Graduate Theological Union

E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation Supports Two Outstanding Students

Sean Gross and Sheri Prud’homme are grateful recipients of the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation scholarship — a two-year full tuition scholarship supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered persons of faith, or those endeavoring to insure faith communities’ understanding, affirmation, and inclusion of LGBT individuals. Both are 2nd-year Ph.D. students.

Sean GrossSean Gross is studying Ethics and Social Theory and his idea for his dissertation is to assess the state of pastoral care for sexual minorities in Catholic parishes. At the end of his studies, he hopes to teach moral theology on the undergraduate level, and “help people discern their way through the world.”

Judging from his own discernment experience, he will be the right person for the job. As an undergraduate at Saint Xavier University in Chicago, Gross argued for the sacramentality of gay marriage in the Catholic Church as he prepared to be a Maryknoll priest. But priesthood, he learned, was not his calling.

He went on to work for Teach For America, teaching Spanish at a rural high school in the Mississippi Delta, and later earned a Master’s degree in Moral Theology from Boston College. Along the way he took classes at Harvard in Queer Theology and Homosexuality and American Churches, and he is a resident minister at Santa Clara University. Among his many interests are body theology and early church history.

“I want to thank my cohort in Ethics and Social Theory, my parents, friends, and the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation for their help along the way,” says Gross.

“I saw a hunger among Unitarian Universalists for more knowledge about our theological heritage.”
Sheri Prud’homme

Sheri Prud'hommeSheri Prud’homme, an ordained Unitarian Universalist (UU) minister, seeks through her Ph.D. work in Interdisciplinary Studies, to fill a gap she identified in UU religious education. “I saw a hunger among Unitarian Universalists for more knowledge about our theological heritage,” she says. “Particularly, I feel called by youth and young adults to help provide more depth in our faith tradition.”

Additionally, Prud’homme is concerned about the world’s burgeoning environmental and ecological crises. “We live such a consumptive lifestyle, and we’re wreaking havoc on large parts of the world’s ecosystems,” she says. She is studying Unitarian and Universalist theologies of nature in the period 1850-1910, particularly on the Pacific Coast, to discover relevant theological insights applied to the ecological crisis, “I hope I can play a role in UU religious education, while also finding a way to help faith traditions move forward in shaping a more sustainable world.”

Prud’homme thanks Judith Berling and Boyung Lee for their seminar on interdisciplinarity, her advisor Ibrahim Farajajé, Rebecca Parker, and Joanne Doi, because her work on California Immigrant theologies adds new considerations for UU history, mostly written from an east coast perspective. She is grateful for the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation for its generous support.