While earning a Master of Divinity degree from Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology (SMU-Perkins), Jose worked as an assistant in the college’s Center for Latino Christianity. He also developed a college preparation program for the Hispanic-Latino community that can be used by churches in the Fort Worth–Dallas area. Now he’s working toward his doctoral degree in religious studies, with a focus on religion and cultures of Latin America.
What is life like as a doctoral student?
My doctoral studies are very different from my experience in seminary and at the clinical pastoral education program at Parkland Health and Hospital System. Not only is there more reading, but there’s also much more writing and reflection. My last two degrees taught me a lot about time management, and now I’m really implementing what I’ve learned. But I’m most excited for the learning process, as it’s really my driving force. I love learning, and I hope I never stop learning new things.
While at SMU-Perkins, you chose to live in intentional community. What is that like?
I was connected with the Epworth Project, which is part of the Missional Wisdom Foundation in Dallas. The project focused on Christian ministry through living in intentional communities in demographically diverse neighborhoods. My wife, Alli (Klarenbeek ’11), and I lived in the Oscar Romero House, which functioned as an extension of the local church. My role in the house was steward: I was responsible for bringing all the members of the house together for prayer, house meetings and other events. I also communicated the spiritual and structural health of the house to our abbot.
What was one thing you took away from your experience with the Epworth Project?
One of the things that came to fruition during our time in the Oscar Romero House was a weekly community meal with area Latino youth. This was not an easy process; it took almost two years of being engaged in the local community in order to understand how to be an intentional neighbor. Although having a meal and daily conversations is nothing special, I know that when the youth of the community think about some of the role models in their lives, they will think back to those meals and the people who lived in that house.
How did Northwestern help you to reach your goals?
By the time I was a senior in college, I knew I wanted to continue my theological education. Northwestern certainly prepared me for seminary. Once I arrived at SMU, I was already ahead of the learning curve compared to many of my colleagues. Now that I am in a Ph.D. program, I still refer back to the basics I learned at Northwestern about biblical studies and historical critical methodologies. When I analyze 16th century intertextual dynamics between Spanish Catholics and Mesoamerican cultures, I have my Northwestern profs in my ears. When I think about the people who have shaped and influence my life, half of this list is always made up of NWC faculty and staff.
What did you appreciate most about Northwestern’s religion department?
This semester I am learning Nahuatl, which is an indigenous language in Mexico. I was surprised to find that taking Biblical Greek with Dr. Vonder Bruegge has helped me condense the syntax of Nahuatl grammar. Even though it is a completely different language, I am still amazed by how learning Greek at Northwestern has helped me this year. Another thing that really impacted my experience was the religion department faculty and how I could ask difficult questions and expect honest, well-rounded answers. I think for any college student who is interested in studying religion, Northwestern’s commitment to Christian-based conversations about difficult issues will be great preparation for seminary and doctoral studies.