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Migrant God: Absence, Anamnesis and Migrant Sacramentality for Korean American Catholics

posted on 2024-02-12, 19:35 authored by Hansol Goo

Migratory movement has been an intrinsic factor in human history throughout the ages. Yet, today’s globally interconnected world is experiencing challenges brought by migration on an unprecedented scale. People in the contemporary society are suffering much anguish caused by migration in all aspects of human life, including economics, politics, human rights, and international law. How might one reflect theologically on migration? This dissertation suggests ways in which the contemporary experience of migration can be understood from a sacramental theological perspective. Sacramental theology concerns itself with the purpose, power, functionality, and outcome of God’s grace which is present and experienced by means of the created world such as words, ritual, and images of the sacramental act. This dissertation examines the experience of migration for a particular group of people, Korean American Catholics, through the language of sacramental theology. By analyzing an ethnographic study of liturgical rituals of Korean American Catholics, this research suggests that experience of migration shares similar characteristics with sacramental act, namely, the ways in which absence is mediated and subsequently experienced as presence by the believer. At the core of this transitory experience is memory that plays a vital function of mediating between absence and presence. By remembering, Korean American Catholics reconnect themselves to the homeland, to the community of fellow Korean immigrants, and, finally, to God. Through memory, Korean American Catholics’ experience of absence is transformed to presence of self, community, and God. By remembering, that which is absent to the immigrant such as family members or self-understanding is experienced as present. Similarly, sacramental action mediates between absence and presence. Anamnesis, that is, sacramental memorial of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, functions as mediation between time and space, between the community of believers, and between God and human. Sacramental power of anamnesis serves the purpose of bringing human into communion with God, thereby renewing life and self-understanding of the believer. It is this sacramental quality of anamnesis that provides an insight for understanding migration experience from a theological perspective. Conversely, migration provides a context, i.e., a narrative consisted of concrete experiences of a people, for substantializing the theology of anamnesis. Having developed a rich conception of anamnesis, this dissertation suggests a constructive meaning of “migrant sacramentality” as that which foregrounds migrancy, that is, displacement and absence, in the sacramental functionality of anamnesis.


Defense Date


CIP Code


Research Director(s)

Kimberly H. Belcher

Committee Members

Kevin Grove|Robin Jensen|Peter Casarella


  • Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Level

  • Doctoral Dissertation

OCLC Number


Program Name

  • Theology (THEO)