by Lauren Lorge | Staff Writer
Many non-Catholic students feel that there is a sense of exclusion that comes from attending a Catholic school. As a Catholic institution, Saint Mary’s has the right to promote Catholic values and traditions; however, as a non-Catholic, I feel that Saint Mary’s makes a conscientious effort to include various faiths around campus.
It is obvious that Catholic events and beliefs are at the core of the school. One example is the required two Theology and Religious Studies classes. A Catholic institution has the right, and even the obligation, to teach people about Catholicism. In class as a non-Catholic, I never felt that my beliefs were questioned or as if I was in a class focused on conversion. The second required religious class is far more open, as Saint Mary’s offers classes on every major religion along with various classes on the Catholic faith. Classes on Judaism, eastern religions, and spirituality are offered in tandem with Christian Ethics. In this regard, I personally view the religious class requirement not as a promotion of Catholicism but as a chance for religious education.
Saint Mary’s also observes Lent, which affects everyone on campus because the school adheres to no meat on Ash Wednesday and every Friday during Lent. However, for the most part, all religious activities on campus are not mandatory, which means that non-Catholics are free to choose whether or not to participate.
One step that shows Saint Mary’s focus on promoting religious pluralism is the recent hiring of Dr. James Donahue as the 29th president of the college. As president of the Graduate Theological Union (GTU), a graduate school that bridges many faith traditions together by offering programs in a wide range of fields in theology and religious studies, Dr. Donahue has experience with religious diversity. Under Donahue’s leadership, the GTU developed an interfaith model of study that mirrors the religious diversity of the world. Donahue is also part of the advisory board of the Center for Engaged Religious Pluralism on campus, so he already has an established record of supporting religious diversity at Saint Mary’s.
There are also many events on campus that celebrate different religions. One prime example was the recent celebration of Holi, the Hindu festival of colors. Events like this allow Saint Mary’s students to be exposed to various other religions and their customs and experience the unity of religious holidays. In addition, having the Center for Engaged Religious Pluralism, which cultivates these interfaith initiatives such as festivals and forums, shows that Saint Mary’s understands the importance of representing all religions on campus.
When we all applied to attend Saint Mary’s, we did so with the understanding that it is a Catholic institution. As a school with a religious mission, it would make sense that Catholic beliefs would be promoted. However, Saint Mary’s has strived to create an environment of inclusivity on campus for everything such as sexual orientation, ethnicity, and religion.
As a non-Catholic student, I am personally thankful that Saint Mary’s welcomed me and my diverse beliefs into a community of united faiths.