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Student Profile: Rev. Patricia Bonilla

Courtesy photo.
Courtesy photo.

Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary doctor of philosophy candidate, Reverend Patricia Bonilla, has been named a 2022-2023 Hispanic Theological Initiative/Lilly Endowment Dissertation Fellow. Bonilla is one of 10 doctoral candidates in North America to be named a 2022-2023 fellow. Her area of concentration in the doctoral program is in Christian education and congregational studies.

Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary is one of the 13 United Methodist seminaries supported by the Ministerial Education Fund apportionment of the United Methodist Church.

A $1.5 million grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc. has provided the Hispanic Theological Initiative with the opportunity to award 10 fellowships for five years, with each fellow receiving $22,500.

Bonilla’s research interests bring into dialogue and practice critical pedagogies, decolonial theory, and religious education with special attention to engaging with epistemologies of the South and pluriversal ecologies of knowledge. She is interested in the how to of educating holistically. As a doctoral candidate, Bonilla’s research includes the practices and theories of faith formation and the generative possibilities of world building otherwise, particularly from the experiences of minoritized and marginalized racial/ethnic communities.

“My research and work attempt to close gaps in academia, particularly gaps between the Latinx community and seminary,” said Bonilla. “My research examines ways to give voice to Latinx young people connected to the Church by exploring how they practice their faith.” 

The Hispanic Theological Initiative (HTI), based in Princeton, New Jersey, seeks to cultivate Latinx doctoral students by uniting and leveraging institutional resources (human, financial, and infrastructural). When asked about the work and mission of HTI and the fellowship, Bonilla said, “The Hispanic Theological Initiative has accompanied me since the beginning of my doctoral studies in partnership with Garrett. Being an HTI scholars has given me the tools I needed to successfully advance throughout my program by connecting me to academic networks and offering annual professional development workshops. Now with the HTI/Lilly fellowship they are providing me the financial support I need to concentrate full-time on my research and writing. I am overjoyed and immensely grateful for their continued support!”

Patricia Bonilla is the daughter of Mexican migrants. Growing up bilingual and bicultural, she experienced the challenges as well as creative possibilities of navigating multilingual and multiethnic spaces. Patricia has worked in congregational ministry since 2005 as well as community and youth development, focusing on fostering creative and liberatory educational spaces for Latinx youth. She has been a mentor and program coordinator with the Hispanic Youth Leadership Academy since 2008. As an ordained clergy with The United Methodist Church, she has also worked to foster community engagement, leadership, and faith development in faith communities. As a practical theologian she is acutely aware of the political, epistemological and cultural implications of education, specifically educating toward liberation and concientization.

Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary website, Evanston, IL

One of seven apportioned giving opportunities of The United Methodist Church, the Ministerial Education Fund is at the heart of preparing people for making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. The 13 United Methodist seminaries help students to discover their calling through the challenging curriculum. The fund enables the church to increase financial support for recruiting and educating ordained and diaconal ministers and to equip annual conferences to meet increased demands. Please encourage your leaders and congregations to support the Ministerial Education Fund apportionment at 100 percent.