Jesuits Announce Scholarship Initiative for African Women to Study Theology
By Sr. Jecinter Okoth, FSSA, for ACI Africa
The Society of Jesus (Jesuits) is seeking to empower women in Africa to be engage credibly in the conversation about matters of faith through a sponsorship program dubbed “St. Ignatius Scholarship for Women Theologians,” a move that is consistent with the mission of the centuries-old institution and the pastoral guidelines of Pope Francis, also a Jesuit.
“The Jesuit School of Theology of Hekima University College (HUC) in Nairobi, Kenya, is delighted to announce the ‘St. Ignatius Scholarship for Women Theologians’. This scholarship is for African women (Religious or Lay) to study towards the Bachelor of Theology (BTh) or the Master of Theology/Licentiate in Sacred Theology,” read in part the poster announcing the scholarship.
In an interview with ACI Africa, the Coordinator of the theology scholarship, Jesuit Fr. Peter Knox explained the reason behind the initiative.
“In line with the pastoral focus of Pope Francis and the orientations of the Society of Jesus (of) walking with the marginalized, the Jesuit School of Theology is concerned that not enough women’s voices and insights are being heard in the Catholic Church in Africa, particularly when it comes to matters concerning faith,” the Nairobi-based Jesuit, who lectures at HUC told ACI Africa Tuesday, January 14.
He further described studies in Theology as “faith seeking understanding” and “the best way to come to understand and express our faith beyond the level of catechism.”
In this regard, the South African-born Jesuit priest said, the scholarship initiative seeks to include African women in faith discourse, “to hear theology from the perspective of women and to help women develop a stronger voice in our Church.”
Beneficiaries of the scholarship who will have met the admission requirements will undertake their studies at Hekima University College, the Nairobi-based Jesuit institution affiliated to the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA).
According to Prof. Knox, the scholarship initiative is targeted women because “there are so many opportunities for men to study theology.”
He further explained, “Obviously all the seminarians going forward to priesthood must have at least the most basic level of theology before ordination. However, many religious sisters and laywomen don’t have this opportunity and so they are often regarded as uninformed or un-formed when it comes to matters of theology.”
“Our bachelor’s degree gives our graduates the same level of theological training and insight as most priests,” Prof. Knox who has been teaching theology at HUC for the last seven years said and added, “Our licentiate degree will give them the ‘license’ to teach in seminaries and Catholic faculties of theology.”
There are discussions about the possibility of offering, at HUC, “full scholarships in the future to Catholic women to do a doctorate in theology in accredited Universities or faculties in Africa,” Prof. Knox who is HUC’s Deputy Principal for Academic Affairs told ACI Africa during the January 14 interview.
Asked how practical the theological courses are for the beneficiaries, the Jesuit Prof. explained, “We have built a component into our licentiate degree that gives our students experience of teaching at the bachelor’s level.”
He added, “Women students studying with our seminarians will help them as they prepare for ministry to the whole Church.”
Potential beneficiaries are expected to submit their applications by mid-April 2020.