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Invisible: Lecture at University of St. Michael's College
I started my Ph.D. in theology in the fall of 2005 after I graduated with my M.Div. at Knox College. It was not an easy decision to make as there were many cultural and theological stumbling blocks and expectations of me. The cultural expectations of having a child and raising children were an enormous burden to carry and live with. It was not just an expectation from my in-laws and family, but also one from Korean male classmates, Korean churches, and even from friends. Many made disparaging comments about my desire to pursue a doctoral degree when I should rather be home trying to raise a family.
I tried to ignore these cultural expectations as well as the theological roadblocks from within the conservative Korean church community which did not approve of women church leaders nor women theologians. It was not easy to ignore them, but somehow, I endured.
Despite some of these obstacles, I pursued my Ph.D. and persevered two years of course work where I enrolled in intriguing courses such as Feminist Christology, Critical Theory, Liberation Theology, and World Religions. The professors were all very engaging, provocative, and innovative.
It was a highly competitive program and many of my classmates were bright, well read, and motivated. I soon found myself falling behind everyone and struggling to keep up with all my readings, writing and research. After completing my course work and barely passing all my language requirements (French, German, Greek, they exempted me from the fourth language requirement as I was fluent in Korean), I started my comprehensive exams. Then I unexpectedly got pregnant with terrible morning sickness. I took some time off and resumed my studies by doing research and writing at home. It was a miracle that I passed my exams and moved on to writing my dissertation.
As I was getting ready to defend my thesis, I got pregnant with my second child. I defended my dissertation while experiencing Braxton Hick’s contractions due to the nervousness of defending my thesis. I successfully defended and graduated in 2002.
This educational pursuit was a difficult, soul searching, and life-changing theological journey. The struggles that I endured during my Ph.D. program has made me the theologian that I am today. I am so grateful to the many professors who stretched, challenged, and prodded my theological imagination. It was their academic rigor and their theological imaginations which encouraged me to examine my own life, see God’s presence and work towards a liberative theology. For this, I am deeply grateful to my professors, the University of St. Michael’s College, and the Toronto School of Theology.
Therefore, it was a tremendous honor to be invited by Drs. Hilda Koster and Reid Locklin to give a lecture on my book, Invisible. I was thrilled to have the University’s President, Dr. David Sylvester offer kind words of welcome at the beginning of my lecture. I am grateful to the Dean, faculty, students, staff, friends, and community who attended my public lecture. This invitation to speak at my alma mater was deeply meaningful to me as it was a warm homecoming experience after graduating 21 years ago. I felt very welcomed, accepted, affirmed, and redeemed after experiencing so many cultural and theological challenges for pursuing my Ph.D. in theology, and for this, I am very grateful.
With President Dr. David Sylvester with my edited book, Keeping Hope Alive (Orbis Books).
I presented on Planetary Solidarity co-edited with Dr. Hilda Koster to the graduate students of T.S.T. during a luncheon at Regis College. It was wonderful to meet such engaging and inspiring students. They lifted my spirits.
I enjoyed signing books for students, professors and friends. I am grateful for this wonderful visit to my alma mater. This visit gave me memories for a lifetime.
I was a big thrill to meet Korean American/Canadian Ph.D. students at T.S.T.. I wish them well and much success!