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As a teenager taking Latin classes for fun at Owensboro Catholic High School in the 1980s, Christopher Graney did not expect to one day become a member of the Vatican’s own astronomical institute. “It was a bit of a surprise,” said Graney, who graduated from OCHS in 1984 and today is a professor of physics and astronomy at Jefferson Community and Technical College in Louisville. In summer 2019, the OCHS alumnus was made an adjunct scholar of the Vatican Observatory (shortened to the VO). The VO is a scientific research institute of the Holy See and is one of the oldest astronomical institutes in the world. Graney said Br. Guy Consolmagno, SJ, the observatory’s director, had nominated him during the summer and the nomination was approved in August by the Vatican’s Secretariat of State. This status means Graney is now an official member of the Vatican Observatory, with all of the rights and privileges of one of the researchers. Graney told The Western Kentucky Catholic that his involvement with the VO “came through science but also through Latin,” having taken several years of high school Latin at OCHS with Fr. Peter Lauzon. (Sadly, Fr. Lauzon died of cancer in 1995.) Graney believes these Latin classes were what proved to be his “ace in the hole” for this connection. “Because today, scientists do not know Latin,” said Graney. “But not that long ago, most science communication was done in Latin. It was the international language.” Graney’s relationship with the VO began when the first research paper he wrote in the area of astronomical history was published in a Lithuanian astronomical journal. He connected with Fr. Richard Boyle, SJ, who was a fellow American and frequent contributor to the journal. It turned out that Fr. Boyle was an astronomer with the VO, and Graney soon was corresponding with him and Br. Consolmagno. The rest, as they say, was history. To learn more, visit Educators and others interested in the connection between faith and science can visit the VO’s Faith and Science pages at Adapted from the original article printed in the December 2019 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.

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