Report on U.S. Assistancy
Dialogue Board Subcommittee Meeting

July 7 - 8, 2003

Francis X. Clooney, S.J.

Professor of Comparative Theology, Boston College

Coordinator for Interreligious Dialogue in Jesuit-Related Ministries,

United States Assistancy of the Society of Jesus

Address: Jesuit Community, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467-3802; clooney@bc.edu

 

Our Third Committee Meeting on Initiatives in Interreligious Dialogue



The Mission and Interreligious Dialogue Board met on July 7-8, 2003 at the Theology Department at Loyola University, Chicago. Jim Bretzke, Ray Bucko, Tracy Pintchman, Jim Redington, Tracy Tiemeier, Frank Clooney [chair] attended the meeting. Our first session began on Monday, July 7 and lasted from 2PM until 7PM when we headed to Devon Street for a sumptuous Indian meal washed down with mango thick shakes.

We began the meeting with a brief report from the Chair. Frank reviewed the work the committee had done since the last meeting and mentioned that the committee needed to look at acquiring another chair. Tracy Tiemeier gave the committee a report on the 2003 national grad student conference and discussed plans for the 2004 conference.

Ray Bucko discussed the progress of the website as well as the activity on the two discussion lists he maintains on behalf of the committee. He mentioned that it was difficult to get new events and new materials to post on the website. Since the site is well formatted, it is not difficult to publish new material to the web. It is important however to have better communications between the committee and various apostolates to keep the pages updated and our constituents aware of the progress being made. He also suggested that as new initiatives were created the information about them should be posted to the website. Finally Ray discussed the lists stating that while there were individuals signed up on the list that the lists themselves were rather inactive. The committee runs two lists: one for the committee itself and one for educators in Jesuit high schools interested in interreligious dialogue.

Jim Redington, a member of the Woodstock Center in DC, gave a sketch of how things might work if that Center took up this work more primarily. Frank Clooney has contacted Gap LoBiondo at Woodstock on this, and discussions will continue in the fall. We also discussed the possibility of incorporating the work of the Center of Concern in our mission. The Center is interested in planning initiatives in the relationship between justice and interreligious dialogue.

This fall the committee will contribute to a new column in the National Jesuit News. Francis Clooney already did a column in the June issue. We have distributed the labor for the column in the NJN for 2003-2004 accordingly:

October issue (due: September 5): Ray Bucko;
November issue (due: October 10): Joe Bracken;
December/January issue (due: November 21): Jim Bretzke;
February/March issue (due: January 9): Joe Bracken;
April/May issue (due: February 27): Tracy Pintchman;
June issue (due: May 7): Tracy Tiemeier.

The discussion moved to a possible initiative in the area of the college/university core curriculum and theology/religious studies majors. Tracy Tiemeier compiled extensive data on the core and major at the 28 Jesuit colleges and universities. In the fall, we will look into a new initiative of conversations with the Department Chairs on the topic of world religions and pluralism in the core and major. Francis Clooney is also contacting the administrators who planned the national core meeting in Cincinnati, to see about getting this topic on the agenda for their next meeting (2004 or 2005). Francis Clooney has also initiated some new contacts with the campus ministers.

The committee is also planning some additional projects in higher education. We are thinking along a scholarly approach. For instance, it might be time for something related to the study of religions as a contribution to ethical discourse in the USA, either on cultural and religious diversity as social goods, or on an even more specific topic, such as "the family and religious diversity," or "religious diversity and politics." Or, quite differently, we could foster a project on the notion of a "theologies department," i.e., departments that are both solidly pluralistic and yet still definitely theological. Any such idea could leave to a seminar and publishing project, with a key audience being the colleges and universities themselves. Something might be generated for Conversations in Jesuit Higher Education too.


Our second session took place on Tuesday, July 8, from 8:30 AM until Noon.

We began with a reecap on what we've accomplished thus far; targets for the coming year. We then met with two individuals to dialogue about work with the committee.

First we met with Dan Hartnett, S.J., the superior of the Jesuit collegiate students at Loyola Chicago to discuss issues of formation. Specifically we examined the plan to have for the Jesuit Scholastics at Chicago, in the new Loyola University Chicago's "May-mester," a course on pluralism, religions, and the Jesuit tradition of encounter.

We also discussed a suggestion generated by Ray Bucko: "Based on the model of 'Transitions,' a seminar for Jesuits in formation interested in the higher education apostolate, we might suggest a 5 day seminar on multicultural ministry. This seminar would be for younger Jesuits information and just out, interested in missions or work with cultures other than their own. Like Transitions, there would be small discussion groups as well as speakers. The seminar would focus on how to prepare for this kind of ministry, the importance of anthropology, spirituality, interreligious dialogue, theology and philosophy in these types of ministry and people's personal experiences in this ministry. We would have speakers from different religious and cultural traditions who work with Jesuits." Francis Clooney has sent a letter on this to John Armstrong, SJ, Jesuit Conference to pursue this possibility.

There was a possibility of having a regent (Jesuit scholastic in formation) to do national work in interreligious dialogue. Unfortunately this has not worked out.

We then moved to a meeting with Timothy Mitchell, chair of Religious Studies Department at St. Ignatius Prep in Chicago. Included in the discussions were concerns sent to us by Peggy Crawford, including her hope that pluralism and dialogue become a more prominent agenda item in high school planning, and that we move beyond a narrowly defined set of curricular issues to larger religious and ethical issues. Tim and Peggy Crawford will review the on-line materials describing the current state of and make suggestions on what we might do next.

The meeting concluded with planning ahead. Francis Clooney will take up the issues discussed these days with the provincials at their October meeting.

Thanks were offered to Tracy Pintchman, the Theology Department, and Loyola's Jesuit Community, for their hospitality.


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