RESPONSE FROM UNIVERSITY OF DETROIT MERCY

The Extent of Religious Diversity on your campus, among students, faculty, staff; how students, staff, and faculty belonging to other religious traditions are involved in events sponsored by campus ministry, and whether any of your programs are directed toward people of other faiths;

I would guess we have one of the most religiously diverse populations among the AJCU schools, and one of the least Catholic; however we have very poor stats to document this.

Students: (97-98 academic year)
All students:
21.9% Catholic
10.6% Protestant
18.9% Other
48.7% Unknown (indicated no religious affiliation)
Residence Hall Undergraduates only:
37.0% Catholic
8.3% Protestant
21.2% Other
33.5% Unknown

What I observe is as follows:
The student body is 35% African-American: probably most are what whites would call "protestants," but this is a term they rarely use in describing themselves; they would use the name of their particular church or denomination. We also have a significant percentage of Muslim students of Asian/mid-East origins: Campus Ministry supports two "mosques" (small prayer rooms), one on each campus. (In the 1990 census, Detroit was the largest Arab metro area (city) in the world, outside of Arab countries). The black protestants and muslims, taken together, probably make up a large percentage of the "other" and "unknown" categories above. We have no recognizable Jewish population, except for very small groups in the professional schools (dental and law).

Faculty & Staff: I have not been able to uncover any records of religious affiliation of these groups. I have been in dialogue with Human Resources (tracks employee demographics) and Institutional Research (tracks the student demographics) about creating better categories and tracking of these areas. What can I tell by simple observation? A huge percent of staff are African-American, and thus probably not Catholic. A good number of faculty, especially in Engineering & Science, are Muslim.

All Campus Ministry events are open to people of all faiths, and in fact we do get a pretty good mix at our events (excepting Muslims), although the majority are still Catholic.

No programs are "directed" at people of other faiths. However, I am just now re-birthing the "Mass of the Holy Spirit" tradition here, and will be making it as "interfaith" as I possibly canů we are going all-out to invite people of all faith backgrounds to this event, approaching it as an annual celebration for the whole university community of the common UDM Mission that we share together, not just an event for the Catholics here. I am also hoping to begin two new events next year, which I hope will become traditions: a university-wide event in the fall focused on remembering our deceased, and another in the spring focused on reconciliation. Both of these will be explicitly interfaith events (not Catholic-based).

Pluralism and Catholics: whether Catholic students, faculty, and staff seem to be affected in their thinking and spirituality by their encounters with other religious traditions;

Yes, of course -- isn't that endemic in this post-modern urban culture? There is no "theology" Dept. here, and our Religious Studies Dept. offers mostly courses that have little connection with Catholic tradition - the basic offerings simply address the issue of "God," or give overviews of world religions or Islam. So the core requirement to take one RS course almost always exposes students to other religious traditions. Yes, they are affected, but how??--the biggest effect I notice is the Gen X/Y tendency to relativize, in a very simplistic way, all faith traditions: "they're all getting at the same thing, all worshipping the same God, aren't they?" At this point in our history, I find your question boring and pointless. A much more interesting and pertinent question for us than the one you pose above is this: Is ANYONE here affected at all in their thinking and spirituality by the Catholic tradition?

Members of your campus ministry staff who belong to other religious traditions or are particularly interested in other religious traditions. (It would be helpful for me to have a contact person at your school, yourself or someone else.) No other faith traditions in our small department.

I would also be interested in hearing from you if there is anything you think the Jesuits of the United States can do to help you and your colleagues in relation to the interreligious dimensions of your work.

As a member of the executive committee of the AJCU Directors of Campus Ministry, I am currently putting together for the group a summary of our policies relating to other religious groups on campus, and some other reporting of how we deal with this area. I will send you a copy of this report when finished. You might be able to help critique it or help us refine how we approach this issue. At a time when our Catholic identity is weak, or at least highly questioned, we are all puzzling as to how we resolve our evident desire to respect and engage people of all faiths, and yet still bear, as Campus Ministers, some responsibility for our institutions' Catholic identity, and for the growth in faith/practice of the Catholic students we do have. This even has interesting budget ramifications. Eg: If I have very limited resources, can I justify spending part of my budget to hire non-Catholic ministers, when I have not adequately staffed the religious needs of the Catholic population? - or, from an opposite viewpoint -- Does justice require that I allocate my budget strictly according to the religious make-up of the student body (eg, if they are 1/3 Lutheran, am I obliged in justice to spend 1/3 of my budget on exclusively Lutheran personnel and programs)??


Created: September 3, 2000 Updated: September 3, 2000