Being Present as a Form of Healing: QIRC Reflection

Dialogue in the happening...
Dialogue in the happening…
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Vincentian Art Exhibit

I think I’m getting the hang of Quarterly Inter-Religious Celebrations (QIRC). This was my second QIRC on staff, and 4th or 5th QIRC overall, I believe. It was very different going from hosting to presenting on the evening’s theme, Healing A Wounded World Through Art, – I found the former to be significantly less challenging than the latter, which is stressful for obvious reasons. That said, I had a fantastic time.

One of the things that caught me off guard was how empowered I felt in my religious identity while speaking about it to others. In the past, I have been unwilling to identify with a specific tradition or faith because I had been unwilling to claim ownership over what I believed. I understand now that this is because I had been looking for the ‘perfect’ religion. Without ever realizing it (and, indeed, oftentimes hiding behind a mask of feigned ambivalence), I was hailing religions like cabs – only to leave each taxi the second that their route to my destination varied from the one I desired. ‘There’s got to be a cabbie that has thought about this route before, someone who knows exactly what it is that I should do,’ I thought to myself. Since then, I have come to understand that only I can chart this route, because only I have had my life of experiences. As a result, I’ve begun to take ownership over what I believe; love it even. And it seems as though now that I love what I believe, people are more interested in hearing me talk about it – and now that people want to hear what I have to say about Buddhism rather than what others have to say,  it is easier for me to find delight in my identity. I want to hear what I have to say. I suppose that is the healing that I will take from the QIRC as a whole.

Islamic Art Exhibit
Islamic Art Exhibit

I also couldn’t possibly write a reflection without commenting on Morgan Spears’ performance. God, what a stupendous, brave, and vulnerable piece of art. And how much more challenging and perfect could it have possibly been for our night’s theme? I had personally invited her to perform, but had no idea that her poem would be so personal and self-revolutionary. I think the most powerful part of the entire evening for me was when, after Morgan performed, she came over to my booth to thank me for asking her to be a part of the evening. She looked me in the eyes with an expression that said ‘sorry if that got out of hand…I kind of lost track of myself’, and I told her that she was incredible, and then she just smiled and we both laughed and hugged. She said that she was super nervous to open herself up the way she did, but I could see in her face how grounded and lucid the experience had left her feeling. Morgan’s performance, more than perhaps anything else at the QIRC, invited the audience to engage in radical transparency, heartfelt expression, and most importantly, the kind of listening that one can only learn by calling out for God and enduring the silence before Her/His reply.

Until next quarter!

Josh Graber ’14

The Beauty of Sharing Thoughts

I hope that this blog post is brought to you in good health and spirits. Being a DePaul University student entitles one to have a seven-week break. With that being said, I was blessed and privileged to attend several spiritual and faith-based events, lectures, conferences, and a convention. Sometimes we can’t help but jot down the phrases and concepts that scholars throw at us. And surprisingly as I took a moment to look through my notes, I noticed that these quotes and phrases that were mentioned could relate to any person: religion, or no religion. Sometimes, I can’t help but wonder the impact my experience can have on another individual, below I share with you my many moments of inspiration.

“A beliver will never view the glass as half empty because he or she knows that the other half will be filled by God.”

“The Great, the King, if it wasn’t for You, we would not be here…”

“The heart constantly waivers and turns, and that is where the problem is.”

“The beauty is that God does not judge by outer appearance, he looks within.”

“A heart that has no desire to sin, but falls into sin without it intending it.”

“We fear everything else… as if our bosses are paying our salaries, we forget that we work for God and God pays our salaries.”

“Our reliance on placebo medicine far out weighs our reliance on God…”

“Sometimes religions make it a point that rituals are an end rather than a means.”

“Ignorance breeds fear!”

“Everyone has a form of spirituality whether it is formerly religious or some-other sort of spirituality…”

“Religious defamation exists, and free expression can be upsetting… but then ‘ethical people’ of religious and non-religious backgrounds will need to stand up for their fellow citizens and stand out against extremism.”

“Looking at the world in the eyes of the Hereafter is a vantage point which we all should take advantage of. Where did I come from? Why am I here?  Where will I go when I die?”

“You should stay here and stand up. But to stay here and to sit down is not an option.”

“A true leader is a servant of his people.”

“That which you have given away stays with you forever.”

“That which you give is your wealth and that which you leave behind is your inheritance.”

“Let us reflect on our relationship with God. Can we believe in God if we do not have a relationship with God?”

Happy New Year’s!

Dana Jabri ’15

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Quarterly Inter-Religious Celebration: “Healing a Wounded World Through Art”

I am excited to announce that next week DePaul’s University Ministry will be holding their Winter Quarterly Inter-Religious Celebration! After holding our Fall Quarter “QIRC” which revolved around the theme of restorative justice and engaging one’s faith through a service-based lens – I hope that this upcoming QIRC will allow for a space where conversations about restorative justice and art can be intertwined.

The DePaul Vincentian Society, state that “Through prayer and careful reflection on the current broken state of the US criminal justice system, Vincentians guided by the legacy of Frederic Ozanam should begin to see their role as change agents and implementers of restorative gospel values. Recognizing that the dignity of the human persons applies to both the victim and the offender.”

If you’re in the city please feel free to stop by and check out this event!

Follow us for live updates on twitter:  @dpu_interfaith

Follow us on Facebook: DePaul Interfaith

 

Many Blessings,

Dana Jabri’15

* Apologies for spelling error*
* Apologies for spelling error*

Byzantine Mosaics: Interfaith Experiences In Istanbul, Turkey

(Photograph taken by Caelin Niehoff at Church of Theotokos Pammakaristos; Fethiye Mosque)
(Photograph taken by Caelin Niehoff at Church of Theotokos Pammakaristos; Fethiye Mosque)

There is something inherently interreligious when a Roman Catholic finds herself under the dome of a 15th century Ottoman Mosque. There is something even more rousing when she studies Orthodox Christian mosaics IN a mosque just down the street from the first right down the street from the first mosque.

During the 2012 DePaul December intercession winter break, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Istanbul, Turkey. As a DePaul interfaith scholar, I was particularly interested in the city’s rich and multifaceted religious history. When one thinks about the city’s religious identity crusades, conquests, and conflict might initially come to mind. Given these stigmatisms I thought that the destruction of religious buildings would have been inevitable. I was surprised to learn that many Byzantine churches were not destroyed, but rather repurposed and preserved by the Ottomans after their conquest of Constantinople.

The only Byzantine churches of Istanbul that were not converted into mosques are St. Mary of the Mongols and Hagia Eirene. This means that many Turkish Muslims pray in structures initially built as Orthodox Christian churches. The Latin’s had, similarly, occupied Byzantine churches as Roman Catholics after the crusades.

Time has worn the exteriors of these mosques to expose their original Byzantine brick work: a beautiful yet skeletal façade. Hidden on the inside of several of these mosques is the vibrant glow of gold and precious gems constructed into elaborate mosaic icons.

How can this be? In the tradition of Islam the human figure is not to be portrayed in art. The Ottomans had decided to simply cover and plaster over these images. Subsequently, Muslims preserved over six hundred years-old of ancient Orthodox Christian mosaics and Latin Roman Catholic frescos.

The Church of Saint Savior in Chora and the church of Theotokos Pammakaristo show cases the exquisite mosaic masterpieces preserved by 15th century Ottomans. While Chora was once a mosque, it is now a museum. Pammakaristo, however, is still home to the Fethiye mosque. While observing the mosaics I admired the reality and privilege to witness this expression of religion through art: craftsmanship preserved in gold and fastened with the remnants of ancient, interreligious conscious. Yet in the present, I could feel the negotiation of space and the clear establishment of religious boundaries. The chapel hallway of mosaics accessible to the public was distinctly separated from the mosque itself. The exposition of these Byzantine mosaics not only reflected an interreligious encounter hundreds of years old, but also brought to light interreligious engagement (or perhaps lack thereof) in the present.

After entering the Chora museum, a fellow student asked our Turkish Armenian, Christian tour guide, “Do you wish that they hadn’t converted the churches into mosques?” He replied with a smile, “I believe that where there is life and light in a place of worship, it will breathe. It will live and it will last”. I think that admits the chaos that often comes with transitions of peoples and political powers, faith endures in creative and nuanced forms; giving life to the spiritual thirsts of each passing time period.

By: Caelin Niehoff

The Realities of El Salvador

ImageDuring the long winter break at DePaul, I took the opportunity to participate on a ten day service trip to El Salvador. These service trips are offered through University Ministry at DePaul and I went with fourteen other individuals.

El Salvador is a country located in Central America; it is filled with rich culture, history and great food! Its revolution lasted around ten years and during that time there were lots of missing people, lots of murders and lots of evil things going on. My group and I learned the realities of El Salvador. There were lots of massacres that occurred during the war, but the famous one is El Mozote. El Mozote happened on December 11, 1981 and nearly a thousand people were massacred, most being children. My group and I stood in the land where this happened. We went to many historical places in the country, but El Mozote really stuck with me.

Many Salvadorians have disappeared, some have been tortured and others have been killed because they are accused of being part of the guerillas. Where is God in the country? Oscar Romero, the archbishop of El Salvador was a timid man who slowly became the voice of the voiceless people. He became a strong figure who fought for justice. Unfortunately, Romero was assassinated in 1980 while he was celebrating mass. His death changed the people of the country; Romero quickly became symbolic because of his hard work and dedication to the common people, especially the poor. His legacy remains alive within the people and he is not forgotten.

After all the damage and suffering the people of El Salvador have gone through, they still smile. The people there are beyond amazing; they are very hospitable and welcomed everyone with open arms. They are glad and eager to share their story and experiences. They are letting their voices be heard. I see hope in the people. The youth of the country can make a different, it may sound cliché, but it’s true. As a Vincentian in Action, I come back home with a new perspective. I come back with lots of knowledge and stories to share with others. I will remain in solidarity with the people in El Salvador.

A part of me stayed in El Salvador. I had an incredible and unforgettable experience there and I will return – I promise.

By: Laura E. Mena

(If you are interested in participating or learning more about service immersion trips, please email Joyana Jacoby at jjacoby@depaul.edu.)

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Standing In Unity Against Violence

As winds blew through the Chicago skyline on Wednesday the 18th of September, a group of student leaders from the United Muslims Moving Ahead DePaul University on-campus organization decided to hold a candle-light vigil. The vigil was a call for students and faculty to stand together in unity against violence occurring all over the world. During the Unity Vigil the students gave their respects to the United States Ambassador Christopher Stevens who was serving in the US embassy in Libya. We came together on an evening to condemn the violent protests that erupted as a result of the movie “Innocence of Muslims” which meant to insult the Prophet Mohammed (Peace and Blessings Be Upon Him). We also stood together against violence happening within the Syrian Crisis, the daily shootings in Chicago’s neighborhoods, and anywhere else across the world.

As an Interfaith Scholar, there was nothing more meaningful that night than to be supported by faculty members and students representing diverse faith and spiritual backgrounds standing shoulder-to-shoulder in unity against violence. The importance and significance for us all to experience and share each other’s feelings about certain on-goings around the world is something that this world needs more of. But to then take it a step further by building a support system, and embracing one another in a time that calls us to do so, is hopefully an eternal bond that each one of us can use.

The Muslim Chaplain at DePaul Abdul-Malik Ryan, reached out to the DePaul community through an email inviting his colleagues and students to attend the vigil, “In light of the continued violence here in Chicago and around the world, and especially the violence that is being presented as a motivation of ‘religious faith,’ the students want to make a strong statement that the DePaul community, and especially people of all faiths here at DePaul stand united against violence and as witnesses for peace and justice.” Chaplain Abdul-Malik stressed the fact that Islam as a religion condemns violence and prohibits the killing of innocent people.

Another member that is dear to the DePaul community and a representative from the University Ministry Office and Assistant Chaplain of the Office of Religious Diversity, Katie Brick shared a piece from the Superior General Gregory Gay, who wrote about Vincentian non-violence. Chaplain Brick read out a few quotes in which General Gray characterized non-violence as though it should be used as a means of “creating harmony based on diversity, rather than using diversity as a justification for violence.” This phrase stood out to me personally because it embraced the theme of unity – the purpose and reason to why we were all standing together.

On September 25th, President Barack Obama spoke to the United Nations General Assembly stating, “We have taken these positions because we believe that freedom and self-determination are not unique to one culture. These are not simply American values or Western values – they are universal values.” Standing together as a strong and diverse DePaul community acknowledging the pain and creating a safe space that creates the chance for all of us to embrace one another, and to share our experiences with one another.

Our shared presence at the Unity Vigil affirmed to me and to the rest of the DePaul Community that brotherhood and sisterhood exists in a diverse form on campus. The Unity Vigil was also a way for the DePaul community to spread awareness about the violence going on in the world. And as I write this blog post I can’t help but sing the words of the song written by India Arie, “There’s hope, it doesn’t cost a thing to smile, you don’t have to pay to laugh, you better thank God for that.”

Dana Jabri ’15

Universities Welcome Muslim Students Through Interfaith Efforts

New York University students, faculty, and clergy gather at the Kimmel Center on the NYU campus to discuss the discovery of surveillance by the New York Police Department on Muslim communities.

By Aaron Shapiro | November 13, 2012

Many American universities—both religious and secular—have recently launched efforts to accommodate and encourage religious diversity on their campuses. Universities are fosteringthis diversity and strengthening interfaith respect and cooperation to better serve their students and to counter rising incidences of xenophobia and other prejudices. Colleges are taking particularly active steps to welcome Muslim students, who too often face discrimination and prejudice because of their faith.

The number of Muslim students enrolled at Catholic universities has reportedly doubled over the past decade. In fact, according to the Higher Education Research Institute, the percentage of Muslim students at Catholic universities is higher than at “the average four-year institution in the United States.” Many may assume this influx of the religious “other” might generate tension, and that has indeed been the case on some campuses. But while much attention has been paid to instances of conflict and discord, the firsthand experience of many students suggests that, theological differences aside, having a religious identity of any kind can serve as a point of commonality for many students.

Muslims thrive on interfaith campuses

Many Muslim students are in fact choosing to enroll at Catholic universities precisely because of the religious—albeit non-Muslim—student body. Maha Haroon, a Muslim student at Jesuit Creighton University, said, “I like the fact that there’s faith, even if it’s not my faith, and I feel my faith is respected.”

Similarly, many Muslim students express a sense of belonging at these institutions because they are surrounded by other people of faith. Beyond merely co-existing, Muslim students are finding their fellow classmates to be welcoming faith partners. Mai Alhamad, a Muslim student at the University of Dayton, told The New York Times that he finds comfort in these efforts, saying, “Here, people are more religious, even if they’re not Muslim, and I am comfortable with that.”

So, too, is Dana Jabri, a sophomore at the Catholic DePaul University. Unsettled by the recent killing of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, in Libya and the violent demonstrations that subsequently spread across the Middle East, Jabri felt compelled to organize her fellow students to respond to the violence.

“We needed to come together and just share a moment of silence,” Jabri said in a recent interview with the Center for American Progress.

She worked quickly to organize a vigil on campus protesting violence around the world. About 40 students and faculty from a variety of faiths attended the event and Jewish, Christian, and Muslim chaplains shared their thoughts and prayers. As she recalled the vigil, Jabri said that it felt like a meaningful achievement to simply be able “to stand shoulder to shoulder in a circle, recognizing that it is important for all of us to come together, no matter our faith backgrounds, against this violence.”

As a Muslim and a religious minority at a Catholic university, Jabri has thrived on campus. Jabri is one of DePaul’s seven interfaith scholars—a group of student leaders, each hailing from a different religious tradition, who work with each other and their respective religious communities to cultivate a robust interfaith community on campus.

This kind of engagement extends beyond Roman Catholic universities. Many Muslim students, for instance, are finding common ground with their classmates at Brigham Young University’s Salt Lake City, Utah campus which is “supported, and guided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” and where 98.5 percent of all students are Mormon. The values promoted in the BYU Honor Code include “shun[ing] alcohol, illicit drugs and pre-marital sex,” and areimportant in the Muslim faith. These and other similarities have created a sense of solidarity among Muslim and Mormon students, leading Muslim student Sameer Ahmad to conclude that “[Mormons and Muslims] emphasize the same teachings, the same set of beliefs, even though the way of participating [is different].”

In the course of living and studying together, many students at BYU have discovered that their faiths can bring them together instead of pushing them apart. Andrew Moulton, a Mormon who lives with a Muslim classmate, told the Deseret News that, “I didn’t know that our cultures were so similar.”

But it is not just friendships or a sense of belonging that is prompting this increase in Muslim students at non-Muslim religious universities. Brigham Young University is taking concrete steps to create a more welcoming environment for its Muslim students. Each Friday, for example, the university sets aside a room in the student center where its Muslim students can gather for prayers.

Other religiously affiliated universities are making similar efforts to ease Muslim students’ adjustment to campus life. In early October of this year, Gannon University, a Catholic university in Erie, Pennsylvania, completed construction of a new “Interfaith Prayer Space,” where students from all faiths are able to pray and study in accordance with their religious traditions. In another expression of the school’s commitment to engage its Muslim population and improve its interfaith activities, during the ceremony dedicating the new space, Rev. Michael Kesicki read from the Bible and a Muslim student read a passage from the Qur’an.

Many other universities are developing programs and policies that are designed to make Muslim students feel more welcome, as well:

  • Benedictine University in Lisle, Illinois, where 15 percent of the students identify as Muslim, compared to the average 1.3 percent of students at four-year colleges,established dedicated prayer rooms for Muslim students and launched an “Interreligious Dialogue” program, inviting students from different faiths to discuss a wide range of issues, including anti-Muslim sentiment.
  • Georgetown University, in addition to reserving space for daily Muslim prayers, employs Imam Yahya Hendi as a university chaplain in its multifaith Campus Ministry in Washington, D.C.
  • American University, which is affiliated with the Methodist Church, actively engages Muslim students through its Kay Spiritual Life Center in the nation’s capital and its Muslim Chaplain Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad.

By taking actions that express concern and sensitivity toward students of all faith traditions, these universities have demonstrated a commitment to bridging the river of religious differences and countering the idea that religious diversity inevitably breeds discord. Other universities that have yet to take action ought to note the successes of these programs at both religious and secular institutions—most notably the one fostered by non-religiously affiliated New York University.

New York University as a secular model for interfaith community-building

Well-known interfaith activist Eboo Patel once noted that interfaith work on religious campuses is often successful because it “fits in the category of faith language and fits in the category of diversity. It’s just a different dimension.” As shown above, creating interfaith communities on religiously affiliated campuses is a fairly straightforward task since many religions have similar views on lifestyle choices, even if the specific tenets of each faith are very different.

Building interfaith communities at secular universities among a religiously diverse student body therefore poses a distinct challenge. Nonetheless, several secular universities are leading efforts to create inclusive spiritual environments for students from different religious backgrounds because they see the religious diversity of their student body as a resource upon which to build.

New York University in particular stands out as a model for vibrant interfaith community building. Barely more than a year ago, NYU opened the Global Center for Academic and Spiritual Life on its campus in lower Manhattan. This new building houses the Islamic Center and Catholic Center at NYU, and hosts Friday evening prayers for the Jewish campus community each week.

In 2011 a student club at NYU—Bridges: Muslim-Jewish Interfaith Dialogue—coordinated an event where Jewish students attended the Friday afternoon service at the Islamic Center, while Muslim students attended the Friday evening Shabbat service later that night. Naturally, the group titled the program the “Jum’ah/Shabbat Experience.” This event demonstrated that multifaith initiatives need not ignore religious differences and can instead embrace religious difference as an opportunity to learn more and broaden horizons.

While the Spiritual Life Center at NYU hosts many significant interfaith events, some of the most innovative and inspiring initiatives take place beyond its walls. In March 2012, in connection with President Barack Obama’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge, the White House highlighted a joint effort—led in part by the Bridges student group—in which both Muslim and Jewish students from NYU volunteered to help repair homes damaged by a tornado in Alabama. Chelsea Garbell, president of Bridges and a senior at NYU,explained the larger collaborative vision of the effort: “If we [Muslims and Jews] can learn from one another and develop an understanding of our similarities and differences, we can stand together as human beings in an effort to better the world around us.” By cultivating genuine interfaith relationships and taking interfaith discussions beyond the safety of the university grounds, students can both develop themselves and extend interfaith reach and significance to the greater community.

But NYU’s interfaith efforts also go beyond extracurricular activities: Administrators are bringing interfaith discussions into the classroom. Over the past year NYU chaplains Imam Khalid Latif and Rabbi Yehuda Sarna have been teaching a joint course, titled “Interfaith Dialogue, Leadership & Public Service: Traditions of Engagement in the U.S. & Beyond.” Students from diverse religious backgrounds have taken the course, where they learn how to build a better world while forming an authentic interfaith community—all in the safety of a college classroom. This means that they have a chance to interact with those of different faiths in a calm, intellectual setting, where they can truly air their opinions and hear from those who think differently, deepening their sense of other religions as well as their friendship as classmates.

Through these efforts and others, NYU is actively cultivating a community where students from distinct faith traditions can engage as classmates and fellow human beings, and where they can come away enriched instead of divided.

The result: Standing together through a crisis

The Associated Press reported in February that the New York Police Department was keeping Muslim students at NYU under surveillance because of their religious affiliation. Muslim students were outraged and organized a rally against this invasion of privacy. Atheists, Christians, Sikhs, Jews, Hindus, and others stood together with their Muslim classmates at the rally, bringing to life the slogan “NYUnited,” which was emblazoned across the t-shirts worn by many rally attendees.

Among the many speakers who stood before the podium at the foot of NYU’s Grand Staircase was Ariel Ennis, a Jewish student. Ennis shaped much of his speech around a quote fromAbraham Joshua Heschel, a prominent Rabbi during the Civil Rights Movement. Ennis said:

We may disagree about the ways of achieving fear and trembling, but the fear and trembling are the same. The demands are different, but the conscience is the same, and so is arrogance, iniquity. The proclamations are different, the callousness is the same, and so is the challenge we face in many moments of spiritual agony.

Ennis was able to speak as a Jew to a largely Muslim audience that day primarily because of his efforts and the efforts of the larger NYU community to develop a strong interfaith community—one that promotes solidarity despite difference and fosters unity without uniformity. As he reflected on the “most profound impact” that interfaith community development had for him, Ennis said that “[It] is not that we have necessarily solved world crises, but we have formed real friendships, deep and meaningful friendships, with many members of the [Muslim] community.”

Conclusion

The lesson of moments such as this seems clear: Building community takes time, effort, and the firm belief that our shared core values are more essential than our differences. Such efforts are central to our well being as a democratic nation. In the face of terrorist threats from Al-Qaeda and other groups of religious extremists, we must stand together as a nation of many cultures and faiths, instead of splintering apart from intolerance and hate.

Anti-Muslim prejudice, hate rhetoric, and bigoted actions divide and weaken our country. According to the FBI, hate crimes against Muslim Americans increased by 50 percent in 2010—the highest number since 2001. Muslim Americans seeking to worship according to their faith have seen their mosques defaced, burned, and destroyed.

But if we choose—much like Ariel Ennis and others at NYU and at other institutions around the country have chosen—to stand together, cultivating our commonalities while celebrating our differences, then we can stem the tide of religious intolerance. Together we can continue to uphold the American values of freedom and tolerance for all.

Aaron Shapiro is an intern with the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative at the Center for American Progress. For more on this initiative, please see its project page.

To Visit the Link on the Center For American Progress website:

Universities Welcome Muslim Students Through Interfaith Efforts

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Freshmen Connections Retreat Reflection 2012 – DePaul

I’m a bit of a retreat junkie, so it was with no hesitation that I signed myself up for the Catholic Campus Ministry Freshmen Connections Retreat. I’ve been drawn to CCM ever since I arrived on campus and have since made myself a permanent fixture in their office on the first floor of the Student Center. I was only ever told good things about the retreat, so I signed myself up to see for myself how much fun it could be. I am not the most outgoing person, so the idea of meeting other freshmen who had an active investment in their faith was just too good an opportunity to pass up. So with all these thoughts in my mind, I found myself on Friday, September 21st being hustled off to the Cenacle Sisters’ Retreat and Conference Center not exactly knowing what to expect.

I was not left disappointed. The entire retreat was a rousing 24 hour ordeal filled with much laughter, prayer, singing, dancing and talking. Talking truly was the backbone of the experience. We listened to talks given by upperclassmen and their experiences at DePaul, we talked to each other in small groups and even in one-on-one sessions, and we spent solitary time engaging in discussion with God through silent prayer. We were always encouraged to open ourselves up to each other and to allow our vulnerable sides to be visible so that we could all come together in one community with the love and guidance of God. I know that within those 24 hours I felt a part of something much larger than just myself and my own concerns and worries. I was a member in a faith-filled community where I was just free to be myself.

That’s the wonderful thing about retreats. There’s just something about being thrown together with people of all walks of life bound together by one common purpose that just forces you to let your true self show. I was willing to be silly and loud and to laugh because I knew no one was judging me and I wasn’t judging anyone in return. I opened myself up to my share group and expressed thoughts and memories that I normally wouldn’t have easily shared with others. I let myself grow closer to God by growing closer to those around me. That’s an experience I couldn’t have achieved if I had not gone on Freshmen Connections last weekend. That experience means everything to me.

I’ve been told that you can judge the success of a retreat once it’s over and everyone goes out into the real world to apply everything they learned about themselves and their faith. If that’s the case, then Freshmen Connections is already proving to have been a very successful retreat. Walking through campus I have seen pockets of my fellow freshman ‘retreatants’ sitting down and chatting together. I began to see friendships grow as the retreat continued to blossom. This past Sunday night at Mass, Becca was an alter serving for the first time here at DePaul, Shannon was playing the oboe for the liturgical choice as Katie sang, Nick was greeting parish members as a part of hospitality and scores of the freshmen ‘retreatants’ were sitting in the pews all coming together in the community of mass. It’s my hope that all of us freshmen continue on our faith filled journeys here at DePaul and that we’ll rely on each other when the road gets rough and will always be here for one another.

That’s what Freshmen Connections gave us; a community where we all belong.

Mace Ranazzi – Freshman, Catholic.

Double major History/English. Minor in Classical Studies.

From: Grand Rapids, MI. Favorite film: Titanic.

“Jesus Calling”

My sister recently let me borrow her book Jesus Calling, it is a devotional book and it has one for each day. This particular reflection really caught my attention because the whole week was filled with stress. The first retreat of CCM was coming up and the team and I were rushing to get everything ready, on top of that we had also started with October’s SEARCH 5 retreat! This was a nice reminder that things may go wrong. We can plan all we want, but there are some things that will go wrong and that is totally okay. The unexpected may be good sometimes. These words were well needed. I need to take a step back and take some time to relax. Everything will be done in no time, I just need to take care of myself first.

“You will not find my peace by engaging in excessive planning: attempting to control what will happen to you in the future. That is a commonly practiced form of unbelief. When your mind spins with multiple plans, Peace may sometimes seem to be within your grasp yet it always eludes you. Just when you think you have prepared for all possibilities, something unexpected pops up and throws things into confusion.

            I did not design the human mind to figure out the future. That is beyond your capability. I crafted your mind for continual communication with Me. Bring Me all your needs, your hopes and fears. Commit everything into My care. Turn from the path of planning to the path of Peace.”

1 Peter 5: 6 – 7; Proverbs 16:9; Psalma 37:5

By: Laura Mena Scholar 2012-2013

An Introduction to the “A-Team”: Interfaith Scholars 2012-2013

Bonjour! Je m’appelle Dana Jabri and I am a Muslim Interfaith Scholar for this 2012-2013 academic year. After spending eight days with my fellow scholars in Paris, the ‘Frenchness’ I can say has taken a toll on me a bit. Every year the University Ministry at DePaul University opens leadership positions as an opportunity for DePaul students to become a part of the larger ‘faith-based’ community. DePaul chooses a diverse group of students who will fulfill the responsibility of connecting and establishing religious diversity on campus. For this academic year, DePaul has seven dedicated Student Interfaith Scholars from various faith backgrounds to work on interfaith projects and activities. Follow this link for the Scholars information and biographies. 

Interfaith “A-Team” (There may be another addition to the Team stay posted for update!)

During each meeting one of the Scholars prepares a prayer before we continue with our meeting’s agenda. We reflect and pray in unison. To me the prayer segment of the meeting is the most meaningful part of the meeting because here you are sitting amongst a wonderfully diverse group of students and each speaks their minds and hearts for those 60 seconds or so.

For the first meeting – this is what I prayed for.

“Oh Lord, make our prayers the blossoming springs of our hearts, the light of our chests, and the dispeller of our sadness and griefs.

Oh Lord, you are the best of Protectors and the best of those who give help. Glory be to You. We cannot account for the praises that are due to You.

Oh Lord, Bless us with contentment and make beloved to us prayer.

Oh Lord, make us fearful and conscious of You as if we see You and grant us happiness through Reverence of You.

Oh Lord, join together and unite our hearts, and allow our end to be concluded with righteous deeds.

Oh, Lord may You strengthen our bonds as Scholars and friends through the successes and challenges we will face this year.

Amen, Amen, Amen.”

By: Dana Jabri 2012-2013