Founded in Chicago on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, Acta Sanctorum (“Acts of the Saints”) has been committed to the positive transformation of post-communist Central and Eastern Europe. Since 2009, our ministry has been shaped by the idea that Christians have been entrusted with responsibility to contribute to the construction and preservation of a good society. During the first chapter of our existence, we focused on Slovakia, where our work was well-received by our four “publics” (churches, academia, government, and the broader public). Our service resulted in seven authored or edited books, three of which included commentaries and essays in leading Slovak newspapers. These books were endorsed by prominent academic, religious, government, and public figures. We also contributed to edited volumes and journals, presented papers at academic conferences, taught graduate courses, wrote expert opinions for the Slovak government, advised Christian leaders, spoke at church events, and donated over 1,200 books to academic libraries. In 2023, after moving to the Washington DC area, the founders reenvisioned and expanded the mission of the organization and modified its name to Acta Sanctorum Institute.
Acta Sanctorum Institute is dedicated to transforming lives and societies through education, drawing on the great deposit of theological, ethical, and spiritual wisdom. We are concerned about what matters most for time and eternity: developing good servants by helping individuals learn, live, and love their faith and building good societies by promoting freedom, justice, and peace.
Our organization is committed to helping Christians grow in faith and become agents of transformation in society. Our work focuses primarily on faith formation and public theology, but is not limited to it. We serve those outside the Christian faith by assisting in their quest for answers to the fundamental questions of human existence. We engage the broader public by addressing various themes pertaining to religion, ethics, and society. Our mission is carried out by researching, writing, speaking, and consulting in the local, national, and international contexts.
We serve with integrity and excellence, guided by ethics of responsibility in all of our pursuits.
When Václav Havel gave his first speech as President of the newly free Czechoslovakia, as it was then, one of the things he said was: “We now enter the long tunnel at the end of the light.” How right he was! There is the brilliant flash of new-found democratic freedom and, following that – the Velvet Revolution – there is the long, hard work of sustaining a decent, justly ordered democratic society. One feature of such a society is its ethics – how it understands itself. One asks: What is the quality of life in common? Acta Sanctorum labors to keep alive a rich civil society, one in which an ethic of responsibility pertains. From the beginning, Christians were called upon to reflect on “life in common together,” as St. Augustine put it. Christians were to be salt and light to the world, enlivening all they touched and directing it toward peace and justice. Acta Sanctorum operates on this premise: what is the task of Christianity in a free society? How can Christians contribute to a good we can know in common that we cannot know alone? This ethics of responsibility is not aimed exclusively at Christians but, rather, is enacted in behalf of the polity as a whole. I commend the organization; honor its founders; and wish it Godspeed in the years ahead.
Prof. Jean Bethke Elshtain, Ph.D., Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics, The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, 2010
In the ever-changing and complex world that we are called to be and do, the search for meaning, hope, and freedom are non-negotiable longings of the human heart. Along with these very human aspirations stands the continued challenges of human responsibility. Without human responsibility, meaning, hope, and freedom are but solipsistic delusions of a lost soul or society – ultimately, it is meaningless, hopeless, and libertine. What is most significant of Acta Sanctorum is its “response” to the “challenge of responsibility” so critically needed in Central and Eastern Europe and elsewhere. Acta Santorum invites, and joins others, in devoting its intellectual capital, energy, and faith in seeking to promote “a greater degree of individual, social and political responsibility.”
The Rev. Dr. Eldin Villafañe, Distinguished Senior Professor of Christian Social Ethics and Founding Director (1976) of the Center for Urban Ministerial Education at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Boston, MA, 2010
This ministry is well-founded in Christian social ethics. It not only is an appropriate application of this foundation. It also concentrates on an area, the Eastern Bloc countries, where there are few other avenues for applying there our passion for love and justice.
The Rev. Stephen Charles Mott, Ph.D., Professor of Christian Social Ethics, Emeritus, and author of Biblical Ethics and Social Change and A Christian Perspective on Political Thought, 2009
No country in the world can claim having a functional democratic system without the existence of an active civil society, which also includes a large and philosophically diverse spectrum of non-governmental organizations, civic associations, non-profit institutions, as well as churches and religious societies. An interaction and partnership between the government institutions and third- sector organizations is also very important. I confirm that the Department of Church Affairs of the Ministry of the Culture of the Slovak Republic appreciates the existing cooperation and opinion exchange with the staff of Acta Sanctorum. I first met Lubomir Martin Ondrasek during his Summer 2008 internship in the Slovak Republic, and our mutual cooperation has successfully continued with his active participation at the international conference “Financing Churches and Religious Societies in the 21st Century” in October 2009, which was organized by our Department and attended by participants from 22 different countries. I am confident that the ideas promoted by Acta Sanctorum will be an interesting and inspiring impulse and will be met with understanding and a good response from people in Slovakia and elsewhere.
JUDr. Ján Juran, Director, Department of Religious Affairs of the Ministry of Culture, Bratislava, Slovak Republic, 2009
Acta Sanctorum is not only a non-profit organization, it is also an agenda for life. I very much appreciate that Martin and his wife Noema have decided to embark on this work. I remember life before 1989 and also the atmosphere of the Velvet Revolution. We would gather in city squares where so much of the good was concentrated… . Freedom has brought us not only rights, but also a multitude of questions, challenges, and new responsibilities. On the 20th anniversary of these events, it seems that we have missed many opportunities and lost much of that good. For Slovakia, Acta Sanctorum may become, and actually is already a helping hand in the right time. Martin's summer internship at our Institute has convinced me that he is the right man in the right place. During his internship he already devoted himself fully to his work and mission, with all the seriousness and integrity of a scholar, as well as with the love of a Christian. I immensely appreciate many of his attitudes toward life that I observed and I believe that they will provide a basis for the unfolding of good things. I am grateful for his many reflections on religious situations and state-church relations in the Old and New Continents. I look forward to future cooperation with Acta Sanctorum.
ThLic. Michaela Moravčíková, Th.D., Director, Institute for State-Church Relations, Bratislava, Slovak Republic, 2009
In a paradoxical age of increasing global tendencies towards the presence of future dead certainties and the redefinition of meanings as a result of continual restructurings, the technological juggernauts, market fundamentalisms, standardizations, accountability regulatory schemes and in the face of local forces highlighting the absence, dismantling and weakening of revered past traditions, timeless truths and notions of integrity, identity and community, there is a significant need to foster a purposeful, dynamic and deliberative discourse on that ageless, old-century and enduring questions of freedom and responsibility towards both inner and outer-directed aims. Promoting a culture of peace, love and justice is crucial for the cultivation of life-long habits in individual and systemic ways directed at enhancing the common good. Improving the human condition anchored in a vision that is realistic and balanced (an explicit theistic-Christian worldview) is critical for it appeals to the universal longings of the human spirit. Acta Santorum is particularly called and qualified to make a lasting contribution. I commend this organization for its founders (my former teacher and mentor) are truly committed and devoted to documenting, searching and advocating for the cultivation and adoption (for renewal) of integrated and holistic mind-sets and strategies for the exercise and execution of individual social and political responsibility (for transformation) for the Eastern Bloc countries. Perhaps, many of us in the West have a lesson to learn from the excellent undertakings of this unique organization.
David A. Escobar Arcay, Ph.D., Professor of Education & Leadership, International Affairs, Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale, FL, 2009
After twenty years, Central and Eastern Europe commemorates the fall of the communist regime. This turning point in the history of these European countries has brought incredible changes into the life and thinking of every person. At the same time it was an endurance test, which has brought not only various disappointments, mistrust, or pessimism but also new hope, freedom, and striving for spiritual values. Acta Sanctorum enters this environment with a clear vision, rich with ideas of human dignity and solidifying the spirit of unity based on Christian spirituality of love. In post-communist countries that have experienced a systematic oppression of human dignity, Acta Sanctorum can assist in the advancement of solidarity and also actively contribute toward a greater understanding of issues related to religion and society. The founders of this unique project, which can become an instrument of hope for those who have been denied their religious or civil rights, are united by personal experiences, educational background, and especially by the attitude of genuine resolve. This resolve can be characterized by the words of Mahatma Gandhi: “Never underestimate the individual's ability to change the world.”
PhDr. Jozef Matula, Ph.D., Department of Philosophy, Palacky University, Olomouc, Czech Republic, 2009
In Slovakia, ordinary people are losing interest, desire, and courage to participate in public life. We are witnessing a dramatic loss of faith in the capacity of an individual person to influence the course of events in their towns and neighborhoods, trampling upon an even slightly critical civic activity, and the arrogance and incivility of politicians and government officials at both national and local levels. Twenty years after the fall of communism, we have still not made a significant stride in the direction of freedom and responsibility. Therefore, the founding of the organization Acta Sanctorum, which is led by two Slovaks, is a very welcome and important occurrence not only for Slovakia, but also for other countries of the former Eastern Bloc. May hope that was lost sometime between November 1989 and the present day that “truth and love shall prevail over lies and hate,” return to the hearts of ordinary citizens.
Mgr. Milan Mitana, Athletes in Action, Bratislava, Slovak Republic, 2009