Interfaith

Interfaith Council

As part of the St. John’s University Catholic, Vincentian Mission, the Interfaith Council is established to encourage unity and build a campus where everyone feels safe to practice and speak of their faith. We seek opportunities to bring students and employees together to meet specific needs expressed by students whose world views are reflected through a particular religion or through no religious affiliation, but to build bridges for a unified campus community and the common good of our society.  

There is unity in our diversity, more that we have in common than what makes us different. Dialogue with each other brings us all together for understanding, respect and peace in our neighborhoods and world.

Interfaith Council includes:

  • Interfaith dialogue
  • Interfaith prayer
  • Religious literacy events of represented faiths on campus
  • Working with all shareholders of the St. John’s Community which includes students, faculty, administrators, and staff together on the Interfaith Council
  • Training student leaders of different faiths for interfaith cooperation
  • Work with the Office of Student Affairs for cooperative student programming
  • Revising the Interfaith feast day’s calendar on the St. John’s University Campus Ministry webpages under “Celebrations & Traditions”  

Interfaith Dialogue

Each year, Campus Ministry’ Interfaith Council, in collaboration with Student Affairs, sponsors an Interfaith Dialogue.  This is an excellent opportunity for students to speak of their faith from the various world religions represented on campus centered around a common topic of interest and to have the opportunity to learn about other faiths that make up our pluralistic campus and neighborhoods.  

Our next Interfaith Dialogue and Dinner will take place on Tuesday, March 16, 2021 in D'Angelo Center, 4th Floor, Room 416. We hope to see you there!

To view the 2020 Interfaith Memorial Service, click here.

Interfaith Messages, Prayers, and Reflections

A virtual choir performance by members of St. John’s Music Ministry

As a way to stay engaged and connected during the COVID-19 crisis, members of the St. John’s Music Ministry program came together virtually in early April to produce a choir performance. 

They were provided a score of the piece, “It Is Well with My Soul,” arranged by Norm Gouin, Campus Minister for Music and Faith Formation. The musicians were asked to learn their specific voice parts and over several weeks met on Zoom for rehearsals and one-on-one coaching sessions. Fourteen students participated, singing their assigned part to a prerecorded musical track. The videos were compiled and edited to produce one complete video performance.  

It is our hope that this performance lifts people’s spirits and brings encouragement and comfort to all in the St. John’s University community as we continue to persevere during these stressful and uncertain times.

Since March, members of the St. John’s University community have been doing their best to continue their work and take care of the health and well-being of their families, friends—and themselves. It has been a challenge. I hope these weekly interfaith reflections from the various faith traditions of St. John’s University students and community helped increase appreciation of the diverse faiths of our fellow Johnnies.

During the fall semester, I look forward to meeting more students, faculty, administrators, and staff of many faiths, including those from the Buddhist tradition. Please spread the word about the work of Campus Ministry’s Interfaith Council, and how we promote and support interfaith cooperation on campus. Anyone from any faith is welcome to join and offer their support on the Interfaith Council.

This week, I would like to open our hearts to the wisdom and enlightenment of the Buddha.

“Little is known about the life of Buddha.

Historians believe he was born Prince Siddhartha Gautama in the 5th or 6th Century BC in Nepal. In his twenties, the prince experienced realities of the outside world that led him on a quest for enlightenment. He left the palace to search for it and eventually attained enlightenment.

It was then that he became Buddha. Until he died at the age of 80, Buddha taught many people how to achieve enlightenment. His doctrines eventually became what is known as Buddhism.”

Source: https://www.keepinspiring.me/buddha-quotes/

As you begin your summer recess or graduate with your degree to enter the world to live out your passions and hopes, here are some quotations from the Buddha that will inspire everyone on their life journey:

“Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart to give yourself to it.”

“Teach this triple truth to all: A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.”

“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”

“If anything is worth doing, do it with all your heart.”

“On life's journey, faith is nourishment, virtuous deeds are a shelter, wisdom is the light by day, and right mindfulness is the protection by night.”

I hope you enjoy your summer.

Be well,

Dennis M. Gallagher
Interfaith Council, Campus Ministry

God, Creator of all things and of human intellect,
bless these students with orderly thinking,
curiosity for the work of your creation,
and a creative spirit in their studies.

Lord Jesus, Son of God, help them remain focused.
Give them eyes to see the connections between their study
and its value for life and service to others.
Energize them and get their brains working.

Send your Holy Spirit upon them
to give them flexibility of thought and expression,
good memory and calm nerves,
the ability to organize their thinking
and comprehend theories and facts,
that they may express them with flair and clarity.
May your Spirit help them
to overcome moments of discouragement
and to rejoice in their accomplishments.

God our Wisdom, in whom we move, live, and have our being,
bless your sons and daughters.
Bless them during their final exams and every part of their lives.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

(Source: Diocese of San Jose, April 27, 2005; https://dsjliturgy.blogspot.com/2005/04/blessing-of-brains.html)

Healing God,
You are the giver of life;
be with us during these days as we face this global epidemic. 
Heal those who are sick. Restore them to full health.
Heal our fears. Place peace in our hearts.
Heal the lonely. Give them companions to comfort them.
Heal those who have lost loved ones. Mend their broken hearts. 
Strengthen health-care personnel.
Strengthen those who must make difficult decisions.
Strengthen our resolve to heal this planet.
Strengthen each of us on this uncharted path.
Provident God, we place our trust in you, now and always. Amen. 

Sr. Paula Damiano, S.P. 
March 2020

Ramadan, a holy Islamic festival honoring the first revelations to the Prophet Muhammad through 30 days of reflection and fasting, occurs from sun-up to sun-down. It is a month dedicated entirely to Allah and to his blessings. Muslims seek Allah’s (God’s) blessings by chanting these special prayers so that one’s sin may be washed by His divine blessings.

Tomorrow, April 23, marks the beginning of Ramadan; it ends on May 23, which is the holiest time for our Muslim brothers and sisters. At St. John’s University, let us all pray to support our Muslim students as they successfully finish the academic year during their holiest month of the year. Praise be to God!

The Prayer for Breaking the Fast

One of the first prayers that Muslims recite is when they break their fast. The meal that breaks the fast is called Iftar and it begins by eating three dates; tradition holds that the Prophet Muhammad broke his fast with three dates and water. At Iftar, this prayer is recited out loud, after which the fasting members of a family break their fast. Fasting does not end unless this prayer is recited: “Allahuma inni laka sumtu wa bika aamantu wa ‘alayka tawakkaltu wa ‘ala rizq-ika aftarthu.” (Oh Allah! I fasted for You and I believe in You [and I put my trust in You] and I break my fast with your sustenance.)

Prayer for Forgiveness

Ramadan is a time when Muslims are told through the Qur'an that God absolves them of their sins if they engage in sincere worship and repentance. The following prayer is a good one to recite during Ramadan to ask for Allah’s forgiveness: “Allahumma inni as'aluka birahmatika al-lati wasi'at kulli shay'in an taghfira li.” (Oh Allah, I ask You by Your mercy which envelopes all things, that You forgive me.)

Prayer for the First 10 Days of Ramadan

Muslim scholars agree that Ramadan is such a holy month that any sort of prayer, whether it is a personal one from your heart or one from the Qur'an or other Islamic sacred texts, is received by Allah and the rewards for those prayers are numerous. However, the Prophet Muhammad did recommend Muslims to recite certain du'as at particular times during Ramadan. For example, during the first 10 days of the months, reciting the following prayer provides extra benefits:

"Rabbigh fir war hum wa anta khair ur rahimeen."

Oh my Lord and Sustainer please forgive me and be merciful to me. You are the best amongst those who show mercy.

Prayer for the Second 10 Days of Ramadan

This prayer, which is from the Qur'an, was recommended by the Prophet Muhammad to be recited as much as possible during the second 10 days of Ramadan for maximum rewards and forgiveness of sins: “Allahumma innaka afuwun tuhibbul afuwa faafu anna.” (Oh Allah, indeed you are the greatest pardoner and you like the act of pardoning. Hence, please forgive us.)

Prayer for the Third 10 Days of Ramadan

This particular prayer was recommended by the Prophet Muhammad to be recited during the last 10 days of Ramadan as much as possible. It beseeches God to forgive us, because God is indeed the best at forgiving humans for their mistakes: “Astaghfirullaha rabbi min kulli zambin wa atabu ilaih.” (I seek forgiveness of all my sins from Allah, who is my lord and sustainer, and I return back in repentance to him alone.)

Prayers of Zikr

Zikr are prayers recited repeatedly in the remembrance of God and are an integral part of all Muslims’ lives, especially important during Ramadan. A great way to connect with God while doing all of the mundane chores of daily life (e.g., driving, waiting in line, preparing the evening meal), is to repeatedly recite these short phrases:

Subhan'allah,” an expression used to express strong feelings of joy or relief and recall how everything Muslims have is thanks to Allah.

“Alhamdulillah,” or “Praise be to God!” is a Qur'anic exclamation with a similar meaning as “hallelujah” in the Jewish and Christian faiths.

“Astaghfirullah,” which means, “I seek forgiveness from God.”

“Allahu Akbar,” or “God is the Greatest.”

(Source: https://www.theholidayspot.com/ramadan/ramadan-prayers.htm)

Hello, interfaith community of St. John’s!

For our Jewish students and colleagues at St. John’s, today marks the beginning of Passover, an eight-day celebration marking the deliverance of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. Seder ceremonies emphasize the concept of freedom. The first two days and the last two days are observed as holy days. 

This Sunday, our Catholic and Christian students and colleagues celebrate Easter, the central feast celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Easter is the culmination of the Triduum, a three-day liturgical season, which recalls the Passion, crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, as portrayed in the Gospels. 

What a special week for both religions to come together to wish our Jewish community, “Chag, Pesach Samech,” and to the Christian communities, Happy Easter!

Mutual respect and cooperation are key for all interfaith efforts to help others focus on our commonalities. Like this year, in April of 2017, Passover and the Christian Holy Week occurred within the same time period. Click here for a video story posted on NET-TV, the Diocese of Brooklyn’s Catholic television station, for a heartwarming story of how people from both faiths came together to celebrate.

Peace and All Good to you all,

Dennis Gallagher
Director of Liturgy and Faith Formation
University Ministry

Hello to everyone from St. John’s interfaith community!

Ramakrishna Jayanti, which was celebrated on April 2, commemorates the birth of Sri Ramakrishna, a Hindu mystic whose movement redefined modern Hinduism. 

People of all faiths are experiencing anguish and uncertainty, and are doing their best to protect themselves from COVID-19. Let us support each other and encourage good public health practices, including social distancing and staying home, to flatten the curve. Please “Reply All” to this email to express your thoughts and encouragement for our St. John’s community.

During difficult times like now, people pray and hope for peace—not only where we live, but within our hearts and the hearts of those we love. Let us pray together with our Hindu neighbors:

Hindu Prayers for Peace

Oh God, lead us from the unreal to the Real.

Oh God, lead us from darkness to light.

Oh God, lead us from death to immortality.

Shanti, Shanti, Shanti unto all.

Oh Lord God almighty, may there be peace in celestial regions.

May there be peace on earth.

May the waters be appeasing.

May herbs be wholesome, and may trees and plants bring peace to all.

May all beneficent beings bring peace to us.

May thy Vedic Law propagate peace all through the world.

May all things be a source of peace to us.

And may thy peace itself, bestow peace on all, and may that peace come to me also.

Regards,
Dennis Gallagher
Director of Liturgy and Faith Formation
University Ministry

 

Coptic Orthodox Celebrate Easter Celebrated on April 19 

painting for Coptic Orthodox Easter

As western Christianity celebrates the octave of Easter, beginning the 50-day Easter season, St. John’s University’s Coptic Society and Coptic Orthodox students celebrate their Holy Week and Easter.

Coptic Easter falls on the Sunday following the full moon that comes after the vernal equinox. It is one of the two most important holy days for Egyptian Christians; (the other is Coptic Christmas on January 7). 

Coptic Easter signals the culmination of the 55-day period of Lent, commonly known as the Great Fast. All animal products (including milk, cheese, and butter) are prohibited.

On Easter eve or Holy Saturday, Coptic Christians begin their Easter Vigil, also known as The Great Vigil, which lasts until the dawn of Easter. It is preferable for those who are physically able to fast on Good Friday and Holy Saturday, and break the fast upon the end of Mass.

The Easter Eve ceremony includes a symbolic reenactment of Christ’s ascension, also called the “resurrection play.” The gates of heaven are closed following Adam’s sin and his expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Lights are dimmed to symbolize the darkness that existed before the advent of Christ. The light that follows indicates that Christ has risen and has opened the gates of heaven, thus cleansing humanity from the original sin. Source:  https://english.alarabiya.net/en/perspective/features/2015/04/06/Coptic-Easter-How-Egypt-celebrates-the-rising-of-Christ

On Sunday, April 19, the St. John’s University community will greet our Coptic Orthodox brothers and sisters with their Easter greeting, “Ekhrestos Anesti, Alisos Anesti” (Christ is risen! Truly, He is risen.).

Let us pray…

Hymn of Pascha (Easter)  

A music video of the “Trisagion Hymn” and the “Hymn of the Unwaning Light.” Christ is risen!

“Trisagion Hymn” 

Holy God,

Holy Mighty,

Holy Immortal 

Have mercy on us! (3x) 

“Hymn of the Unwaning Light” 

Come, receive ye light 

From the unwaning light, 

And glorify Christ 

Who is arisen from the dead.