The goals for interfaith engagement of the Saint Mary’s College community are two-fold: foster a culture of interfaith dialogue and interreligious understanding and prepare students to engage the religiously diverse world in which they live.
"The more Catholic you are, the more Muslim I am and the deeper a relationship we have.Think about this with [Martin Luther] King. The more King learned about Gandhi, he didn’t become less of a Christian. He became more of a Christian."
— Eboo Patel, Founder and President of Interfaith Youth Core
The College’s interfaith initiatives are consonant with our Catholic and Lasallian traditions. In April 2008, Pope Benedict XVI said that through interfaith dialogue “both the participants and society are enriched. As we grow in understanding of one another, we see that we share an esteem for ethical values, discernable to human reason, which are revered by all peoples of goodwill.The world begs for a common witness to these values.” Brother Gerard Rummery tells us that the Lasallian educator seeks to “awaken the eyes of the heart,” fosters open-hearted dialogue through education for freedom, and teaches not only tolerance, but compassion that transcends all differences, including religious differences.
The Center for Engaged Religious Pluralism was established at Saint Mary’s College in May 2008. Since then, among other things, the Center has taken a lead in producing interfaith engagement events on campus and involving students in interfaith leadership opportunities.
In the 2009-10 academic year, the Center and several campus sponsors, including the Office of Mission, produced a series of interfaith events to build interreligious understanding and multi-religious literacy.That year, the College also established the tradition of including an interfaith call to prayer component of the welcome Mass of the Holy Spirit, which is now an annual tradition.To kick off that year of events, the College hosted Eboo Patel, founder and president of the Interfaith youth Core, and member of President Obama’s inaugural Advisory Council on Faith-Based Neighborhood Partnerships, as the first interfaith speaker. In 2010, Saint Mary’s hosted Father Dennis Holtschneider, president of DePaul University and in 2011 Patrick McCollum, winner of the Mahatma Gandhi Award for the Advancement of Religious Pluralism and board member of Children of the Earth. In 2012, the fall interfaith speaker series hosted a panel of speakers representing Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Judaism.
In the 2012-2013 academic year, the Center is taking the lead answering the White House Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge, an initiative that aims to advance interfaith cooperation and community service in higher education. So far, events include the aforementioned interfaith panel, a series of interfaith service days over the academic year (one involves partnering with the El Sobrante Sikh community and another involves partnering with the Bay Area United Religions Initiative), a film event, and a peace-in-the-Middle East event.