By Theresa Yugar
In 1993, I entered Harvard Divinity School. I was a young Latina scholar. I remember calling Pilar Aquino (pictured above), my mentor from my alma mater, Mount St. Mary’s College, Los Angeles. I called her distressed because I felt alone in a big institution without family and friends. Her words to me that evening continue to echo in my mind when the struggle for gender-justice in the academy and public life is overwhelming. She relayed to me, paraphrased, “Theresa, you must move forward”. Your voice is important because, at that point in time, she said that she could count the number of Latina feminist theologians on one hand. To date, I am so happy that this is no longer true.
Yes, there is still work to do but the presence of Latina feminist theologians have increased exponentially especially with the support of the Hispanic Theological Initiative whose primary focus since 1996 has been to support the academic and pastoral work of U.S. Latino/a theologians across all disciplines in religious studies. Happily, today, I can name my Sisters who share common commitments to myself in terms of reclaiming the voice of Latina scholars in religion. They are Jackie Hidalgo, Neomi De Anda, Robyn Henderson-Espinoza, Nancy Pineda-Madrid, Melisa Williamson, Wendy Arce, Rebecca Berru-Davis, Mayra Rivera-Rivera, Cecilia González-Andrieu, Carmen Nanko-Fernández, Lauren Guerra, Mati Moros, Theresa Torres, Jeanette Rodriguez, Ana Bedard, Ana María Isasi-Díaz and more.
It is in this context that this chapter entitled, “U.S. Latina Feminist Paradigm: Model of an Inclusive Twenty-first Century Ecclesiology” in Reimagining with Christian Doctrines: Responding to Global Gender Injustice edited by Grace Ji-Sun Kim & Jenny Daggers, was born. In this exploratory chapter, I examine key tenets in the theological reflections of three U.S. Latina feminist theologians. They are María Pilar Aquino, Ada María Isasi-Díaz and Michelle González. Using a feminist liberative methodology elaborated by Rosemary Radford Ruether my goal was to create an ecclesiology that is empowering not only to the U.S. Latina/o community but for a Roman Catholic Church at-large that is multiple, diverse, and Beautiful.
The work of Aquino sets the tone for the essay providing an umbrella reflection on the value of interculturality as the basis for a democratic, egalitarian and feminist paradigm that seeks human rights for all peoples, with special attention to the plight of women in the Americas. Her scholarship is invaluable because contrary to dominant narratives in a post-colonial world that value some bodies and cultures above others she argues for the positive values all cultures bring to a liberative theological discourse.
Following, I reflect on the value of lo cotidiano (daily life) elaborated by the late esteemed Latina feminist theologian and Christian ethicist Isasi-Díaz. Distinctive from the dominant Christian narrative that God is omnipotent and omnipresence she reclaims an incarnational God that accompanies us in the daily struggle for justice for all peoples. For her, where there is an affirmation of life and of social justice for all there is God. The work of González weaves this reflection together affirming a Christian anthropology and Imago Dei that reflects her bi-cultural body. Her scholarship is innovative in that she understands God in the plural.
In contrast to classical theological interpretations of Jesus, the divine, and the Church, her understanding of God truly reflects the diversity that characterizes not only U.S. Latina/o bodies but also all bodies that make up our global universe. Seen together, I think the principles advocated by each of these women that include diversity, life and pluralism are the basis for an ecclesiology in our times that respects all life forms, human and nonhuman. It is my belief that U.S. Latina theologians have a lot to contribute to theological discourse on perceptions of God and a subsequent ecclesiology that is liberative for all peoples. Though this analysis uses key principles of U.S. Latina theologians it is not uniquely for a liberative ecclesiological paradigm for exclusively U.S. Latina/os but rather for all peoples, and bodies, that are undermined daily by oppressive patriarchal ideologies and social structures.
This post originally featured on Grace Ji-Sun Kim's Blog~ Loving Life
Theresa Yugar, Ph.D. is a constructive Latina feminist liberation theologian. She is a graduate of Claremont Graduate University with a degree in Women’s Studies in Religion program. Her scholarship and activist work centers on gender and ecological justice. Along with being the author of a, “U.S. Latina Feminist Paradigm: Model of an Inclusive Twenty-first Century Ecclesiology” in Reimagining with Christian Doctrines: Responding to Global Gender Injustice edited by Grace Ji-Sun Kim & Jenny Daggers, her upcoming book entitled, “Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz: Feminist Reconstruction of Biography and Text,” will be published with Wipf and Stock for 2014.