Professor of the Practice, Religious Education
Theresa A. O'Keefe's efforts as a practical theologian are always attentive to context, for there is no single recipe for effective ministry with adolescents and young adults. Where young people live, who they are and the social realities that shape their day-to-day lives provides essential source material for theological reflection. Furthermore, ministry to young people happens in all sorts of settings: secondary education, higher education, parishes, clinical settings, and service agencies. In her courses, O’Keefe asks students to investigate their own contexts to identify the challenges as well as the supports for growth therein. She offers different psychological, sociological and theological resources to help interpret those settings and design appropriate ministerial responses. Her theological and ministerial approach can be found in her award-winning book, Navigating toward Adulthood: A Theology of Ministry with Adolescence (Paulist Press, 2018).
Theresa A. O’Keefe uses constructive-developmental theory (CDT) as a lens through which to read and assess young people’s growth in meaning-making. She interprets CDT to help ministers and religious educators understand and promote transformative growth. One article along this line is “A New Lens for Seeing: A Suggestion for Analyzing Religious Belief and Belonging among Emerging Adults through a Constructive-Developmental Lens” written with Emily Jendzejec (Religions 2020). She is also using CDT in assessment. O’Keefe has been working since 2018 with three Boston College colleagues (Larry Ludlow and Henry Braun from the Lynch School; and Christina Matz from Social Work) developing a portfolio of assessment tools (BC-LAMP Portfolio) for measuring growth in meaning and purpose and meaning-making. The LAMP tools are designed to be used by colleges and universities to assess student formation. They have presented this work at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) and published their results. Their work is ongoing.
O’Keefe sees two writing projects on the religious education horizon. In both she uses meaning-making as a construct in educational practice. One looks to religious education with adolescents and emerging adults. Another one uses dialogical modes in classroom settings to enhance learning across differences.
On the faculty since 2005, Theresa A. O'Keefe is a native of Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Her undergraduate degree in Religious Studies is from St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto. That was followed a few years later with a M.Ed. in Religious Education at Boston College. She taught in Catholic high schools and served the diocesan church in western Massachusetts for several years prior to returning to Boston College for her Ph.D. in Theology and Education.
O’Keefe, Theresa A. “Cultivating Relationality: Mentoring for Transformation.” In Formative Theological Education, edited by Hosffman Ospino and Colleen Griffith. New York: Paulist Press, 2023.
O’Keefe, Theresa. Navigating toward Adulthood: A Theology of Ministry with Adolescents. New York: Paulist, 2018.
Ospino, Hosffman and Theresa O’Keefe, eds. Together Along the Way: Conversations Inspired by the Directory for Catechesis. New York: Crossroads Publishing Company, 2021.
O’Keefe, Theresa A. & Emily Jendzejec. “A New Lens for Seeing: A Suggestion for Analyzing Religious Belief and Belonging among Emerging Adults through a Constructive-Developmental Lens.” Religions 2020, 11, 573. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11110573
O’Keefe T. "Colliding Ecosystems: Interpreting the Complex Social World of Adolescent Children of Immigrants." Christian Education Journal. 2018;15(3):465-478. https://doi:10.1177/0739891318805107
2019-2020: Boston College, Research across Departments and Schools (RADS), ($10,000)
Co-Investigator (PI: L Ludlow) LAMP Measurement Project
2019: Catholic Publishing Association 2019, 2nd place award winner, Pastoral Ministry – Catechetical for Navigating toward Adulthood: A Theology of Ministry with Adolescents (New York: Paulist Press, 2018).
Board Member: Association of Youth Ministry Educators (AYME)