Meeting the Faces of Theology

Meet Fiona Li, whose story is the first installment in a new occasional series called The Faces of Theology.

People are called to study theology for any number of reasons. Today, Fiona shares her story.

Throughout high school, I always thought my calling was to be a high school math and religion teacher/chaplain. At that time, my school’s religion department had a website listing all the qualifications of the religion teachers, including the chaplain. It was there that I learned about graduate studies in theology, and I told myself that if I wanted to be a chaplain, I should have a degree in theology.

After high school, I entered the University of Toronto, planning to do exactly what I thought was my calling. While my love for math did not endure past first year, religion did. I graduated with a specialist in Christianity and Culture (C&C). It was during my studies in C&C that my desire to study theology deepened. Perhaps due to the particular RCIA formation I experienced I was especially drawn to the Bible, and in my fourth year I had the opportunity to study the Old and New Testaments at the Faculty of Theology. Not only were the courses fascinating but I also felt really drawn to, and at home in, the Faculty. With my undergraduate program ending, I had to make a decision on what I would do after graduation: teacher’s college or theology.

It’s now three years since I graduated from C&C. I have earned my Master of Theological Studies degree (M.T.S.), and am currently in the first year of my Master of Theology degree (Th.M). While there are many people who have continuously encouraged me to pursue my interests in theology — my family and closest friends, for example — I believe the original motivator was my own desire to learn more about my faith and to find answers to my questions.

To some, one degree in theology doesn’t make much sense, let alone two. I explain that this is how I engage with the world and offer resistance. For example, I am currently focused on feminist theological anthropology. Through this study I advocate for the dignity and respect of all persons, precisely because we are all made in the image and likeness of God. Theology is the motivation and support I use to point out what is wrong with gender inequalities and stereotypes, and the marginalization of the least of our brothers and sisters in contemporary society. This, basically, is the motivation that keeps me going when life and school get busy: the inclusion and liberation of the marginalized, especially women in both secular and ecclesial contexts, is a cause I am passionate about and believe in wholeheartedly.

These past years at the Faculty of Theology have given me numerous leadership and learning opportunities, which in turn have helped me to grow as a person. Through these moments, I’ve learned more about my own strengths and theological interests. I’ve learned about the different doctrinal developments in the history of Catholicism, and the necessity of the Church to respond to the experiences of the faithful. I’ve learned that the Church has to be in conversation with the world in order to remain relevant and voice the Truth.

If I hadn’t chosen theology, I’d have gone to OISE and become an elementary teacher.  While the decision to pursue theology means I am still in school and do not yet have a full-time career, it is not a decision I regret. Studying at the Faculty of Theology has broadened my understanding of Catholicism, of how the world/culture ought to be, of myself, and of what it means to be a Catholic in a secular, multi-cultural, multi-faith society.