Growing up in a scientific, agnostic home in southern China, junior Kuanyu (Suker) Li never imagined he would find himself spending his college years in the United States at The Catholic University of America. Nor did he imagine becoming a Catholic and adding a philosophy degree to his mechanical engineering career plans..
Li was first attracted to the Catholic faith after attending high school at The Avalon School, a private, Catholic, all-boys school in Gaithersburg, Md.
“I couldn’t help noticing the happiness of the Christians around me,” he said. “They have struggles and they suffer, but Christians have an enduring happiness in the way that they live out their lives that made an impression on me.”
They have struggles and they suffer, but Christians have an enduring happiness in the way that they live out their lives that made an impression on me.”
To the chagrin of his parents, who worried Li would endure future persecution in China, he converted to Catholicism in the spring of his senior year of high school. It was around that time that he attended an open house at Catholic University.
“I had thought, and my parents too, that I would attend a big, secular university to pursue engineering,” he said. “Most schools I visited talked about University facts, benefits and gave arguments as to why they were the best school. But I heard Dr. John McCarthy [dean of philosophy] speak at an open house and it was different. He talked about the education of the whole person, the desire for truth, and a love of wisdom, and I was sold.”
Soon after starting classes at the University, Li began to explore the idea of pursuing a double major in mechanical engineering and philosophy. Attending a philosophy class with Assistant Professor Antón Barba-Kay as part of the University’s First-Year Experience made him recognize the study of philosophy as a means to discover truth.
“I like philosophy because it really challenges me to think,” he said. “It has helped me grow a lot in my faith, especially in the things I take for granted, like ‘What is truth? What is just?’”
In the summers, Li visits his family home in a city called Zhuhai, close to Hong Kong. He often has to travel dozens of miles to attend a Catholic Mass in a neighboring town. And while his parents don’t share his faith, they support his commitment and encourage him in his pursuits.