By Benjamin Wideman / Director of Communications
Sister Marie Kolbe Zamora, chair of the Department of Theology and Ministry at Silver Lake College, defended her dissertation at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome on June 15.
By successfully defending her dissertation, titled “Ecclesiological Elements in the Early Theology of St. Bonaventure,” Sister Marie acquired a Doctor of Sacred Theology (STD) degree.
Sister Marie began work on the dissertation in 2008 and finished it this year. The 472-page document takes an in-depth look at St. Bonaventure’s writing about the church.
“I built a net, so to speak, and went to the river of his writing and just dredged the river and pulled up everything he ever said about the church and put it together in a systematic way,” said Sister Marie, a native of Houston, Texas, and member of the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity.
“It was way harder than I thought it was going to be. I didn’t know enou
gh about medieval history at first, so I had to spend a year and a half just studying history before I even started writing. And Bonaventure wrote in Latin, and my ability to read Latin at the beginning of this wasn’t sufficient. So those first two years were spent doing history and Latin and that’s it.”
Sister Marie’s dissertation has made important international contributions to the area of Franciscan theology and Bonaventure’s studies.
Silver Lake College now has a faculty member who is uniquely qualified to help the college move forward with its commitment to the Franciscan intellectual tradition in a way that is credible to the rest of the Franciscan world.
In addition, Silver Lake College now has a doctorally qualified person leading the Department of Theology and Ministry, which bolsters an already strong collaboration with the Diocese of Green Bay and open doors for various contributions to the Catholic Church.
Silver Lake College students will benefit from Sister Marie’s contributions, as well.
“I have always viewed teaching as ‘coaching,’” she said. “My goal is to give students the intellectual and methodological tools to becoming even better at what I do than I am at what I do. The work that my dissertation represents — including the extreme difficulties I encountered — has grown me into a better academic coach than I was when I began the doctoral work.”
Sister Marie noted that the key to discovering the usefulness of her dissertation is to look to the future.
“Right now, there may be few people who would be interested in picking up this document,” she said. “However, this will be changing in the future as Silver Lake College continues to strengthen our academic reputation, to deepen our commitment to the Franciscan intellectual tradition, and to grow our contribution to the Catholic community.”
And, she added, “The Liberal Arts student who has no particular interest in theology will benefit from the work that my dissertation represents because it puts Silver Lake College in the position of offering them an authentic and credible immersion in the Franciscan intellectual tradition. This tradition is at the heart of the Franciscan education, which is a life-changing experience.”
In defending her dissertation, Sister Marie had to present a 30-minute lesson — a synthesis of her work — to a panel of three people. Then, two people were given an hour to question her.
Sister Marie is currently working on finding a company in the United States to publish her document.
“Although I’m finished with the dissertation, the work has only started,” she said. “Once you finish a dissertation and you’ve published it, people expect the contribution to continue. The expectation of my peers would be that I continue writing and publishing. It’s the end of a first phase of major work, but the beginning of more work and wider collaborating that, hopefully, will bear fruit for everyone.”