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Reflecting on my time at Loyola

A stone slab with various languages etched into it

The following is a guest post by MTS graduate, Allison Harmon, now pursuing a PhD at Trinity College Dublin.
Thanks, Allison!

I know that I will never be able to sum up my time here at Loyola in a blog post, because I truly believe that the impact that this place has had on me will continue to be revealed throughout the rest of my life—but I will do my best to give a cliff-notes version.

After meeting with the faculty and learning about all of the great classes in Loyola’s Master of Theological Studies program, I knew I had to enroll in yet another program for another master’s degree. The faculty’s dedication to the program and to individual student success is something that I have certainly benefited from throughout my time as an MTS student. They did all of the legwork so that we could bring an ancient Hebrew language component to the department. This type of care and dedication to students is something of a constant within the department. Every theology professor that I have had in this program has been willing to go above and beyond the call of duty to ensure my success as a student. I have seen shining examples of what it means to live a life dedicated to the cultivation of Jesuit values inside and outside of the classroom. The enthusiasm that these individuals have for their work in the classroom is indicative of the passion that they have for their work in the field of theology; and it is contagious. I found myself getting excited to learn about topics that I previously had no desire to learn about because of the sheer joy that it brought to my educators.

The department as a whole also cultivated my interests as a budding theologian. In particular I was given the resources and class time to develop my thesis. My thesis, entitled “An Exploration of Neighbor Relations in the Abrahamic Traditions,” focused on the concept of neighbor identity and obligations to neighbors within the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions. I sought to do some comparative theology with regard to the commandments to care for the poor, the marginalized, and for those who cannot care for themselves. I grappled with the questions: do people of faith have any obligations to the aforementioned groups? And should followers of God care for their neighbors out of their own goodness or are they called to care for their neighbors out of their own obligations to God?

Throughout the course of my thesis research I found my passion for applied Biblical studies, which I plan to further cultivate as I embark on my next scholarly endeavor. In the Fall of 2016, I began in the PhD program at the Loyola Institute at Trinity College Dublin. My research topic focuses on the person of Joseph in the Book of Genesis (37-end), and in particular Joseph’s migrant identity. I am examining Joseph’s identity in terms of his ethnic assimilation/translation from his Hebrew identity to his Egyptian identity. Joseph provides a concrete example of a migrant person who is able to navigate the difficult task of assimilating into a culture while still maintaining his original socio-cultural and religious identity. It is my hope to be able to apply my findings to the migration crisis currently impacting the European Union.

I still can’t believe that I am studying migration while residing in a foreign country; this all seems surreal to me. This was never in the realm of possibilities for me, and it would not have become a reality without the support and guidance that I have received from the individuals who make up the Theology department at Loyola.