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ND welcomes non-Catholic faiths

Katie Peralta | Thursday, October 4, 2007

On a campus where more than 80 percent of the student body is Catholic, Notre Dame’s Campus Ministry continues to reach out to students of other faiths.

About 13 percent of students are of non-Catholic Christian denominations, said Brett Perkins, the director of student resources for Campus Ministry. The remaining two percent come from other religious backgrounds.

“One of the goals of Campus Ministry,” Perkins said, “is to offer outlets to all faiths on campus, not just Catholicism.”

As part of its Prayer From Around the World series, Campus Ministry held an Eastern Orthodox Christian prayer service Wednesday night at the Coleman-Morse Center, led by Father Mile Subotic, a priest at St. Peter and Paul Eastern Orthodox Church in South Bend and a graduate of Notre Dame.

The purpose of holding the service at Notre Dame is to provide “authentic prayer and worship from various faith traditions,” said Campus Ministry intern Erika Meyer. About 45 students and faculty attended the prayer service.

The prayer, called Akathist, consisted of 13 student-read hymns. Subotic conducted the responses. The prayer is traditionally said in dedication to the Most Holy Mother of God, who is venerated throughout the faith as being a holy bridge between humanity and the divine.

Subotic held a question-and-answer session about the Eastern Orthodox faith after the prayer, revealing differences between the faith and the Roman Catholic faith.

“Eastern Orthodox priests can marry,” he said, waving his left hand with a wedding band.

Campus Ministry offers non-Catholic students several ways to become familiar with Notre Dame and its Catholic tradition.

In addition to getting a tour of the Basilica, Perkins said, non-Catholic students are also given a complete guide to the Catholic Mass, explaining the order of the Mass as well as the different responses.

Campus Ministry also offers many opportunities for non-Catholic students to celebrate their own faith at the University, he said. These students are provided with a complete list of local places of worship in South Bend,

To help those students who do not have means of transportation to attend off campus services, Campus Ministry provides a ride list on its Web site for students, giving the names of faculty and staff willing to drive students to their respective places of worship, he said.

Different religious clubs registered through the Student Activities Office are also able to come together to celebrate their respective faiths.

Senior Everett Chu is the president of the Baptist Collegiate Ministry.

“It’s really more of a non-denominational Christian group,” he said, noting that the club is open to all students, even Catholics.

The group, he said, gathers every Tuesday night for Bible study and discussion about Scripture.

Chu said he always desired a religious school over a secular one and he liked the “recognition of religion as well as the understanding and respect for community” at Notre Dame. He attends service locally at Fellowship Baptist Church.

The Ministry’s secretary, junior Clarissa Negrete, said it was nice to find the group when he arrived as a freshman.

“It was a good way to stay grounded in my religion,” she said.

Negrete, who has participated in Campus Ministry-sponsored events like Appalachia, said her faith experience at Notre Dame has been one of learning.

“I have had to learn from talking to other Catholics,” she said. “I have definitely come to a better understanding of their and my own faith.”

Negrete said she hopes non-Catholic students who visit Campus Ministry experience a “wonderful feeling of hospitality.”

Muslim students can come gather weekly for celebration and a Koran reading, said Priscilla Wong, the advisor to the Muslim Student Association and the Assistant Director of Campus Ministry. Turnout this year, as in past years, has been steady, attracting between 30-50 Muslim Notre Dame and St. Mary’s students, she said.

In addition to weekly gatherings, “students also are able to gather and celebrate the beginning of Ramadan, with the traditional meal beginning with milk and dates,” Campus Ministry Director Richard Warner said.

Such efforts, says Warner, are in accordance with the goal of “Prayer From Around the World.”

“The series started about four to five years ago,” Wong said. “The goal is to have people experience prayer forms of different traditions.”

This year’s events include the Eastern Orthodox Service, a Muslim prayer service, a Taize prayer, a Jewish prayer service, Zen meditation and, hopefully, Wong said, a Native American prayer service next semester.

Meyer expressed her interest in furthering appreciation of other religions through Campus Ministry.

“Students have expressed interest in starting an interfaith dialogue club,” she said.

The group would meet regularly to learn and share about different faiths.

“There are so many opportunities available at this institution for non-Catholics,” Warner said. “But so many students are unaware of just how much is available to them.”