Melanie A. Howard, a graduate of the University of Notre Dame’s Master in Theological Studies (MTS) program, has won the 2011-12 Word & World Essay Prize for Doctoral Candidates. The prize is sponsored by Word & World: Theology for Christian Ministry, a quarterly journal published by Luther Seminary in Saint Paul, Minn.
“We are thrilled at this achievement on the part of one of our graduates,” says J. Matthew Ashley, associate professor and chair of Notre Dame’s Department of Theology. “Current students or graduates have now won this significant award two years in a row. In Melanie’s case, it is a testimony both to her own strengths as a scholar and to the MTS program’s track record of enabling students to develop those strengths to the full.”
Joseph S. Khalil, a current Ph.D. student in the department, won the prize last year for his essay titled “Qoheleth and the Overconfident Preacher.”
Howard, who received her master’s degree from Notre Dame in 2010, is now pursing a Ph.D. in biblical studies (New Testament) at Princeton Theological Seminary and teaching as an adjunct instructor at Messiah College. Her winning essay explores the story of a mute boy (Mark 9:14-2) as an unplumbed source of guidance for pastors counseling children with disabilities and their caregivers.
Her essay will be published in the summer 2013 issue of the Word & World journal. In its 13th year, the annual contest accepts submissions from doctoral candidates in religion and theology from seminaries and universities across the nation.
Howard says her essay emerged out of her passion for creative ministry and her desire to keep her scholarship connected to the real-life problems that can make meaningful worship difficult. Continuing the study of marginal characters in the bible, Howard’s doctoral dissertation looks at the role of mothers in the Gospel of Mark, with particular emphasis on Mary, the mother of Jesus.
“I am keenly aware of the struggles and sacrifices of women who have risked much for the sake of their children’s well-being,” she says. “My dissertation is but a meager acknowledgement that it has often been nameless mothers who have instigated radical change throughout the course of history.”