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Carmen Nanko-Fernández

Recipient of the Virgilio Elizondo Award

June 12, 2012

It gives me great pleasure to announce one of the 2012 Virgilio Elizondo award winners, mi Colega, mi Amiga y la Br. Jacoba a de mi comunidad franciscana, Carmen Marie Nanko-Fernández.  As a true Tia-logian, Carmen has embodied the mission of ACTHUS in her research, teaching and activism within and outside the theological academy.  Her 2010 book, Theologizing en Espanglish: Context, Community, and Ministry is a significant contribution to the advancement of critical theological reflection within the US Latina/o context.  It gives voice to the lived faith of US Latina/os, both in its distinctiveness as well as its intersections with other cultural/theological movements. 

Carmen's public theology thematizes the faith experience of Latina/os within our diverse social contexts.  Her theologizing speaks to and accompanies Latina/o Christians and iglesias as they discern the Spirit within cultura popular, and it articulates a prophetic ministerial vision that supports dialogue for the sake of the convivencia that makes all vida cotidiana possible.  Further, Carmen demonstrates interdisciplinary engagement and collaboration, especially in her weaving together of liberation theologies and postcolonial cultural theories.  Nanko-Fernández's long-standing servicio to ACTHUS has helped support una nueva generación of students and scholars engaged in theological research and social action, and helped create and drawn together a network of Latina/o theological workers engaged in articulating a teología en/de conjunto.

Beyond ACHTUS, she has extended this network (formally and informally) into coalitions with other marginalized communities desiring to secure justice, demonstrating that her (and ACTHUS') concern is not only "for our own" but for the common good within and beyond the church and theological academy.  Also, for many years she has provided “a theological voice for the lived faith of U.S. Hispanics" per ACHTUS's mission, evidenced recently by her role as convener of the Latino/a section of the CTSA and co-chair of the Latino/a Religion, Culture, and Society section of the AAR.

We need to also recognize her tireless dedication to ACHTUS as past president and treasurer, as well as her consistent mentoring of future Latino/a theologians. Para concluir, I would like to afirmar that ACHTUS honors itself by honoring Carmen Nanko-Fernandez with its highest award for achievement in theological reflection on Latina/o faith and cultural reality: the Virgilio Elizondo Award.

- 2012 Virgilio Elizondo Award citation. Presented by Gilberto Cavazos-González, O.F.M.


 Carmen Nanko-Fernández's Acceptance Speech:

Truly at a loss for words, I asked my 87 year old Mom what I should say this evening; she recommended I begin with “unaccustomed as I am with public speaking…thanks, give me the damn award, let’s go eat.”

High school religion teachers don’t usually have an equal place at the table in the theological academy, let alone 18 years later receive a prestigious award from peers for contributions to the field. I joined ACHTUS in the same year as Alex Garcia-Rivera, we cowered en conjunto at the end of the table as Ada María Isasi-Díaz y María Pilar Aquino went at it bilingually, mano a mano about the role of justice in Latina theologies. Fernando Segovia, president at the time, reached out with hospitality and the offer of a free banquet dinner, I remain ever grateful for that act of grace that changed my life.

Faculty with Doctor of Ministry degrees don’t usually wind up in a tenure track graduate teaching position with the possibility of promotion. That would not be possible even at my own alma mater. I remain ever grateful to Gary Riebe-Estrella who believed in me and my colleagues y amigos/as at the Catholic Theological Union, most especially Gilberto Cavazos-González y Vanessa White.

Unknowns Latinos/as don’t get published without subsidies or get taken seriously without peer review journals. I remain ever  grateful to Orlando Espín, Orbis Books, Jean-Pierre Ruiz, the Journal of Hispanic/Latino Theology, and my very first scholarly book reviewers Neomi  DeAnda y Jeremy Cruz.

Esta nieta de inmigrantes who had a 6th grade education makes it because of loving parents, Carmen y Charles who sacrificed for their children’s education. I cannot accept this award in my name alone, because comunidades y familias bring me here. Este honor es para ustedes: para toda mi familia, para mis jovenes estudiantes, para mis colegas.

Este honor lo ofrezco en memoria de mis abuelos Emilio y Carmen.

This honor is for you mis compañeros/as de ACHTUS those who celebrate here and those who share this celebration  in the company of los santos y las santas. Without you, ACHTUS, I have no elbow room at the tables of academia, no space to do theology, no career in theological education. ¡Without you ACHTUS no tengo voz!

¡Mil gracias por todo!

-Remarks given by Carmen Nanko-Fernández, during the ACHTUS 2012 Virgilio Elizondo Award program.