The View from the Back Pew

Identity and experience. They continually shape one another and the path of our lives. They have profoundly guided the academic journey of GTU doctoral student Jen Owens.

While earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology at Loyola Marymount, Owens was introduced to Liberation Theology which emphasizes experience. She began to focus on feminist perspectives and her own bi-cultural identity — her father is of European descent and her mother hails from an upper class family in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Historically, Bolivia has been divided between the underrepresented indigenous majority and those descended from European colonizers.

At Harvard Divinity School, Owens wrestled with her Catholic identity and a series of dialogues led to a blog and eventually a book, From the Pews in the Back: Young Women and Catholicism, coauthored with Harvard colleague Kate Dugan.

Owens’ Bolivian heritage and experience as a young Catholic woman led her to study Ecclesiology at the GTU in the Systematic and Philosophical Theology area. She plans to focus on the changing demographics in US churches and the continuing legacy of the “conquest” in Latin American and South American churches. Owens receives the Fr. Francis L. Markey Scholarship, which supports female doctoral students studying Roman Catholic leadership and ministry.