Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology has presented its 2016 Archbishop Cousins Vocations Award to Fr. Hugh Birdsall, SDS.
The Archbishop Cousins Vocations Award honors an organization or individual who has demonstrated distinguished effort, involvement, and promotion of vocations among men over 30 to the Roman Catholic priesthood.
Fr. Birdsall served as a professor of pastoral studies from 1991 until his retirement in 2011, beloved by approximately 400 former students now serving in priestly ministry. He was a pioneer in video-taping practice counseling sessions to provide direct feedback to seminarians.
However, he improved the quality of Sacred Heart’s formation program in ways far beyond his 20 years of teaching. He drove the creation of various evaluation instruments and processes that have demonstrably improved the teaching and learning at SHSST.
He played a key role in two re-accreditation processes, and was a moving force behind the Committee on Assessment of Program Effectiveness (CAPE). Fr. Birdsall played a critical role in the development of the first SHSST M.Div. profile in the early 2000s, and was deeply involved in the recent revision of the M.Div. profile, which may eventually provide a model for seminary best practices. He helped develop a program of surveys to assess the quality of our formation program, and every year since 2002 Fr. Birdsall has assembled, analyzed, and written reports on all of the annual assessment data.
Fr. Hugh also was instrumental in creating several assessment instruments for seminarians’ classroom work, helping to establish rubrics to make evaluation more objective and consistent.
Additionally, Fr. Hugh assisted with the creation of a document, now in standard use, to help seminarians understand the qualities sought in a good case study paper, resulting in improvement in this critical area of seminarians’ work.
Fr. Birdsall was on hand to receive the award, with family and many of his confreres in attendance, at a Sept. 28 gala at SHSST.
The award was established by Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology to commemorate Milwaukee Archbishop Cousins’ 60th anniversary of priesthood and to recognize his leadership role in promoting vocations.