Cultural Context Enriches Theology, Leading African Jesuit Tells 2012 Jesuit School of Theology Graduates
BERKELEY, Calif., May 21, 2012 — Respecting the cultural context in which believers worship adds to the richness of Catholic theological teaching, a leading African Jesuit told the 2012 graduating class of the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University.
Four dozen theology students received advanced or bachelor’s degrees from JST at a ceremony held at 3 p.m. Saturday at the University Christian Church of Berkeley.
The speaker was Agbonkhianmeghe E. Orobator, S.J., the community and spiritual leader for Jeuits in six African countries. He spoke to the graduates about the importance of respecting cultural context in theology, describing how when studying at JST he learned to honor his African religious heritage, including practices undertaken before his conversion to Catholic Christianity.
“Celebration of diversity and respect for plurality are constitutive of an authentic theological enterprise,” he said.
“In the midst of a rampant globalization, I remain convinced that theology does not float above culture and context,” he said, quoting from his own writings. “Doing theology is not an exercise in conceptual weightlessness. Theology develops within the particular culture and context of the ecclesial community that attempts to utter a word or two on the reality of God and the demands of faith for daily living.”
Fr. Orobator also discussed the unique challenges awaiting today’s theologians, including how rapid information flow “stirs up endless questions of theological import in fields and disciplines as farflung as business ethics, medical and bio-ethics, developmental economics, war, migration, technology, terrorism, ecology, family, sexuality, and cosmology.”
The majority of the JST graduates on Saturday received advanced degrees— masters in theology, theological studies, divinity, or arts; or licentiates or doctors of sacred theology. Two students received bachelor’s degrees in sacred theology.
JST’s students hail from all over the world. The 2012 class comprised graduates from Burkino Faso, Cameroon Canada, Guinea-Bissau, India, Lebanon, Mexico, Poland, Spain, Tanzania, Uganda, United Kingdom, and Vietnam.
Fr. Orobator received an honorary doctorate of divinity degree during the ceremony. The citation for his honorary degree praised him for being “a preeminent scholar of African theology, dedicated teacher, and pastoral leader,” who has “taught us to be ‘a Church with large ears,’ a listening Church nourished by African wisdom.”
Fr. Orobator teaches theology and religious studies at Hekima College, Jesuit School of Theology and Institute of Peace Studies in Nairobi, Kenya.
About the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University
The Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University, located in Berkeley, California, is a preeminent international center for the culturally contextualized study of theology. Its mission is to inspire and prepare men and women to become leaders in the Church, academy, and society, serving others through a faith that does justice. Rooted in Ignatian spirituality, JT educates and trains Jesuits, religious, ordained, and lay students from across the United States and from 40 other countries for lives dedicated to ministry and scholarship.