Monthly Archives: September 2010

Standing at a Crossroad

by Beth Orchard, IPS Student, Social Justice

Swami Vivekananda spoke at the first Parliament of the World’s Religions on Sept 11, 1893. His speech spoke to his hope for a world of inclusivity and harmony between people of all faiths. He reached out to his audience at that time to ask that they consider within themselves a spirit led by God to love one another as He sees us–a community of brothers and sisters.

Juxtapose that with September 11, 2001. That was a day everything changed. The impact of the planes hitting the Twin Towers reverberated the world over and 9 years later we are still reeling from this catastrophe.

Jitish Kallat designed an artistic expression of what began on that day as a search for peace and reconciliation. Using the color codes designed by the Federal Government’s terrorist alert system, Jitish imposes them upon the peaceful words of Swami Vivekananda. If you were to stand in the middle of the Woman’s Board Grand Staircase, you could look up from all sides and read the words as they ran from one stair to another, each word coded in a different color.

As I stood in the center of the staircase, I found myself feeling the weight of the decades since Swami’s speech. I see the words ‘bigotry’ and ‘fanaticism’ in bold colors alongside ‘welcome,’ ‘toleration’ and ‘hope.’ It was as if Swami Vivekananda resided in that very room where he spoke so many decades ago to implore us to look at the current context in which we live. (more…)

Morality and Social Justice – A 21st Century Invitation to Liberation

by Robert Ludwig, Ph.D., Director of the Institute of Pastoral Studies

The experience of Christ and grace in sacramental community is a path towards liberation–the liberation of individuals from their enslavement to all that is not God and God’s reign through a lifetime process of conversion, and the liberation of all creation from indifference, injustice, and violence through the patient witness of the sacramental community in solidarity with the unloved, the poor, the oppressed, the violated. These two dimensions of liberation go together–personal conversion and social transformation. One is set free from one’s small ego-encapsulated self and embraces the larger self, the whole self, the self that is imaged in Christ. The experience of liberation is a turning to others in compassionate service, identifying with the marginated other in one’s recognition of one’s own marginated status.

The origins of the Christian tradition, in fact, lie in a peasant movement for justice grounded in the compassion and wisdom of God active in life and history. Biblical historian Dominic Crossan has “[Jesus] had both a religious dream and a social program, and it was that conjunction that got him killed…. Indeed, if Jesus had been only a matter of words or ideas, the Romans would have probably ignored him, and we would probably not be talking about him today. His kingdom movement, however, with its healings and exorcisms, was action and practice, not just thought and theory. (The Essential Jesus, p.3). (more…)

All Lead To Thee

Partial Mock-Up of Jitish Kallat’s Public Notice 3 on the Woman’s Board Grand Staircase of the Art Institute of Chicago

by Claire Esker, IPS Student

“As the different streams having their sources in different paths which men take through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee.”

– Hindu Hymn, as quoted by Swami Vivekananda

At times, a spirit of hubris dominates modern thought.  We like to think that we are more learned, more advanced, and more capable than those who came before us.  We like to think that we are wiser and that our ancestors, even our most recent ancestors, have made their contribution.  It is easy to overlook the fact that a contribution made does not exist within a finite moment, but, under the right conditions, can extend infinitely.

These were my thoughts as I looked at Jitish Kallat’s Public Notice 3, an immersive environment created on the Women’s Board Staircase at the Art Institute of Chicago.  A site-specific piece of art, Kallat’s work remembers both the terror of September 11, 2001 and the hope of September 11, 1893.  This hope is best exemplified by a speech given by a Hindu teacher, Swami Vivekananda, who would later become instrumental to the introduction of Eastern spirituality to the West.

Approaching the piece, the viewer passes through a hall lined on every side by artwork drawn from the Hindu and Buddhist traditions.  At the end of that room, the viewer is gradually faced by an amazing sight – and apropos sight: a monumental stone Buddha seated in front of a wall of illuminated text on a black background.  It is only on closer examination, though, that one realizes that the colors of those LED lights are the same as the Department of Homeland Security’s Terror Alert System.

The importance of the work, though, is not political.  Rather, it is spiritual and emotional, a unified work.  On the steps, children and young people stop to read the words of Swami Vivekananda, which begin with the ringing cry, “Sisters and Brothers of America,” as if it was a plea addressed to a very modern audience.  Young art students with cameras kneel to touch the work and feel the texture of the electrically-charged words; families sit on benches, surrounded by the text of the speech (interspersed with quotes from the Bhagavad Gita, Hinduism’s interpretation of God’s message to Man), simply meditating.  Public Notice 3 is a piece of such profound and quiet power, it is difficult not to cry at the realization of how much better a people we are called to be. (more…)

My Franciscan Story

by Cathy Hampton, IPS Student

In the Fall of 2007, I interviewed on two separate occasions for the position of development director at Washington Theological Union (WTU) in Washington, D.C. I learned about the WTU community the prior year (2006) when I lived on Capitol Hill in N.E. DC, not too far from WTU and Catholic University of America. In 2006, I was development director at the Mosaic Foundation in McLean, VA, a private foundation established in 1998 by Princess Haifa al-Faisal, the wife of Prince Bandar bin Sultan who was the ambassador to the U.S. from Saudi Arabia, and the other wives of the Arab ambassadors to the U.S. My purpose in going for the WTU position was to begin graduate studies in theology while working with WTU’s president to raise funds for the Union and for interreligious programs.

The position ended up going to a Washington, DC native who worked for the Pontifical North American College. Although I did not get the job, the time was not right for me to become a part of the WTU community. God was at work on my behalf in this negative decision because WTU’s president ended up resigning in early 2008, after only 18 months in the position. The key fundraiser for any institution is the president which leaves the development director in limbo during a leadership transition, especially when the director is from outside of the area. Despite the setback, I persevered with my plan to do graduate work in theology and spirituality and instead began my studies at IPS in January 2008.

I never forgot how much I liked the WTU community and the Franciscan charism working in harmony with the special gifts of the Carmelites, Dominicans, Jesuits and other religious orders. There was something more that I needed to investigate while keeping in contact with my former colleagues in the DC area. In early 2009, I was accepted into WTU’s distance learning graduate certificate program in Franciscan Theology and Spirituality.

My first course was on the Spiritual Franciscans and The Struggle for the Soul of the Order and constituted the bulk of my 2010 “summer vacation.” The six-week course was taught by Dr. David Burr, professor emeritus of history at Virginia Tech who was the author of The Spiritual Franciscans: From Protest to Persecution in the Century After Saint Francis. We read Dr. Burr’s work and the work of Angelo Clareno, a spiritual Franciscan, who wrote A Chronicle or History of the Seven Tribulations of the Order of Brothers Minor. In the course we were asked to identify the cross roads or turning points in the history of the conflict between the spiritual Franciscans, the Conventual community, the wider Church and the secular world at large. (more…)

Indian Artist Seeks Dialogue on Faith in Age of Terror

Partial Mock-Up of Jitish Kallat’s Public Notice 3 on the Woman’s Board Grand Staircase of the Art Institute of Chicago

Connecting two key historical moments linked to 9/11, but 108 years apart, Mumbai-based contemporary Indian artist Jitish Kallat has sought to engage the American people on faith in the age of terror.

Opening Saturday, Kallat’s ‘Public Notice 3’ links a landmark speech delivered by Swami Vivekananda at the First World Parliament of Religions in Chicago Sep 11, 1893, and the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon on that very date in 2001. It will be on view at the Art Institute of Chicago through Jan 2, 2011.

‘It begins an engagement with the public by linking up 9/11 with another 9/11, but from 1893 – the moment of parliament,’ Kallat told IANS on phone from Chicago, where he is for the installation of his first major presentation in an American museum.

Kallat converts Vivekananda’s text to LED displays on each of the 118 risers of the historic Woman’s Board Grand Staircase of the Art Institute of Chicago, adjacent to the site of Vivekananda’s original address.

Drawing attention to the great chasm between this speech of tolerance and the very different events of Sep 11, 2001, the text of the speech will be displayed in the five US colors of threat levels, to create a trenchant commentary on the devolution, of religious tolerance across the 20th and 21st centuries.

In some ways Vivekananda’s speech ‘was the first attempt to possibly seek in a kind of globalization of faith, overlaid by letters symbolic of globalization of terror,‘ Kallat said.

So, it actually draws on these multiple reference through an evocation of date, but also site because it stands where parliament of religions took place,’ he said. ‘Location itself in a way is seminal to the art work itself.(more…)

Contemporary Ministry Education for Today’s World

Loyola’s Institute of Pastoral Studies (IPS) is impacting the way people think about professional ministry, spiritual development, and faith-based leadership education.

IPS educates people of many denominations in theology and ministry skills in the setting of a contemporary Jesuit university. According to Robert Ludwig, Director of IPS, ministry is defined broadly—as the people of God serving the reign of God in multiple and various venues, some inside the church and others in a variety of settings (healthcare, education, non-profits, counseling agencies, retreat houses, inter-faith urban ministries, etc.).

“The variety of programs is a huge strength,” Ludwig says. “All of our programs have field education components in either a practicum or internship so that everyone who goes through our programs is learning in classroom and ministry settings.”

Students may participate in many aspects of the IPS experience online, including virtual open houses and orientations, two full degree programs, and in-class participation through Skype and Blackboard. In 2010, 20% of IPS students are taking one or more classes online, opening the tradition of ministry and theology at Loyola to students across the globe.

“We try to make learning easily accessible for the adult student,” Ludwig says.

To learn more about how IPS is changing to meet the needs of today’s world, please visit Loyola University Chicago | Institute of Pastoral Studies.

Calling All "Would Be" Counselors

IPSBy Bill W., IPS Student, Pastoral Counseling

What in the world is a secular-minded, “dabbling” Catholic layperson doing in Loyola University’s Pastoral Counseling program through IPS?

Studying to become a counselor, of course.

Contrary to my first thoughts when I heard the term “Pastoral Counseling,” this program is not just for ordained folks. It is geared to prepare one to become an LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor). It definitely involves spirituality, but also aims to train students in the skills of counseling as developed in the psychology field.

At least that’s what I think we are doing. I just began my first week here. I take classes two days a week, pretty much all day, which constitutes full-time status. This is a master’s program, but learning doesn’t take place only in the classroom. One professed goal of the program is to encourage students to integrate their learning into their lives in order to grow spiritually and become better counselors.

The process for me of getting to Loyola took some time (what I have learned is called “discernment”), which apparently is not uncommon. From what I am finding out from classmates, professors and class readings, the road to God and a call to “ministry” (or more simply, helping others) takes many forms but often hits people the same. (more…)

Speak Out Today | A Message from Eboo Patel

Dear Friends,

I have become increasingly concerned about the continued rise in anti-Muslim bigotry seen in recent headlines – from the violence in New York to the planned Qur’an burnings in Florida.

Intolerance of our neighbors weakens the bonds of a diverse nation. Intolerance is not the problem of any one group – it’s a problem for all of America.

As I told Mary Snow on CNN’s The Situation Room, I have not felt this fearful in a long time. A mother came up to me at my Muslim house of worship earlier this week and said to me, “Eboo, when will my 8 and 10 year old sons stop being bullied on the playground because of their names, Ahmed and Akhbar?” And what I said to her is, “very soon,” because the forces of inclusion in America have always defeated the forces of intolerance, and they will defeat the forces of intolerance again.

We need to speak out and show that America is a place where people from different backgrounds live together in equal dignity and mutual loyalty.

The time to act is now. See 3 easy ways below and tell us what you do. As always, thank you for your leadership in this movement.


Artist Jitish Kallat | The Art Institute of Chicago

By Claire G. Esker, IPS Student

September 11th is an emotional day in any year.  This year, though, it seems to have taken on even more weight, as well as a sense of urgency, with increased media attention on conflict and factionalism.  Part of this urgency, though, is an urgent call to reassess our religious dialogue, particularly in light of political realities, in the post-modern world.  This is exactly what Indian contemporary artist, Jitish Kallat, seeks to do with his work, Public Notice 3, which is on display at the Art Institute of Chicago from September 11, 2010 to January 2, 2011.

The exhibit commemorates both the tragedy of September 11th, 2001, as well as the First World Parliament of Religions, which was held in the building that now houses the Art Institute on September 11th, 1893.  The work is a reinterpretation of a well known address given by the Hindu teacher Swami Vivekananda, calling for unity between faiths. Kallat’s work concentrates on the stark contrasts between the hope of Vivekananda’s original speech and the fear that often characterizes modern religious dialogue.

The exhibition will open on the Grand Staircase of the Art Institute and will be accompanied by a lecture on September 10th, 2010.

Jitish Kallat with the Partial Mock-Up of his Public Notice 3 on the Woman's Board Grand Staircase of the Art Institute of ChicagoJitish Kallat with the Partial Mock-Up of his Public Notice 3 on the Woman’s Board Grand Staircase of the Art Institute of Chicago | © 2010 The Art Institute of Chicago

Faces of the Poor

By Olubukola “Bukie” Adekoje, IPS Student, M.A. Social Justice & Community Development

Serving in America’s third poorest city takes bravery. As a legal assistant and outreach worker at Neighborhood Legal Services, I see the faces of those whom we call “poor” everyday. They are not just poor people, they are people.

The work I do, the work all the volunteers do, is more enriching when we enter into the stories of the people we encounter. Whether as customers, clients, co-workers, or students, we are learning to understand them by listening to their story, sharing their burdens and easing it when we can. This is what we are called to do as a community: to love our neighbor as ourselves.

What a challenge!

In my commitment to social justice, I have discovered the importance of simply being present until the people we serve have faces. It is easy to get caught up in the emergency, in the need presented and soon envision a sea of faces without distinction. I am enervated when I think of the masses that are in need of help. So, I chose one face, one person I have helped or someone I can advocate for. With that face comes the ebullience that leads me to move quickly to do research, return a call, or go out to meet a client.

A new face encourages me to move beyond yesterday’s sorrow/story. One person might need shelter for the night, while another might want food; the things I, and I’m sure others take for granted. Day in and day out, people return with a multitude of travails that a privileged person such as I can only imagine. The reality is stark and crude. Yet there is room for beauty because justice is possible. One face at a time, we volunteers strive to invite that beauty to shine.

To learn more about Bukie’s volunteer experience, please visit Catholic Charities Service Corps.