Kate Willey: Creating space for faith-filled growth

Kate Willey will be graduating from Aquinas Institute of Theology this May with a Master of Arts in Theology. As a St. Louis native and devoted theology teacher at Cor Jesu Academy, Kate is dedicated to forming the minds and faith lives of St. Louis high schoolers.

“Teaching theology at the high school level is a privilege,” she said. “ My students are willing to engage with the material and wrestle with new ideas. This is the special space to cultivate learning and faith. This space allows students to ask questions and make up their own minds about things. I love building an open and accepting environment in my classroom where my students can be themselves and develop.”

Kate was inspired to further her theological education at Aquinas Institute by her love for learning and overcoming new challenges.

“I wanted to re-engage in theology at an academic level and participate in thought-provoking discussions,” Kate said. “Discussions on the high school level are enriching and my students are often impressively insightful, but I wanted a greater challenge. And I knew that in return this re-engagement would make me a better thinker and a better teacher.”

Kate crafted her thesis based on a concept that she uncovered during her class on the Second Vatican Council for seniors at Cor Jesu. The paper is titled "Marie-Dominique Chenu's 'toothing stones': A Way to Reconcile La Nouvelle Theologie and Neo-Scholasticism in the Twenty-First Century."

“Their textbook (A Concise Guide to the Documents of Vatican II, Edward Hahnenberg) discusses this "toothing stones" image in context with Gaudium et Spes,” she said. “Toothing stones, according to Chenu, are stones that jut out of a building in anticipation of an addition. The metaphor expresses ways that the Church can reach out and find areas of common concern with the modern world.”

While the class textbook only briefly mentions the concept for the thesis, the enthusiasm and creative insights gleaned from her students during the discussion ultimately inspired Kate to pursue the topic. After her graduation in May, Kate plans to continue teaching at Cor Jesu Academy and foster unique spaces for students to explore their faith.