This report is a summary of messages sent to me from various faculty and staff among the Creighton University community. I have edited these messages into the following report on initiatives on interreligious dialogue here at Creighton University. I am grateful to my colleagues both for their generosity in assisting me to assemble this report and for their generous engagement in the essential process of interrelations dialogue itself, a venture which continues to enhance the University and our surrounding communities.
Ray Bucko, S.J.
January 15, 2002
Ted Bohr, S.J. teaches three courses that involve considerations of religious pluralism that promote the spirit of dialogue: Art International--the arts of Africa, Asia, and Native America; Native American Art; and The Art of Spain and Its Colonies (Islamic and Native American art forms are studied in this course). Each of these courses necessarily deals with the arts used to support belief and ritual. The professor spends time describing enough of the beliefs and ritual to give a context for the art. He present non-western religions as legitimate ways of coming to know the "holy" and of establishing ethical living--and producing fabulous art and architecture.
The department of theology's THL 100 Christianity in Context studies Christianity within the historical context of dialogue between Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. The course also considers the diversity of religion in the American context.
Joan Mueller, OSF teaches THL 325 Jesus Christ: Yesterday and Today. This course features a unit on Christology and Interreligious Dialogue. Presently the course considers Christology and Islam, a Theology of Diversity and Christology and Buddhism. The students are responsible for writing a paper, part of which is their own Christology in dialogue.
Leonard Greenspoon teaches Theology 354: Introduction to Judaism.
The English department teaches two required, introductory courses in World Literature. Not only do faculty have options (not chosen by all instructors) to teach selections from the Koran and the Bhagavad-Gita, but also, whatever literature is required or chosen, the courses allow for exploration of the diversity of religious belief and experience represented in World Literature. In other words, along with courses in many other Humanities and Social Sciences departments, the English Department's World Literature courses generally give the Creighton undergraduate the opportunity to learn about, to talk and write about, and most important, to regard respectfully a variety of religious traditions and practices.
The anthropology and theology departments share a cross-disciplinary course, ANT/THL 352 Anthropology of Religion taught by Fr. Raymond Bucko, S.J. The course aims at understanding and tolerance of other religious phenomena, particularly those not of the "great traditions" but rather local religions. Fr. Bucko is also preparing a course entitled Critical Issues In the Study of Native American Religions that deals in part with the dialogue (and sometimes lack thereof) between Christianity and many Native American religious traditions of the Americas.
Creighton professors Bryan LeBeau, Leonard Greenspoon, and Dennis Hamm, S.J., published The Historical Jesus Through Catholic and Jewish Eyes, published by Trinity International Press, 2000.
Joan Mueller, OSF has written an article for Creighton University Magazine entitled Face to Face: A Theology of Diversity. The article will be published in February 2002.. A number of my students were interviewed and photographed for this article and we worked hard at developing a theology of interreligious dialogue that would make practical sense both within the classroom and within the lives of the students.
Fr. Raymond Bucko, S.J. is the webmaster for the Jesuit Site: Mission and Interreligious Dialogue which is hosted on a server at Creighton University.
Joan Mueller, OSF is am currently preparing a website for the course, Christianity in Context, which features the diversity and religious dialogue component of this course within the context of Jesuit education.
Several Creighton University members meet monthly with the Jewish-Catholic Dialogue group hosted by Rabbi Aryeh Azriel at Temple Israel, Omaha, Nebraska. Recently the group has become a Jewish-Christian-Muslim trialogue. Although the ecumenical officer of the archdiocese of Omaha first brought the group together, it has never done interreligious dialogue in any official or formal way. The group has been an informal, educational, and social group with serious intellectual interest in religious issues. Rabbi Aryeh Azriel of Temple Israel has graciously hosted and kept the group organized for many years now. The group is currently discussing the tri-religious prayer service for peace being planned for Jan 24.
Creighton University's Center for the Study of Religion and Society sponsored two colloquia in recent years on Christian and Jewish assessments of research into the historical Jesus. The main organizers of these meetings, Creighton professors Bryan LeBeau, Leonard Greenspoon, and Dennis Hamm, S.J., collected the presentations and edited them into a volume entitled: The Historical Jesus Through Catholic and Jewish Eyes, published by Trinity International Press, 2000.
Dennis Hamm, currently on sabbatical in Israel gave an invited presentation in Jerusalem, at a conference on "The Religions, Ethics, and Environment" sponsored by the Interrelgious Coordinating Committee in Israel. He spoke on Creation, the Rich Fool, and Israel's Water Crisis."
University Sponsored Seminars
Creighton University has sponsored a variety of diversity seminars among its faculty over the past few years. Part of these seminars entails reflection on and dialogue about religious pluralism. John O'Keefe ran a topical seminar a few years ago on dialogue. The main focus was Islam, but the group looked at some of the intellectual problems associated with dialogue.
Campus Centers and Organizations
The Klutznick Chair in Jewish Civilization
The present holder of the Philip M. and Ethel Klutznick Chair in Jewish Civilization is Leonard Greenspoon. A major activity of the Chair is a fall symposium, the 15th of which will be held in October 2002. The first thirteen were called the Klutznick Symposium, since then the Klutznick-Harris Symposium to indicate the joint sponsorship by Creighton and by the Harris Center for Judaic Studies at UNL. For each symposium, scholars, both Jewish and non-Jewish, are invited to speak on a different topic..in recent years the topics have ranged from the Hebrew Bible in the modern world to Israel, millennialism, mysticism, and women in Judaism. The audience addressed includes Creighton students, faculty, and members of the Omaha Jewish community. In addition to formal presentations, there are dinners, luncheons, etc., at which scholars and members of the public interact. Dialogue between and among the different faiths is thus integral to these activities.
The Center for the Study of Religion and Society
This organization has been pivotal in initiatives for interreligious dialogue here at Creighton University. Since its inception, the Center has sponsored the initiatives of several of its members concerning interreligious dialogue. These have included "key-note" lectures, weekly brown-bag talks and discussions, critical issues fora, and The Klutznick symposium and other symposia. All these events have been faculty driven. The Center is presently working to institutionalize interreligious dialogue as an integral component of the Center's mission. This is in conjunction with a guarantee of a substantial endowment received by the Center. As these funds become available the Center will establish an Interfaith Project, with the goal of improving understanding between and among faith communities. The initial focus will be on the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim communities, concentrating on theology, tradition, beliefs, and civilization embraced by the faith of the dialogue partners' religious communities. A community advisory committee consisting of members of the Creighton community, and the Omaha Christian, Jewish, and Muslim communities will oversee the project. In addition to lectures and conferences/symposia, the project will also initiate activities that directly reach these religious communities of the city.
The Center for the Study of CatholicismThe Center for Service and Justice
The Center for the Study of Catholicism has sponsored several interfaith prayer services over the last year or so.
The Center sponsored a Service of Repentance and Reconciliation Between the Catholic and Jewish Communities of Omaha. 5 p.m. March 8, 2000 (Ash Wednesday), St. John's Church Creighton University. This service was co-sponsored by Jewish-Catholic Dialogue Group at Temple Israel.
The Center also sponsored a prayer vigil for peace in the Middle East. Tuesday December 12, 2000, 5 p.m. St. John's Church, Creighton University. The event was co-sponsored by the Jewish Catholic Dialogue Group at Temple Israel, Creighton University's Jewish Students Group, Creighton University's Middle Eastern Students Group, and The Klutznick Chair of Jewish Civilization at Creighton University.
The center is currently working on an upcoming prayer service with Jewish/Christian/Muslim communities to be co-sponsored by Catholic Archdiocese with a projected date January 24, 2002. The event will take place at the Creighton University Student Center Ballroom.
A "Core Team" of six students coordinate the Spring Break Service Trip effort through the Center for Service and Justice under the supervision of Ken Reed-Bouley. This office is one of the departments of Creighton's University Ministry. Thirty to forty students are interviewed and selected to serve as "Coordinators" of the 15 to 20 trips with a total of 150,mostly undergraduate, student participants. It is during coordinator formation that the CCSJ staff and SBST Core Team have begun to focus more intentionally on how to facilitate faith-sharing and reflection in a multi-faith student group.
Last year's Core Team included a Muslim student, a Hindu student, an evangelical Christian, a Mennonite and one Roman Catholic student. Their un-planned religious diversity deepened the commitment to inter-faith dialogue and reflection on service and justice. Students are encouraged to draw upon their own faith tradition in reflecting upon their experiences and making sense of the suffering and injustices they encounter. Leaders are asked not to shy away from the topic of faith and religion when the group is diverse, but rather encourage them to share from their own perspectives and welcome others to enrich the group with their own search for truth and meaning.
During a recent coordinator interview, one applicant stressed the value of his experience of diverse leadership and faith-sharing. When asked the question "How do you feel about leading reflection in a multi-faith group?" he stated he hoped to be as effective a facilitator as his gentle and faithful Muslim coordinator, Aman Ali, on his last service trip to Oklahoma City. The host of the Catholic Worker house welcomed the group's religious diversity and also connected Aman with the local mosque where he attended prayers.
Creighton University Student Theology Club
The Creighton Theology Club is planning an interreligious dialogue event in the form of a panel consisting of Creighton students of various faiths and cultural backgrounds. The event is tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, February 20, at 5:30 p.m. (location TBA) and will focus on some aspect of religious experience.
Faith and Pasta
This year, a student and a member of the campus ministry staff have had monthly discussions entitled, Faith and Pasta. The student, a Sikh, has been choosing a topic related to faith, and inviting the campus to come for discussion. The group serves pasta to those who come. The purpose is to have persons from many faith traditions come to share from their perspective. The topics have included Sexuality/Religious views of Homosexuality, and The Relevance of Faith after September 11.
Jewish Student OrganizationSt. Joseph's Hospital Chaplains
Leonard Greenspoon is the faculty adviser for the Jewish Students Organization. The group works with others on a variety of programs and sponsors two that are of special interest to the University community at large and beyond. First, is the series of Menorah lightings on the Mall, in front of Reinart Library, each Hannukah. For two years in a row (2002 will be the third), the group has also sponsored a Model Seder just before Passover in the spring. These Seders have each drawn about 60 students, faculty, and others.
A number of the people whom the Catholic chaplains at St. Joseph's Hospital (part of Creighton University) interact and pray with are non-Christians . One chaplain reports hat he prays with them and find them very receptive to that for the most part.
Prayer and Reflection Groups
Anthony de Mello Reflection Group
For eight years now one Jesuit has invited people to read through and share their responses to books by Anthony de Mello. His spirituality draws heavily on all religious traditions, especially Buddhist and Hindu along with Christianity. The group meets about twice a month through most of the school year. The numbers on the list this year, the largest number thus far, are about 30 persons; those present usually number about 20. The sessions include some viewing of videos, but mostly they follow our reactions to one of his books. We ask ourselves: What did I especially like? What did I not understand? What did I disagree with? The group draws from Creighton University faculty, staff, former employees, alumni, parishioners of St. John's (the on-campus parish at Creighton), and anybody interested. Several persons who have been in the group for years have stated that these meetings have had a profound effect on their lives.
Theological Reflection Community
Creighton University has sponsored a Multi-Faith Service and Theological Reflection community at Creighton U. the past two years that has been coordinated by Dr. Laura Webber. The community numbers about 25 students, representing about 11 different faith backgrounds, Hinduism, Jainism, Judaism, Sikhism, Islam, and many varieties of Christianity, including Roman Catholicism, Episcopal, Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist, and some "non-denominationals." The group also has a few "seekers after Truth," who have no official religious preference. The students engage a service activity every week, and meet for theological reflection around various topics, including their common service experience. The group prepared a volume entitled: Summary Conclusion AY 2000-2001 Multi-Faith Service & Theological Reflection Community. Electronic copies of this work can be obtained Harat Manges in Campus Ministry, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Created: September 3, 2000 Updated: January 15, 2002