Monthly Archives: August 2010

Doubt Goes Hand In Hand With Faith

Heidi Russell

by Heidi Russell, Ph.D Graduate Program Director M.A. Pastoral Studies

Doubt goes hand in hand with faith. Faith, in many respects, is believing in spite of one’s doubt, not in a irrational way, but in a way that accepts the doubt as part of the faith. I am not talking about blind faith where you simply close your ears to any contrary opinions, but a faith that is strengthened by engaging your own doubts and fears, facing them and confronting them. All relationships involve risk, and our relationship with God is no different in that respect. All relationships at times involve doubt, questioning the reality and strength of that relationship, especially in difficult times. Will the relationship hold? Does the other person truly care? The same questions can arise with God, especially when the circumstances of life lead us to a place where we feel most alone.

Our Sunday gospels of late enfold us between two stories of disciples experiencing doubt. First, we had Thomas who needed that concrete, physical reassurance that Jesus had not abandoned him. Then, we heard the wonderful story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus. The disciples, Cleopas and most likely his wife Mary (cf. John 19:25), had given up and were going home. They were discouraged and beaten. They had lost. They thought Israel was going to be redeemed, but instead the one they believed was Messiah had been crucified. Both Thomas and Cleopas and Mary doubted that Jesus was really who they had thought him to be. When things did not turn out as they had hoped and expected, they gave up. In many ways doubt is often a failure of imagination, an inability to envision possibility. (more…)

Welcome Brett Hoover, CSP, PhD


I am delighted to join the IPS faculty as research faculty for IPS and Project INSPIRE.  A Paulist priest originally from Southern California, I was recently adjunct lecturer in theology and ministry at the Franciscan School of Theology and the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley.  I have spent several years facilitating cultural orientation for international priests beginning ministry in the United States for the dioceses of Northern California.  My Ph.D. is in interdisciplinary studies from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, where I wrote about “shared parishes,” Catholic parishes where two or more cultural groups retain distinct masses and ministries but share the parish facilities.

My primary areas of research interest are parish and congregational studies, practical ecclesiology, immigration, and intercultural ministry training.

In 2001, I co-founded and then served as editor for the website for young adults,  This was after my book Losing Your Religion, Finding Your Faith: Spirituality for Young Adults was published in 1998.  I loved being a parish priest in New York City in the late 90s, where I served a multicultural Latino/a community.

God of the Everyday

By Allison Rieff, IPS Student, M.Div.

It is easy enough to imagine yourself in this story with all its physical details, salt water and a charcoal fire and bread and fish.  Perhaps you are one of the disciples.  They all go out fishing with Peter; I think this is less an abandonment of Jesus’ message than a way to get through one more night without Jesus, and to do it together.

Then a man appears on the shore and speaks to them.  Perhaps I should not say “appears,” since we have no record that there seemed to be anything supernatural about this visit at all.  Jesus stood on the shore and called out to them, but they did not recognize that it was Jesus.  He told them to try throwing out their net again, and it came back with an abundance of fish.  “It is the Lord,” one of the disciples told Peter, and Peter pulled his clothes back on and swam back to the shore as quickly as he could.

So here is this man waiting on the shore, next to a charcoal fire with bread and some fish.  You can imagine the disciples hanging back, likely frightened, certainly intimidated.  At the very least, whoever this man is, he seems to be someone who has died and then returned from the dead.  No one else has ever done anything like this before.  Is he now some sort of transcendent being, and will he remember them?  What will he say? Read more

Take Off Your Shoes

By Christoph Soyer, IPS Student, M.A. Pastoral Counseling

In the book of Exodus, there is a wonderful story: Moses was tending to the sheep, when he saw fire flaming out of a bush. The bush, though on fire, was not consumed. Moses wanted to approach the bush in order to see why it was not burned, but a voice – God – said: Come no nearer. Remove the shoes from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground. This is a deeply meaningful phrase for me: Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.

I would like to share with you a very important experience I had in the summer of 2008. Alongside eight young adults from my parish, we all joined the World Youth Day in Sydney. We went to Sydney as a part of the Jesuit program called MAGIS (Latin: more). Before the WYD and the gathering with the Pope, there was a special program. The core of this program was called an experiment. The experiment was centered on the idea of having a spiritual experience in an extraordinary environment and in an international group.

Our group went to Indonesia, where we lived for 6 days on the “garbage mountains” of Jakarta. This is difficult to describe in words, so I would like to share several photos as well.


Why “Social Justice and Community Development”?

by Susan Rans

Many current and incoming students have asked for a description of the differences between the Social Justice and Community Development tracks of the Master of Arts in Social Justice & Community Development (MASJCD). In the past, I have answered this question in a kind of shorthand: Social Justice “thinks globally”; Community Development “acts locally”. Here, I attempt to put more meat on those bones.

The biggest idea behind the creation of the MASJCD was to join the theoretical and theological study of social justice to a place-based practice and policy approach to change in urban communities. While the study of social justice leads toward action, the study of community development provides effective and proven tools for action. So, another formulation might be that the study of social justice reveals why we must act and the study of community development shows what we can do.

It can also be said that community development is a form of social justice. Our religious traditions speak clearly about the injustices of poverty, of war and of oppression of the powerless. Answering this call often leads students to involvement in justice issues like eliminating poverty and hunger, ending wars, empowering women or welcoming immigrants. Community development–building strong and liberating communities in which the economy is available to all, in which every member is a valued contributor, and in which access to health care, education and secure housing is a mandate–fulfills the social justice vision. (more…)

Why My Interfaith Story Can Change the World

Why My Interfaith Story Can Change the Worldby Beth Orchard

When I first set foot into the offices of Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) in Greek town on my first day as intern in May, 2010, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I remembered reading a book titled ‘Acts of Faith,’ by Eboo Patel and read about their mission to ‘build mutual respect and pluralism among young people from different religious traditions by empowering them to work together to serve others,’ but I soon found out whatever I thought I knew about interfaith cooperation and dialogue was only part of the bigger picture.

My placement was with the One Chicago, One Nation initiative, a pilot year program designed to train people from all over the city of Chicago, from 18-88 years of age, to host Community Conversations about interfaith dialogue and cooperation around issues in their community. Through the trainings, nearly 100 Chicagoans from all over the city and suburbs came together to learn about how their story can be used to change the conversation around an issue (such as anti-violence, for example) and move together in service.

Throughout my time at IFYC, I got to interact with Community Ambassadors who were trained through the program and came from all sectors, college and university campuses and organizations as well as program officers from the Chicago Community Trust and high level corporate officials who attended the reception and induction for the trained ambassadors. I sat in on the trainings, created demographics to analyze the numbers from the pilot year and also engaged with the Community Ambassadors who were from all spiritual and religious backgrounds from Secular Humanist to Christian, Islam and others. (more…)