey School’s Dom Sidler Award for Excellence in Teaching, and he currently teaches AP Biology, Honors Biology, and a highly popular Infectious Disease elective that he created in 2019.

Katie Zins, Ph.D.

B.A., Art History, University of Rhode Island
B.A., Classics, University of Rhode Island
B.A., French, University of Rhode Island
M.A., Art History, Pennsylvania State University
Ph.D., Art History, Pennsylvania State University

Born and raised in Bristol, Rhode Island, Dr. Zins graduated from Portsmouth Abbey in 2004. She received a B.A. in Art History, French, and Classics from the University of Rhode Island in 2008. Attracted to the interdisciplinary nature of art history, she pursued her M.A. and Ph.D. at Penn State University. Her graduate work focused on Italian art from the medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque periods. Combining her interests in mendicant patronage, hagiography, and fresco painting, her doctoral dissertation explores how the Order of Augustinian Hermits represented their self-proclaimed founder, St. Augustine, in images from 14th- and 15th-century Italy.

In 2016 Dr. Zins returned to Portsmouth Abbey to teach Humanities and Latin. Inspired by outstanding high school teachers and university professors, she realized early on her desire for a career that was centered on the classroom experience. She hopes to develop in her students an appreciation for the Western intellectual tradition, which was so vital to cultivating her own interests.  

Lauren Revay

B.A., Philosophy, Catholic University of America
M.A., Theology, University of Notre Dame

Lauren Revay works at the Portsmouth Institute for Faith and Culture and Portsmouth Abbey School. Her academic interests are in the intersection of philosophy and theology particularly in aesthetics, virtue theory/ethics, and political philosophy as they relate to the common good. She’s presented at the University of Notre Dame and with the American Maritain Association. She received her Master of Arts in Theology from the University of Notre Dame through the McGrath Institute’s Echo Graduate Service Program. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy Pre-Law from The Catholic University of America.

Where is Pietas held?

Pietas is hosted at Portsmouth Abbey, a Catholic Benedictine monastery and boarding school in scenic Rhode Island. The monastic life and horarium (daily schedule) informs much of our daily itinerary.

The Abbey is situated on a 500-acre campus stretching along the Narragansett Bay. Our campus is just a few minutes north of famous Newport, Rhode Island, thirty minutes from Providence, and an hour from Boston.

Can I stay on campus overnight?

Yes! Please choose the residential tuition rate when enrolling in Pietas. Residential tuition includes accommodations & breakfast. PLEASE NOTE: Accommodations are in modest dormitories on the campus of Portsmouth Abbey School. Rooms are single occupancy with a shared bathroom on a first-come, first-served basis. Linens and a pillow but not toiletries will be provided. A small window fan is provided for comfort. A full list of suggested items is here. Late registrants may be limited to double occupancy.

What is the schedule?

The program begins on Sunday, June 23rd at 6:00 pm with an opening reception and dinner, with check in beginning at 3 pm.  Mass is available at 9:30am on Sunday. The program ends the following Friday, June 30th, around 2:30pm. All meals are included in the registration fee for Sunday dinner through Friday lunch. Participants are expected to be present for all sessions, including dinners, cultural excursions, evening film screenings, etc., as the program is cumulative.

Can I earn graduate credit for attending Pietas?

We are delighted to announce a partnership with the University of Dallas to offer participants in Pietas graduate credit through the UD’s Classical Education Graduate Program. To learn more, email mwest@udallas.edu.

What can I expect to experience?

Pietas is designed to be an intimate cohort experience, limited to around 15 participants. In addition to an opening dinner on Sunday evening, participants will gather for three seminars per day, two prior to lunch and one following lunch. Each seminar will include remarks by the faculty and in-depth discussion of the text. A culminating project will ask each participant to prepare a short presentation on the final day of the seminar.

There will be an opening Mass, reception, and dinner on Sunday evening for all participants with opening remarks from Executive Director Chris Fisher, and a closing lunch at the conclusion of the program on Friday afternoon. Participants are free to depart Friday after 3:00 p.m. Limited accommodations may be available on Friday night for guests departing on Saturday. Please contact institute@portsmouthabbey.org to make this request by May 15.

In addition to seminar discussions, we will participate in the Divine Office with the monks, pray lectio divina, the ancient monastic form of prayer, receive the sacraments including confession and the Eucharist, receive spiritual direction with our monastic community, and more.

Ample leisure time is provided over lunch and throughout the day to encourage friendship among participants. We also encourage time for exploration of the local culture and participation in recreational activities that our campus and Rhode Island has to offer. Time and space is also given for moments of personal writing and reflection.

Daily mass is available each morning in the monastery Church of St. Gregory the Great at 7:20am. Evenings include poetry readings, social gatherings, evening prayers with the monastery, dinner, after-dinner lectures, film screening, and more.

How do I get to Portsmouth Abbey?

You can find out about best ways to access Portsmouth Abbey here: TRAVELING TO PORTSMOUTH ABBEY. If you are flying or training in, we recommend renting a car: public transportation is limited, and even taxi and uber are unreliable in our part of the state. You will also have free time to explore nearby towns and cities—even head to the lovely Newport beaches! Having a car is by far the most convenient means for getting around.

I would love to support teachers and administrators who want to attend Pietas. Are sponsorship opportunities available?

If you are interested in sponsoring an attendee or group of attendees, please contact Portsmouth Institute Executive Director Christopher Fisher at cfisher@portsmouthabbey.org or 401.643.1255.

What is Pietas?

Pietas exists to celebrate the Catholic intellectual life so that we teachers may flourish, and as a result, our students may flourish. By offering Catholic teachers an inspirational encounter with the best literature, philosophy, and theology of the West in addition to an immersive monastic experience, participants will be equipped to inspire their own students with a shared love of learning. Pietas will thus strengthen Catholic teaching– and Catholic school identity–through an encounter with the Catholic intellectual tradition.  

Rather than studying the practical dimensions of teaching, Pietas offers teachers an opportunity to be students themselves—encountering and re-encountering the passion for learning which draws all teachers to their vocation in the first place. Pietas is designed to be accessible and beneficial for Catholic teachers of all educational backgrounds and from any discipline.

Pietas was created when a group of Catholic teachers and heads of school recognized a need for faithful Catholic teachers to gather in a shared community of fellowship and encouragement, based on an encounter with the rich Catholic and Western literary tradition. The cornerstone of Pietas is a six-day intensive and immersive program in classic literature, philosophy, and theology, where Catholic educators gather out of a deep, shared love of the Catholic imagination.

Daily lectures delivered by expert faculty illuminate the inherent meaning of a text. Breakout sessions offer teachers an opportunity to integrate the literature with their own expertise and interests. Teachers from a variety of disciplines will thus be encouraged to share their core knowledge with fellow teachers. This makes Pietas truly interdisciplinary.

Pietas is a center for spiritual rejuvenation. Engagement with the monastic rhythms of prayer will inspire contemplation and cultivate a space to recognize grace at work in our lives.

What makes Pietas unique?

Pietas is unique in its focus on an interdisciplinary encounter between literature, theology, art, philosophy, and history. We treat education as fundamentally interdisciplinary because Christ “is all, and is in all ” (Col. 3:11). Thus, wherever truth is, there is Christ. This is the Incarnational reality of our faith.

Further, the classical and Christian tradition teaches that an education in literature stirs the affections and moves the soul towards the attainment of the true, the good, and the beautiful–and thus ultimately, to God. Education, then, is a poetic experience, in that it addresses the human imagination and affections. It is the poetic spirit which St. John Henry Newman attributes to the Benedictine monk, with his “desire for learning and love of God.” Thus, in both our study of literature and participation in monastic liturgical life, Pietas is a fundamentally Benedictine experience.

By spending time with fellow teachers and program faculty in various settings, participants will encounter pedagogy, rather than study it. Pietas will treat teachers as intellectuals in their own right: intellectuals who desire to continue learning with similarly-spirited teachers.  At its root, Pietas recognizes the sacred authority of the teacher, and we seek to nurture, cultivate, and ennoble that sacredness.

Participation in the sacraments and the Divine Office, excursions to local cultural treasures in Newport County, encounters with nature, feasts and celebrations, generous hospitality—all will energize, motivate, and uplift teachers in their pursuit of the good, true, and beautiful.

Finally, consistent with the vision of the Portsmouth Institute, Pietas aims to be a place of learning, leisure, and love. Through learning, we will enliven teacher’s imagination in its pursuit of truth. Through leisure, we will encourage contemplation and open receptivity to God’s goodness. And through love, we will engage the heart in its pursuit of God in the beatific vision. In this way, we will cultivate a vibrant Catholic intellectual community and contribute to the restoration of Christian culture in New England and beyond.

Who is Pietas for?

Pietas is tailored for all Catholic school educators, from teachers to trustees. Pietas is a cohort experience, offering educators an opportunity to form friendships in an environment where “faith seeks understanding.” We aim to inspire friendships and collaborations that last for the duration of the program and beyond.