Rosemary Radford Ruether: A Brief Reflection
by Teresia M. Hinga, Santa Clara University, Fall 2022
I met Rosemary Ruether the writer long before I met her in person. This was around 1983 when I was a PhD candidate at Lancaster University, England.
I had, in a rather pioneering way, proposed to write my dissertation on Women in African Independent Churches focusing on the Legio Maria Church of Kenya as a case study. Her book, Sexism and God Talk alongside Elisabeth Fiorenza’s In Memory of Her were among the books in my literature review as is customary in dissertation writing. Both were pioneer works in feminist theology. Rosemary pioneered in ecofeminist thought or, in the words of one of her titles, “Gaia and God.”
Later on, in the 1990s I came to work at DePaul University in Chicago. Rosemary was teaching at Garrett Theological Seminary also in Chicago and was in the middle of editing her 1996 Orbis book, Women Healing the Earth: Third World Women on Religion and Ecology. Determined to amplify African women voices, she came to my apartment to recruit and encourage me to write an essay for the book, namely “Gikuyu Theology Of Land” which appears in the book and features indigenous Gikuyu voices on religion and ecology.
Not only was she determined to be inclusive, she was determined to be a friend. A sense of mutuality grew between us as she would guest speak in my classes on feminist theology and I would guest speak on women in African Christianity in her classes.
Another space of encounter and collegiality was in connection with the Beijing UN Conference on Women. We were invited to offer Catholic perspectives on the conference. In collaboration, we wrote a document entitled “Catholic Perspectives on the Eve of Beijing” supported by Catholics for a Free Choice.
Later, Rosemary left Garrett to go into retirement at Pilgrim Place. She continued to be active in academics including being a panelist at an AAR panel which I organized and where she presented a paper on Professor Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize winner for 2004.
Fast forward to 2016 and the Catholic Theological Society of America conference in Albuquerque. The theme was religion and ecology. I proposed a panel on the theme featuring Lilian Dube, Theresa Yugar, and Sarah Robinson. The presentations were well received and the audience encouraged us to publish a book out of the proceedings
We followed through with a call for papers and published with Peeters (2021) a book entitled Valuing Lives Healing Earth: Women Religion and Life on Earth. The book is on display and will be commented on during the 2022 AAR. The co-editors are Lilian Dube, Teresia Hinga, Sarah Robinson and Theresa Yugar. We are also planning a sequel comprised of papers that did not make it to the first volume due to restrictions of space.
Alas, Professor Ruether suffered a stroke and recently passed on due to complications thereof. She leaves a rich legacy as a feminist Catholic theologian and as an eco-feminist. I am privileged to have met her and she enriched my life immensely.
Rest in Peace Professor Ruether, Colleague, Friend and Mentor of many.