For Dr. Marial Corona, a Consecrated Woman of Regnum Christi, the academic world is the perfect setting in which to bring the Gospel values.
Born in Puebla, Mexico, school has always been an important part of Marial’s spiritual and vocational journey. Marial attended Instituto Andes de Puebla, a Regnum Christi school in Puebla, and it was here, particularly during the Holy Week missions in which she participated in the eighth grade, that Marial developed a profound and personal relationship with Christ, which ultimately led to her discernment of the consecrated life. In 2004, she made her first vows as a Consecrated Woman of Regnum Christi in Monterrey, Mexico, and in 2008 she obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Pastoral Studies at Mater Ecclesiae College in Greenville, Rhode Island. Marial’s first assignment within consecrated life was as a teacher in the Consecrated Women’s formation center in Monterrey, where she quickly discovered her love of teaching and the academic life. “Although at the time I didn’t think that I was up to the job, the most enjoyable hours of my week were those I spent in the classroom,” says Marial.
After four years of teaching at the women’s formation center in Monterrey, Marial had the opportunity to pursue her master’s degree in philosophy, which she completed in 2013 in Navarre, Spain, and it was during this experience that she had the time to develop and expand both her skills and her interest in academic research. After receiving her graduate degree, Marial served five years in the Mission Youth National Office in the US, and then, in 2018, she returned to the world of academia to pursue her doctorate, which she obtained in September of 2020. Since returning to academic life, Marial has been teaching at the Institute of Lay Formation at the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, and for the Spiritual Direction Certificate Program at Divine Mercy University. With her research and academic background in one of the Church’s most recently canonized saints, St. John Henry Newman, Marial has also been serving on the editorial board of the National Institute of Newman Studies, and has been engaged in academic undertakings with the St. John Henry Newman Association, as well as the American Catholic Philosophical Association.
What was it about St. John Henry Newman that inspired Marial to make him and his philosophical approach to education the focus of her graduate work? While she was teaching at the formation center in Monterrey, Marial also participated in the renewal of the studies program of the Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi. Knowing this, her thesis director suggested she look into Newman’s The Idea of a University and see what he would have to say on the subject. In fact, the conclusion of Marial’s master’s thesis offered three suggestions for the intellectual formation of the Consecrated Women, based on the themes and arguments presented in Newman’s book, but her interest in the saint didn’t end there. “After my first acquaintance with him through that work, I came to appreciate his freshness and candor, and kept coming back to his works over and over.”
Although Marial’s graduate studies are in the field of philosophy, she teaches classes in an incredibly wide variety of disciplines, like theology (including dogmatics, divine revelation, and the Sacraments) and pastoral studies (including catechesis, mission and ministry, culture and evangelization, deepening discipleship, and ongoing conversion). “The truth is, as many in Regnum Christi, I’m a jack-of-all-trades,” says Marial. “I love learning, so when I’m asked about the possibility of teaching on a new topic, I make the most of the opportunity to explore it in depth.”
Besides teaching, Marial loves the opportunity to provide academic mentoring to her students – being an academic mentor was one of the roles that she enjoyed most during her first teaching job at the formation center in Monterrey. And Marial herself has benefitted immensely from this type of accompaniment – her thesis director, Dr. Jaime Nubiola at the University of Navarre, was a great support and encouragement in her academic work, and an inspiration to her on the profound impact she can have in the academic world. “How he has accompanied me through a very decisive period in my life has been one of the greatest blessings I have received – not only did he guide my work in the elaboration of my master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation, but he also was an excellent mentor for my personal growth and maturation, both humanly and spiritually,” says Marial. “I would love to provide the same service to other young adults.”
Maria appreciates the opportunity that the academic setting provides her to help students make sense of a complicated world through the lens of their faith, and to guide them to discover and develop their own well-informed opinions in order to contribute meaningfully in the conversation around them. “I love to help spark people’s love for the truth and its discovery,” says Marial. “I have seen that the more that a person knows, the freer she becomes, and the more comfortable she is engaging with others.”
And as a Consecrated Woman of Regnum Christi, Marial sees her work in the academic setting as a chance to witness to the Catholic faith. “Consecrated life offers plenty of opportunities to deepen into the life of the baptized person,” says Marial, “and people do notice the joyful living of my consecration, particularly my vow of chastity, and the passion with which I embrace whatever subject is being discussed.”
The power of this opportunity to witness to Gospel joy within the intellectual world became particularly evident to Marial at an academic conference she attended last year:
“I presented a paper titled “Newman’s Understanding of Doubt as a Positive State” at a conference in 2020. Afterward, a graduate student e-mailed me to thank me for my paper. He said ‘I’ve been what you might call a ‘doubter’ for some time, and it is Newman’s writings that have helped me begin to believe again. However, I’ve found it difficult to articulate why this is, and your presentation has begun to clarify this for me.’ He just went through RCIA and is embracing his Catholic faith with passion. Some people, like him, need to grapple with faith at an intellectual level, and I see much fruit in walking with them.”
Experiences like these confirm and strengthen Marial’s call to mission within the halls of academia. But for Marial, it’s a mission that goes far beyond teaching within the institution of higher education. “I wouldn’t say my call is to teach,” says Marial. “I would say that it is to bring the light, freshness, and joy of the Gospel to the academic world.”
While Marial is in the process of editing her doctoral these, titled ““The Pragmatism of John Henry Newman: His contributions for a Commitment to Truth in Contemporary Times,” for publication, she continues to seek opportunities of engagement in further scholarly undertakings, and ultimately, a full-time faculty position. She is currently taking any opportunities for work as an adjunct professor and research assistant that come her way. You can find her on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/marialcorona.