Patricia O’Connell Killen, Ph. D.

Professor of Religion, Emerita and Faculty Research Fellow in the Division of Humanities at Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, Washington

Patricia O’Connell Killen (M.A., Ph.D. Stanford University) is Professor of Religion, Emerita and Faculty Research Fellow in the Division of Humanities at Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, Washington. Prior to returning to PLU, she served as Professor of Religious Studies and Academic Vice President at Gonzaga University, and also taught at Loyola University of Chicago. An historian and theologian, Killen’s scholarship focuses on Catholicism in North America, religion and spirituality in the Pacific Northwest, theological reflection, and, mission and identity in faith-inspired higher education. She researches the intersection of social context, community, and spirituality, exploring how, in differing social contexts, communities “think” with the wisdom of their religious heritage to address the challenges and novel circumstances of their time. Currently she is engaged in a multi-year project exploring the teaching of reflective practice in church-related higher education, under the auspices of a grant from the Lilly Endowment.


Among her publications, Killen is the primary editor of The Future of Catholicism in America (Columbia UP, 2019) and Religion and Public Life in the Pacific Northwest: The ‘None’ Zone (AltaMira Press, 2004), both with Mark Silk; co-editor with Roberta Stringham Brown of Selected Letters of A.M.A. Blanchet, Bishop of Walla Walla and Nesqualy, 1846-1879 (University of Washington Press, 2013); and most recently, with Paul Bramadat and Sarah Wilkins-LaFlamme, co-editor of “The Land of Tomorrow: Religion, Spirituality and Secularity in the Pacific Northwest,” (under review by University of British Columbia Press). Killen is the author of two award-winning books, Finding Our Voices: Women, Wisdom and Faith (1997) and, with John de Beer, The Art of Theological Reflection (1994). She is a co-author of The Catholic Experience of Small Christian Communities (Paulist Press, 2000), which reported on the largest study to date of small faith communities in the Catholic Church in the United States. She also has published extensively in scholarly journals.


From 2006 to 2012, Killen served as editor of the Wiley-Blackwell journal, Teaching Theology and Religion. She has worked extensively as a consultant, speaker and workshop facilitator to congregations, higher education institutions, seminaries, and journalists regarding American Catholicism; religion, spirituality and public life in the Pacific Northwest; theological reflection, faculty development, and teaching and learning.


Among her recognitions, Killen has received the American Academy of Religion Teaching Excellence Award (2006), the Paul Bator Memorial Award from the Canadian Catholic Historical Society (2001), the Elizabeth Seton Medal from the College of Mount St. Joseph (1999), and an Arnold L. and Lois S. Graves Foundation Award for Outstanding Humanities Teachers (1991).


Born and raised in rural western Oregon, Killen enjoys road cycling, gardening, British mysteries, and cooking.  She currently resides in Tacoma, Washington.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Newsletter_8/24 Graphic

Your Financial Gift: 100% of your financial gift supports the present and future of CEIE. Please Inspire Us with Your Gift.