Insights on Ramadan, Mary Poppins Style


Right now nearly 2 billion Muslims are celebrating Eid.  Is it just a holiday name on a somewhat inclusive calendar for you? Does the description, “festival of the breaking of the fast” marking the end of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, when Muslims fast from before dawn until sunset actually give you any insights or make you think, “Clearly going 17 hours with no food or drink is an occasion for JOY!”?  Do you observe Ramadan and want to share your own comments?

Well DePaul’s Muslim Chaplain and Assistant Director of the Office of Religious Diversity, Abdul-Malik Ryan, just published a blog piece originally posted on entitled “Ramadan is like Mary Poppins” in which he paints a picture of what Ramadan means to him as seen through the lens of Mary Poppins.

I’ll share a portion of the writing as a warm-up, but give the entire text a read when you have a chance, and feel free to share comments below:

In Ramadan we do things we never knew we could
If we were asked before we experienced Ramadan, when we might have tried fasting once on a relatively short day and found it difficult, whether we could fast a month straight of nearly 17 hour days, while standing to pray in the nights, maintaining our work schedule, spending significant amounts on numerous worthy causes, while maintaining a cheerful attitude with a range of people we don’t always spend time with…we would surely not think it is possible. Yet, many of us have found we can do that with the help of faith, hope, and the special conditions of Ramadan. The Banks family would never have imagined they could do the special things they did with Mary Poppins, whether it was hopping into chalk drawings, dancing on the rooftops of London, or telling off their boss when he deserved it, but with Mary Poppins around accomplishing what they would have thought impossible became a regular occurrence.

Ramadan brings joy into our lives
It is most famously in the scene where the children go to the chalk drawing in the County Fair that one sees the enormous joy Mary Poppins brings into their lives, as the song says “It’s a jolly holiday with Mary, no wonder that it’s Mary that we love.” This is of course also seen in making a task like cleaning the nursery fun, or spending an afternoon laughing themselves up to the ceiling. Although it is filled with fasting and other forms of worship, Ramadan is a time of joy for most Muslims. Most of us have some of our fondest memories in this month and we look forward to it. Routines are changed, families spend more time together, people visit each other more often. While excessive feasting in the evening is not recommended, even a small meal after fasting brings a person pleasure and tranquility. The Prophet (saw) told us that the fasting person has two joys; one when breaking the fast and one when he or she meets God. The month is filled with joy for many and culminates of course in Eid, where one relishes in the accomplishments of a month of getting closer to God and to each other.

Katie Brick is the Director of the Office of Religious Diversity

Importance of Interfaith Dialogue

By Priyanka Patel

While most college kids look forward to spending that beautiful, stress-free week in March on a beach in a tropical climate, I chose to spend mine volunteering with the Daughters of Charity in Bladensburg, Maryland. Upon arrival to Bladensburg, we were told we’d be staying in a convent with the Catholic nuns that were kindly hosting us. This was the first time I’d ever seen a nun, let alone step into a convent. I was born and raised a devout Hindu, and still practice my faith on a daily basis. I wear a red vermillion mark on my forehead to symbolize my affiliation to the Hindu faith. Nonetheless, each of the nuns greeted me warmly and were careful to ask about my religious dietary restrictions so that they could prepare food for me accordingly. The next morning, we headed to Church. I sat in amazement witnessing the love and devotion among the Catholic devotees. While serving meals to the homeless, I watched as the community came together, gathered in small Church basements serving what they could and bowing their heads in prayer in unison. It was these small moments that I realized the importance of interfaith dialogue. Though my religion is much different than the Abrahamic ones that surround me, we are all essentially devoted to one cause – social upliftment. Through this mission, we can find our similarities and coexist. As my Guru, H.D.H Pramukh Swami Maharaj once said at the United Nations’ Millennium World Peace Summit in 2000,

“Just as the unity of our followers makes our religion strong and protected, the unity of all faiths will make our common future strong and protected… True progress of any religion lies not in growth by numbers but by the quality of life and purity and the spiritual awakening in the adherents. Thus every Hindu should become a better Hindu, every Jew a better Jew, every Christian a better Christian and every Muslim a better Muslim and every follower should become a better follower… Religious leaders should not dream of establishing their religion as the one religion of the world, but dream of a world where all religions are united. Unity in diversity is the first lesson of life. Flourishing together by working together is the secret behind peace.


Who do you Know?

By Katie Hoffman


Who do you know?


It is interesting to sit back and think about all of the people we know… do you ever think about your backgrounds and how that has perhaps defined some of the interactions you’ve had with that person? It’s intriguing to ponder how cultures can change and even enhance some of our relationships and allow us to be more altruistic.


For me, I think about my living situations through my time at DePaul; each year sharing a home with someone of another faith tradition. My freshman year I lived alone and then with a friend of mine who happens to be Muslim and through our conversations it was easy to note how similar she and I are. My sophomore year, I shared an apartment with a very good friend of mine who is a non-practicing Lutheran and hence, religion and culture affected by religion were not large parts of our relationship but we were still able to share values. Junior year I was lucky enough to live in the Vincent and Louise House–this perhaps was the most rewarding and challenging living situation, especially being the only Jew in a house with seven Catholics, a baptist and a non-denominational Christian.  It was a home in which ideals were always challenged; but with love and the hopes of understanding.


Now, as a senior I share an apartment with another Jewish girl and a good friend of mine. One would think it would be a lot easier when considering culture, however it is quite the contrary. However, through our discussions it has allowed my eyes to be opened to truly how different one person may believe and practice their faith tradition and allowed this to be compared to my own experiences; this has made all the difference and has allowed me to appreciate Judaism so much more and it’s multifaceted approaches. This understanding I have begun to apply to learning about others and their cultures and I invite you to try to do the same.

The Cross in Vincentian Spirituality


This article explores essential New Testament texts about the cross, its meaning in Vincentian tradition, and problems in reflecting about the cross. The cross is the symbol of God’s love for humanity as well as his power, as evidenced in the resurrection and Jesus’s victory over sin. Moreover, Jesus’s choice to die as an outcast is part of his focus on the marginalized during his life. Sometimes the cross refers to actual suffering that believers must undergo, but is more often used metaphorically to refer to what people must do to follow Jesus. Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac encouraged the contemplation of the cross as a symbol of God’s love and saw service to the poor as identifying with the cross in that sense. Their nuanced views on suffering, asceticism, and mortification are explained. Examples of beneficial ascetical practices are given. The theological problem of God’s relationship to suffering is discussed. Texts are offered for Vincentians and Daughters of Charity to use in meditation, and the forms the cross takes in the lives of both are listed. Finally, readers are urged to respond to suffering in the world because it is a reflection of the crucified Christ.

“The Cross in Vincentian Spirituality” is an article in the Vincentian Heritage Journal, Volume 16, Issue 1, Article 1 (1995) available at:

It is also available as a chapter in the ebook He Hears the Cry of the Poor: On the Spirituality of Vincent de Paul (pp. 30-51) by Robert P. Maloney, C.M., available here:

Praying with Louise de Marillac – Introduction


Louise de Marillac was a wife, mother, widow, teacher, nurse, director of the Confraternities and Ladies of Charity, and cofounder with Vincent de Paul of the Daughters of Charity.  Patron of Social Workers, Louise knew personal suffering, and she also knew the suffering of God’s poor people.  She was an organizer, a radical thinker who lived life intensely and whose quest was to do the will of God with a deep faith in divine providence.

Praying with Louise de Marillac is a book in the Companions for the Journey series of meditation guides on Christian spirituality.  Authored by Audrey Gibson, DC, and Kieran Kneaves, DC, it was published by Saint Mary’s Press,  Christian Brothers Publications, Winona, Minnesota, in 1995.  ISBN O-88489-329-4  Copies may be obtained directly from the publisher or on-line at


Solidarity with Muslims at DePaul

Abdul-Malik Ryan serves as Assistant Director of the Office of Religious Diversity and DePaul’s Muslim Chaplain. In this role he serves as Advisor to UMMA and the Interfaith Scholars student groups.

Recent days have been trying for many different people in our country and around the world, among them the Muslim community which has been targeted through both inflammatory rhetoric and government policies that have caused suffering and created fear for many in American Muslim communities.  At the same time, we have also seen an outpouring of action from Muslims and from others acting in solidarity which has given us hope and determination to continue to struggle for dignity for all communities.

Many people have been asking, “What can I do?” For those looking to show solidarity with the Muslim community at DePaul, we would like to extend a special invitation to participate in Fast a Thon on February 16.

Fast a Thon is an annual program organized by DePaul’s UMMA (United Muslims Moving Ahead) student group which invites people of all faiths or none to join us in experiencing fasting, community, and service together on the same day.  We recognize that everyone is busy and has many different commitments on their time, so we have created several different ways in which people can participate in this effort.

1) People are invited to pledge to fast (as best they are able) on February 16.  Simply go to this link and enter your name and email and you will get a reminder the day before with some suggested guidelines around fasting.  This will include an invitation to wear green on that day in a display of solidarity with the Muslim community.   

2) People are also invited to attend our iftar (breaking of the fast) dinner on February 16 at 5 PM in Cortelyou Commons.  The breaking of the fast (at sunset) will be at 5:27 PM that day.  We will share a delicious meal as a community, reflect together on the experience of fasting, and be entertained by a unique comedian Jeremy McLellan. McLellan is a Christian who has caught on with Muslim and other audiences for his unique take on issues like immigration, race, religion, Islamophobia, politics and disabilities – he celebrates diversity and critiques bigotry through his comedy.  Please RSVP for the dinner here if you know you can commit. An RSVP is necessary to ensure we have space (and food) for you at the dinner.

3) Finally, Fast a Thon will raise money as a community for a great cause.  As part of this Fast a Thon, UMMA is collaborating with Zakat Foundation, an international humanitarian relief organization, to raise money to support education for Syrian refugees, the youngest and most innocent victims of the world’s greatest contemporary humanitarian crisis.  People can donate through this link, by bringing a donation on the day of the Fast a Thon, or visiting the Muslim Life Center in Lincoln Park Student Center room 329 at any time leading up to the dinner.  Please look out for Fast a Thon tabling in the Student Center and spread the word about ways to get involved.  If you have any questions, ideas, or suggestions do not hesitate to reach out to me.

Abdul-Malik Ryan

Religion and Politics: What Do I Believe?

By: Olivia Hollman

Alright, Olivia. What are you doing here? Don’t you know that those are the two things you should avoid talking about? For 21 years you’ve avoided talking too passionately about or taking too much of a stand. Why change that now? Because it’s been 21 years and I need to stand up for something; I can’t keep on “going with the flow”, acting like a coward. So here we go.

My life started in the red state of Arkansas and I have been raised in a conservative, Catholic family. In 2005, my family moved to the blue state of Illinois, but anyone who knows the political climate of the state knows that it’s only blue because of Chicago. A rural city in southern Illinois definitely falls within the red realm of the state. Having no interest in politics and developing my own opinions, I went along with my family’s conservative views. Liberalism and the Democratic party had it wrong and that was all I needed to know.

The stage is now set for my transition to college at the largest Catholic university in the nation in a very diverse, liberal, Democratic city.

I found myself no longer living in a mostly white, Christian, heteronormative, conservative small town. I began to encounter races, cultures, faiths, beliefs, sexual orientations, gender identities, and values different than my own. In the beginning, I thought “Wow. Look at how my worldview has broadened because I’ve seen people different than me.” And that is where the “experience” ended.

As I began to see my friends and people close to me taking stances on issues, I started asking myself what I believed and what I stood for. This has been something I’ve shaped over the past 3 years (and will continue to shape) due to my friends’ views, faiths, expressions of Catholicism, conversations around events on campus, and my Vincentian education.

So what do I believe? What do I stand for?

I believe:

in one God.

nutrient-rich food and clean drinking water are basic human rights.

society needs to stop sexualizing women.

that just because you’re white, doesn’t mean you’re right.

it is not enough just to do something, it must be done well.

love is for everyone and heteronormative and non-heteronormative commitments to love should be universally accepted.

a country founded on the principle of religious freedom that calls itself a “melting pot” cannot choose which religions to grant freedom or which races to accept.

everyone should have access to shelter, especially from inclement weather and harsh climates.

one doesn’t need to follow Jesus “to be saved”.

I am not persecuted or discriminated against because I am Christian.

the death penalty, abortion, and euthanasia are fundamentally wrong because human life is sacred.

I have privilege because I am white and the “accepted racial majority”.

Vincentian simplicity (transparency) is important in relationships—work, friends, significant others, etc.

gender is not a “male or female”, black and white identity.

as human beings, we have a responsibility to address the needs of our fellow humans.

Jesus’ resurrected, spiritual body and blood are actually present in the Eucharist.

all lives matter, but not all lives are respected, honored, and valued, which is why movements like Black Lives Matter is necessary and crucial.

I must use my privilege to fight for and stand up for those who do not have the benefit of privilege.

sexual assault and rape are not the fault of the victim.

everyone should have access to higher education, regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation or financial status.

free speech does not encompass hate speech; if it disrespects the life of someone else, you should not have the right to say it.

people don’t “choose” their gender to “act out”, but choose to live out their authentic gender expression.

the Catholic Church is not universally “female or noncisgender friendly”.

everyone should have access to affordable healthcare.

everything can be prayer.

sexual orientation is not just classified by “heterosexual” and there is no “wrong” orientation.

These are absolute truths for me; I firmly believe there are no universal absolute truths. This is also not a complete, static list. It’s going to be changed and edited as I grow and my beliefs and values evolve. But for now, this helps me know who I am—A liberal Catholic firmly rooted in the Vincentian spirit. Who are you? What do you believe?

Give, Even If You Only Have a Little

By: Melanie Kulatilake

We think that giving falls in the hand of those who have money and power. They have more access to give to those in need then let’s say a college student. The Buddha would argue otherwise. Giving falls in the hands of everyone.

How can a person give when they are poor? The truth is that there is always something to give. What if the poor person lives off of the minimum wage in America and has a household of three. How does one expect them to be able to give in this type of circumstance? Here is the solution:

  • What you give to others does not always have to be new
  • It does not have to be a material item
  • It can be a priceless action

When you give something to others it does not have to be new. You can always give away an old clothing that might not fit you or a family member anymore. Was it worn before? Yes. But, if the person really needs that material they are usually not too concerned whether or not the item was worn. In this instance giving is for any of those who have material items to give.

What you give does not have to a material item. What you give can always be a service. If you don’t have any material to give then you always have the option of service. You can help an elderly bring their bags in. You can work at a food pantry. There are several opportunities where you can help another without having to give away any material items.

Okay. Well what if you don’t have a material item to give and you don’t have time to volunteer. What can you give then? You can give something that is priceless and timeless. One thing that is always an option when it comes to giving is just having a conversation with a person on the L on the way to work. That doesn’t waste your time and you can really make someone’s day. What if you don’t have time for even a conversation? You always have the opportunity to change someone’s day by smiling to them. Let them know that you acknowledge them and that you care. That is something that everyone can give to anyone.

The next time you think that you can’t give to someone else in need because you have “too little” I would ask you to think again. There is always something to give. It just might take creativity.

The Heart of Jesus In the Spirituality of Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac


Former superior general Robert Maloney examines what the heart of Jesus meant to Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac. Vincent prayed that the Congregation would have the heart of Jesus, or the zeal, to bring God’s love to the poor. The missionaries were also to exercise gentleness and humility, the qualities Jesus attributed to his heart in Matthew 11:29. For Louise, this heart meant “charity that was both affective and effective.” She created many paintings of Jesus’s heart, some of which are described in the article with accompanying images. The historical development of devotion to the heart of Jesus, in which Francis de Sales played a role, is explained. Maloney explores five meanings Jesus’s heart has for us. It “heightens our awareness of the limitless love of God.” It calls us to be gentle and humble, makes us aware of our limitations, and helps us find wisdom and practice discernment. Finally, it encourages us to imitate Jesus’s love, which is “expansive” and “affective and effective.”

“The Heart of Jesus in the Spirituality of Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac” is an article published in the Vincentian Heritage Journal, Volume 32, Issue 1, Article 8 available at: