A group of six St. John’s University students attended the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) annual Interfaith Leadership Institute over the past two summers in Chicago, IL, with Dennis M. Gallagher, Director, Liturgy and Faith Formation, and Coordinator, Interfaith Ministry.
St. John’s University is committed to fostering interfaith dialogue; for the past two summers, St. John’s students and Campus Ministry representatives traveled to Chicago in an effort to find innovative ways to develop a more compassionate campus environment. “I attended the Interfaith Leadership Institute to be challenged and to learn,” explained Domonic Haire, a senior Government and Politics major. “It taught me how to find common ground. Many times reaching out to those different than us is scary. However, when you understand what we all share in common, the decision to connect is easier.”
“I also strengthened my community-building skills,” he continued. “We all have something different to offer our St. John’s community. When a need arrives, it is important to realize that we all have talents to address a problem. Encouraging the use of our gifts for the sake of the betterment of the community is something I desire to emphasize at St. John’s.”
Khushpreet Kaur, a junior majoring in Clinical Laboratory Sciences, found the conference to be thought provoking. “I have newfound confidence to talk to people with an open mindset,” she said. “Interfaith leaders must create spaces, organize social processes, and craft conversations to ensure that people who orient around different religions can share a common life together—and in doing so, build an interfaith cooperation.”
Cristina Aguilar, a graduate student studying Biology, was impressed by a speech given by Eboo Patel, IFYC Founder and President, who shared his faith journey. “He mentioned that he, as a Muslim, has been influenced greatly by Catholicism and other faiths. These influences have brought him closer to, and more understanding of, his own faith.”
As a young college student, Mr. Patel hosted potluck suppers in his apartment to bring together people of diverse backgrounds. This is the type of informal interaction that St. John’s Interfaith Council plans to initiate so students can feel comfortable discussing and practicing their faith on campus. The council is hosting an Interfaith Dialogue and Dinner on March 26 in the D’Angelo Center Ballroom.
“This experience led me to realize that many people care and work together to bring us to live as a united community, uniquely as individuals, and together through our own faith beliefs,” said Cristina.
Campus Ministry’s Interfaith Ministry fosters dialogue, builds community, and creates connections for the St. John’s community. The Interfaith Ministry was established two years ago to encourage unity and common direction for student faith journeys. This ministry includes interfaith dialogue and prayer, religious literacy events for represented faiths on campus, and interfaith leadership training.