Too often, theological construction appears to emanate from no place, asserting an objectivity that only the most privileged among us can claim. My work aims to expose the particular places and particular bodies that construct the theologies that affect and, at times, afflict lo cotidiano, or daily living. I aim to engage head, heart, and hands in the process.
I took the above photo in Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt flat on the planet, near Bolivia's border with Chile. My literal journey back to Bolivia was a generative moment during my formation as a practitioner of Catholicism, a lay ecclesial minister, and a theologian. The time I spent there re-connected me not only to my familial roots, but also to the abiding inequities that mark this country and the world in which we live. Listening to the stories of women who were imprisoned on the outskirts of Cochabamba, immersing myself in the language and the culture of my maternal grandparents, I was re-introduced to the intersecting oppressions that aim to divide us from one another. Hearing the recent history of the Water Wars, listening deeply to those whom struggles with racial and ethnic diversity affect most acutely, seeing homophobia spread, learning how domestic violence and feminicide take the lives of so many Bolivian women and girls, witnessing the devastation that unbridled greed leaves in its wake, I was sensitized anew to our collective need for liberation from what binds us. These oppressive realities were unmistakably familiar, and I continue to become acquainted with their US American roots and incarnations as I make my way as a mujerista theologian here in the States.
Let's walk and think and pray together. Let's be rooted but not exclusive, bridging our respective paths on this journey toward liberation. Let's be curious about the possibilities that come from bringing our heads, our hearts, and our hands together. Let's be creative together in attempting to enflesh in the here and now what Jesus called the Kingdom of God. Let's build a new world in the shell of the old.
Jennifer Owens-Jofré, PhD, is a Latina Catholic theologian. Her academic writing has appeared in the International Journal of Practical Theology, and she co-edited From the Pews in the Back: Young Women and Catholicism, which Liturgical Press published in 2009. Other popular pieces can be found online at Patheos, God's Politics, and Busted Halo. With ministerial experience in Catholic contexts across the United States, she also offers professional development opportunities for those in ministry.
Having studied at Loyola Marymount University, Harvard Divinity School, and the Graduate Theological Union, Jennifer defended her dissertation, which explores the implications of devotion to la Virgen de Guadalupe at a Latinx Catholic parish for Mariology and for ministry, in August of 2018. During academic year 2018-2019, she participated in a Postdoctoral Fellowship through the Louisville Institute at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, where she served as Visiting Assistant Professor of Constructive Theology. Currently, she is Assistant Professor and Director of the Office of Latino Studies at Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, TX.