Department of Theology

Theology Alumni Profiles

Why Major in Theology with us?

Spring 2020


brian igel portraitBrian Igel

XU Class of 2016. Majors in Theology and Philosophy.

Current Job: Development Coordinator for The Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary in Portland, Oregon.


Why did you decide to major in theology?

My interest in studying Theology at Xavier was fueled by my experiences with Catholic education and youth group in high school, both of which grounded me in my faith. I found myself yearning for depth and clarity to understand my relationship with Christ, the Church, and the whole world. I wanted to dive more deeply into how humanity had come to understand its relationship with God over the history of time. I sought a guide to lead me through the great spiritual and intellectual thinkers who wrestled with the perpetual questions of life, suffering, death, and resurrection. In coming to a more complete understanding of those questions, I hoped I could deepen my knowledge so that I might live more fully in right relationship with God and the world.


What impact did studying theology have on you?

My degree in theology at Xavier opened doors and questions for me each semester. It led me to grow into a more complete understanding of myself, God, and the world around me. I greatly enjoyed the diverse scope of study that the department provided for me to study the bible, tradition, the history of the church, and to wrestle with moral and ethical issues of the present day. I especially found myself captivated by the recurring Ignatian themes in my study calling me to live as a man for and with others, especially those on the margins, and to discern creative and just ways to increase the love and mercy in the lives of all whom I meet. Through the conversations with the faculty and my fellow students, I was able to gain confidence in my own beliefs and gained the tools to dialogue with viewpoints and beliefs that differed from my own. Through reading and discussing many of my great theological heroes, from St. Thomas Aquinas to Dorothy Day, and from St. Augustine to Thomas Merton, my studies in theology opened for me a richness of wisdom and understanding about God that extended to all areas of my life.            

My study of theology led me to live my outward faith by serving the world as a “contemplative in action.” I was involved with the Center for Faith and Justice at Xavier, which led me to a year of service with the Colorado Vincentian Volunteers in Denver after graduation. There my theological roots grounded me as I lived simply in an intentional faith community ministering to the most vulnerable on the streets of Denver. After my year in Denver, I moved to Portland, Oregon where I continued my walk alongside the suffering and the lonely experiencing homelessness as I worked to help meet their most basic human needs and provide hope and compassion. Right now, I work as a development officer for the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary in Oregon. They are a group of women religious who have ministered by educating and caring for the most vulnerable in the Pacific Northwest for over 150 years, while also advocating and envisioning for a more just and loving world. My strong Ignatian education centers me and challenges me to think critically as I work to support the prophetic ministry of the Sisters. Thanks to the great mentors and friends I made through Xavier’s theology department, I have confidence in living out my vocation, in love and service of God and those most in need, wherever my journey may take me next. 


devon jones portraitDevon James

XU Class of 2018. B.A. in Theology and Public Relations, minor in Deaf Studies

Current position: pursuing a Masters in Pastoral Ministry at the University of Dayton and Graduate Assistant in Campus Ministry


Why did you decide to major in theology?

I decided to study theology because I wanted to be a campus minister. In high school, I had an amazing campus minister who had a big impact on me. She taught me how to ask big questions, wonder about God, and how to grow in my relationship with God. After seeing the impact she made on me and so many of my classmates, I felt a calling to ministry. I wanted to bring others closer to God and help them grow their faith life. As I studied theology at Xavier, I learned about how to read the Bible, ethics and morality from the Christian tradition, and other topics, such as the theology of suffering and life after Vatican II in the Catholic Church. Having a theology degree taught me that I will have many questions about the faith, some that I can answer, and some that I cannot. My theology degree taught me that it's okay to not have all the answers; after all, I’m not God. The uncertainty of unanswered questions is where God comes in; God takes our fear and our questions and replaces them with love. I would not have learned that lesson if it weren't’t for my theology degree. My theology major at Xavier also allowed me to feel confident in pursuing a Master of Arts in Pastoral Ministry. The classes I took at Xavier gave me the foundation I needed when I studied at the University of Dayton. At UD, I was able to expand on my education at Xavier, learning practical ways to minister to people as a campus minister. All of this has led me to where I am now. My background in theological studies gives me the tools to continue to ask tough questions, and also allows me to walk with others as they wrestle with their own tough questions.


What impact did studying theology have on you?

My time as a theology student at Xavier was transformational. Each course taught me so much about various subjects in theology. I particularly enjoyed my ethics classes and Scripture classes. Learning about the ethical implications of various issues in society with Dr. Mescher opened my eyes to the harsh realities of the world today. He also taught me that the phrase “everything happens for a reason” is not the right way to think about the world, and I am very grateful for that lesson. Dr. Madar taught me how to appreciate Vatican II, as well as various topics within systematic theology. Dr. Gollar was helpful in allowing me to appreciate the history of the Church and was always so enthusiastic when teaching us. He made learning about history fun.

Theology helped define my “Xavier experience” because it gave me life-long friends. A fellow theology student and I became fast friends, as we had a lot of the same aspirations and took many classes together. She has taught me a lot about what love in action looks like and how to have a heart for Jesus.

Theology is relevant to who I am because my faith life is my entire life; it’s what I do, both in my career and in my personal life. It can be challenging to separate the two, but I wouldn't’t change it. Having the theological background from Xavier that I do has given me the tools to be a great minister and has taught me a lot about my Catholic faith. I would not be as successful of a campus minister or have the knowledge to be an effective minister without my theology degree from Xavier. It has had a major impact on my own personal faith life in ways that I never thought it would have. Overall, my theology degree at Xavier has given me a solid foundation to pursue further studies in pastoral ministry and to be a well-rounded campus minister.

Theology has taught me how to become the person God has created me to be. By learning about my faith through an educational and intellectual lens, I am able to better appreciate it. Theology has stretched and challenged me in ways I would have never predicted, but those experiences have taught me to lean on my faith, no matter how strong or weak it may feel. God will continue to walk with me through whatever challenges or struggles may come my way. Taking those lessons from my own life, I am able to show those I minister to that God is walking with them on their own journeys as well.


gabriella lisi portraitGabriella Lisi

XU Class of 2019. B.A. in Theology and Criminal Justice

Current Position: Pursuing a Master’s of Divinity (M.Div.) degree at Union Theological Seminary in New York City with a concentration in Theology.


Why did you decide to major in theology?

I was late registering for courses the summer before my first year at Xavier and ended up in a First-Year Seminar course taught by Dr. Pramuk which centered on Black Faith and Literature. I was completely enthralled in the beauty of both the culture and the lens through which we examined it. My second semester of my first year, I took THEO 111 with Dr. Leon Chartrand where we focused on Native American Traditions and Religion. It was in this course that I first began to question my own notions of the divine and the role of creation. First I wanted to explore the role of God in suffering. Initially, I sought to solve my own problems through the theology courses I took and then, through my professors and classmates, I began to develop a greater and wider concern for the entirety of creation and the ways in which theology is applied to care for each other, to call us to be better to one another and the earth we inhabit.


What impact did studying theology have on you?

It is an understatement to say theology helped define my Xavier experience. From getting involved in the Center for Faith and Justice (CFJ) to re-igniting the spark of my faith and religion, this program is still shaping who I am becoming. It allowed me the space to grow and flourish within its rich program in encouraging me to think critically about the implications of not only others’ actions and beliefs but also my own. The courses, professors, and classmates called me to embody and evoke magis (doing more for Christ and for others) in all aspects of my life. However, this theology department will not simply ask you to do more, they will provide you with a lifetime of lessons, knowledge, and spirit that does not disappear upon graduation. In fact, I think you’ll find yourself holding onto it long after you are gone. They did more than just hand me a degree, they supported my call to ministry. I am currently studying at Union Theological Seminary in New York City pursuing a Master of Divinity (M.Div.) with a concentration in Theology where I am reminded every day of the Jesuit education, knowledge, and spirit I acquired in my theology courses at Xavier.


zack zvosecz portraitZack Zvosecz

XU Class of 2015. Major in Theology. Minors in Religious Education and Psychology.

Current Position: Theology Teacher and Campus Minister at St. Henry District High School in Erlanger, KY


Why did you decide to major in theology?

My story starts in a similar way to that of Christ’s first disciples in that I too had encountered dynamic individuals who were on fire with their faith. My high school theology teachers, though they were not God-incarnate, nonetheless led me closer to Him. Under their instruction, I found Christ both within classroom walls and on the streets of Cleveland, exploring the riches and depth of the Tradition as well as its practical application in serving the most vulnerable in society. Most significantly, the joy that emanated from these faith-filled teachers was arresting, and I wanted a piece of it.

Fast forward to my time at Xavier, and I was “all in.” The heart of the Jesuit educational system is to form contemplatives in action, and studying theology helped me become an active-learner, active-server, and active prayer. And yet, at the end of the day, my studies merely serve to further my relationship with God, and it is my hope that I may someday be worthy of the line with which Victor Hugo describes Bishop Myriel: “He did not study God; he was dazzled by Him.”


What impact did studying theology have on you?

A marked feature of my Xavier education was that I was challenged to think critically - about Scripture, doctrine, social justice, and faith practice. This was primarily the result of exposure to diverse backgrounds and ways of thinking among my fellow classmates, and even from professors. My academic life and faith life were enriched by this cooperative dialogue in-and-out of the classroom. I learned to articulate the faith, not just recite doctrine. I grew in understanding of others, particularly those coming from other faith backgrounds. And I discovered new modes of prayer, particularly through the Center for Faith and Justice and student groups such as Life After Sunday. Formed in this way by my Xavier experience, I was well-prepared for a year of service-learning upon graduation and then Masters studies at the University of Notre Dame.

Today, it is my job to lead young adults into deeper relationship with Christ, just as my teachers had done for me. And there is much work to be done. I see in my students the ardent desire to build up the members of their community, and yet at times they struggle to find much distinction between the love Christ preaches and simply “being nice.” They get fired up over injustice in the world, but find it difficult to grasp a Kingdom that operates upon the grounds of both justice and mercy. Fortunately, my students are also truth-seekers and questioners, qualities which ultimately lead to Truth itself. My role in all this is to serve as a witness of faith for my students, accompanying them each day as they progress along their own faith journeys. I feel well-equipped to answer theological questions in my classroom, but if I’ve learned anything over the years, it is that witness and accompaniment matter more than direct answers. God Himself chose that route in the Incarnation. Perhaps Pope Paul VI said it best: “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.”