Josefrayn Sánchez-Perry
Assistant Professor of Theology, Loyola University, Chicago, Illinois
Josefrayn Sánchez-Perry

Christian historian

When it comes to understanding the Christian story, Dr. Josefrayn Sanchez-Perry digs deep. Knowing the importance of language in historical analysis, he has embraced the challenge of studying Nahuatl—one of the first languages European Christians encountered in the early Americas. Now an assistant professor of theology, he strives to emulate the mentorship he received from Northwestern’s biblical and theological studies faculty.

How did Northwestern help you to reach your goals?
By the time I was a senior in college, I knew I wanted to continue my theological education. As a Ph.D. student, I often referred to the basics I learned at Northwestern about biblical studies and historical critical methodologies. When I think about the people who have shaped and influence my life, half of this list is always made up of NWC faculty and staff.

What did you appreciate most about Northwestern’s biblical and theological studies department?
When I first started learning Nahuatl, I was surprised to find that taking biblical Greek with Dr. Vonder Bruegge helped me to better understand Nahuatl grammar. I can still hear his voice when I approach every Nahuatl term: “Parse it!” he would exhort our Greek class, reminding us to break a term down to its basic grammatical functions. 

Another thing that really impacted my experience was the religion faculty and how I could ask difficult questions and expect honest, well-rounded answers. I think for any college student who is interested in studying religion, Northwestern’s commitment to faith-based conversations about difficult issues will be great preparation for seminary and doctoral studies.

How did the Northwestern biblical and theological studies department influence your decision to become a college professor?
I must confess that I was not the best student when I entered college. It took me a while to grow into my passion for academics, and it was my religion professors who showed me what I was restlessly seeking. When I think about myself as a professor now, I can only hope to emulate the teaching and mentorship I received from the faculty at NWC.

In what ways do you integrate faith with your teaching?
I teach a class on missionaries that includes Christian encounters with Native peoples in the United States, as Europeans moved westward in the mid-1800s. These histories are new for many, and quite frankly, disturbing for all my students. In my courses, I allow students the space to hold tension between Christianity’s history in the Americas and their personal faith experiences. Together, we discuss the historical materials, deconstruct arguments made in the past, and most importantly, reconstruct what it means in the present day.

Photo by Lukas Keapproth, courtesy of Loyola University Chicago Marketing & Communications