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Thomistic Studies Graduates 25th Doctoral Candidate

Sister Anne Frances Ai Le, O.P., graduated as the 25th recipient of a doctorate in philosophy from the University of St. Thomas Center for Thomistic Studies as she successfully defended her dissertation on May 9.

Beginning fall 2014, Sister Le will join the faculty of St. Mark’s College and Corpus Christi College in Vancouver, Canada, as the Hanrahan Scholar in Residence.The three-time UST graduate will join her fellow alumni in educating philosophy students around the world at institutions including Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, La., Benedictine College in Atchison Kan., and Donduk Women’s University in Seoul, South Korea.

As a member of the Dominican Sisters: Mary Immaculate Province of the worldwide Order of Preachers, Sister Le is bound to observe the three vows of religious life: poverty, chastity and obedience. As a doctoral candidate at the University, Sister Le chose focus on and explore one aspect of the three vows: poverty.

In her dissertation, “Nudus Sequens?: St. Thomas Aquinas on Poverty and Christian Perfection,” Sister Le explored the implications of St. Thomas Aquinas’ teaching of evangelical poverty in relation to the Christian Life.

According to Sister Le, Aquinas embraced a balanced view of embracing poverty in according to one’s walk of life. Through this approach, both rich and poor can accept poverty by focusing on their interior detachment from possessions. This detachment allows individuals to voluntarily go without superfluous material possessions and readily share what they do own.

“This idea of poverty as a means to perfection, a counsel, a virtue and a useful instrument for practicing the virtue of religion provide a reasoned response to the question on why religious or individuals voluntarily renounce goods and possessions,” Sister Le said. “These ideas show that embracing evangelical poverty, whether individually of communally, makes sense because it is for a greater good, the attainment of beatitude or happiness with God.”

Sister Le’s writing of her dissertation was not without its challenges; she balanced obligations with her religious community, which included work as a translator and serving as the head of the newsletter staff, with teaching as a philosophy adjunct professor.

“Although this opportunity at times presented further demands and challenges on top of other obligations, I am very appreciative of the philosophy department and my students over the years for having made my first experiences in teaching at the university level to have been absolutely wonderful and memorable,” Sr. Le said.

“With my successful completion of my dissertation defense and subsequent graduation, I’ve earned the distinction of being a three-time graduate of the University of St. Thomas: B.A. in Theology, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy. I’m honored and privileged to be a three-peat of UST, which has been to me as a second home in Houston,” Sister Le said.


The Center for Thomistic Studies at the University of St. Thomas is the only graduate philosophy program uniquely focused on the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas in the United States. The Center is founded on the Church’s insistence of the perennial value of the thought of Aquinas as the new millennium proceeds.