Leo Guardado

Leo Guardado.

Assistant Professor

Department of Theology
Lincoln Center Campus
Lowenstein 806-C
113 W. 60th St.
New York, NY 10023

Email: [email protected]

  • Prof. Leo Guardado is from Chalatenango, El Salvador. The civil war forced him and his mother to migrate to Los Angeles, California where he grew up after the age of nine. He attended Cathedral High School in LA and then Saint Mary’s College in the bay area of California, institutions run by the De La Salle Christian Brothers. An interest in monastic life took him to live for a time in the Cistercian (Trappist) Abbey of Our Lady of New Clairvaux in Vina, CA before pursuing a Masters of Theological Studies (MTS) at the University of Notre Dame in the history of Christianity. He later worked ecumenically in the Tucson, Arizona borderlands with churches, dioceses, and NGOs, collaborating strategically across theological and political differences with communities committed to providing a humanitarian and pastoral response to persons in the process of migration. He eventually returned to the University of Notre Dame for an interdisciplinary PhD between the theology department and the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. In NYC, Leo enjoys watching the bird migrations in the forest of Inwood Hill Park while struggling to learn how to play a banjo.

  • St. Mary's College of California (undergrad, BA), Religious Studies
    University of Notre Dame (MTS), History of Christianity
    University of Notre Dame (PhD), Systematic Theology and Peace Studies

  • Leo’s research currently has three different but interrelated strands:

    Sanctuary: Leo is finishing a monograph that thinks theologically, and more particularly ecclesiologically, about the concept and practice of church sanctuary (church asylum) for persecuted persons. The book first analyzes the theological and philosophical foundations of the 1980s sanctuary ministry as envisioned by the communities in the Arizona borderlands, a ministry that quickly became a transnational movement. Around the same time in the 1980s, the Roman Catholic Church also removed any reference to church sanctuary/asylum from its Code of Canon Law, an action that in light of growing forced displacement around the globe, invites us to rethink the theological, and more particularly, the sacramental nature of sanctuary/asylum and its place in the church. 

    Healing: How do migrant communities in New York City address the multidimensional wounds of migration and of living under persecution in a country that seeks their deportation? This is one of the guiding questions that guides Leo’s ethnographic research with Latin American families who seek out traditional healers and their knowledge. Although Roman Catholic churches in the US typically do not recognize the healing practices and rituals of curanderismo as part of its pastoral and sacramental/liturgical experience, for many Latin American Catholics, their faith can only be expressed genuinely through the rituals and practices that have shaped them and that give them a true sense of health and home in the midst of displacement. In light of the colonial histories of Catholicism, there is a pressing need to think with those who bear healing knowledge on how to heal the church itself. 

    Nonviolence: Since at least the middle of the 20th century, the Latin American church, theologians, and key bishops in the region engaged in sustained reflection on gospel nonviolence and its connection with Gandhian approaches to the transformation of conflict. Leo’s research on nonviolence builds upon this history and upon previous works that are located at the juncture between Gandhian frameworks and Latin American liberation theology. His work is also focused on understanding how nonviolence is part of Pope Francis’ pastoral and theological vision for the church. In the midst of institutionalized violence, there is an invitation to continue to think creatively about nonviolence at the communal, ecclesial level, and to integrate this style of politics into the practice of faith communities.

  • “Theologians in the Field: ‘Dices que eres un teólogo, ¿cuál es tu practica?’ in A Prophet to the Peoples: Paul Farmer’s Witness and Theological Ethics (forthcoming 2023)

    “Oscar Romero: Patron Saint of Church Asylum” Louvain Studies (forthcoming 2022) 

    “Teología de la liberación: Nuevas presencias, nuevas búsquedas,” Paginas 264 (2021): 60–73.

     “Sanctuary for Asylum Seekers: Revisiting the Religious Principle and Practice of Refuge in the Church,” Theological Studies 82 (2021): 285-309.

    “Haciendo teología para un futuro de liberación,” in Gustavo Gutiérrez y 50 Años de Teología de Liberación, Centro de Estudios y Publicaciones (2021): 598-617.

     “Just peace, Just Sanctuary: Immigration and Ecclesial Nonviolence,” in A Just Peace Ethic Primer: Building Sustainable Peace and Breaking Cycles of Violence. Georgetown University Press (2020): 109-133.

    “Nonviolence: The Witness of a Church of Mercy,” Expositions 13.2 (2019): 54–75.

    “Peeing in Public is never a crime.” Political Theology Network. March 9, 2018

    "From Liberation Theology to (Liberationist) Peace Studies: Practice, Reflection and the Generation of Scholarship." The International Journal of Conflict Engagement and Resolution 4, no. 1 (2016): 13-27.

    Book in progress: Church as Sanctuary: Reconstituting the Religious Tradition of Refuge in an Age of Forced Displacement