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ND supports interfaith acceptance

Sarah Very | Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Notre Dame Campus Ministry wants to provide opportunities for members of all faith traditions to encounter God in their daily lives. Brett Perkins, head of Catholic Peer Ministry and Protestant Student Resources, said Notre Dame seeks to remain steadfast in its mission, and provide opportunities for those of other faiths.

Perkins said groups like Iron Sharpens Iron (ISI) helps to provide those opportunities.

“Iron Sharpens Iron operates as both a Student Activities [Office] club, and as the principal interdenominational Christian ministry at Notre Dame,” Perkins said.  “ISI responds to the need felt by our Christian students who aren›t Catholic, to have a place where they can come together for prayer, praise and worship and fellowship.”

Perkins said Iron Sharpens Iron also ministers to a large number of Catholic students who are looking for a ministry that focuses on all that unites followers of Christ, regardless of church affiliation or denomination.

Campus Ministry also offers opportunities to answer the questions of non-Catholic students about Catholic culture and faith.

“The ‘Catholicism 101’ sessions have been offered a few times over the years to provide an opportunity for non-Catholic students of various backgrounds to ask questions about the Catholic Christian faith that surrounds them on campus,” Perkins said.

Freshman Annaleigh McDonald said her transition from her home in Ohio to Notre Dame had an effect on her faith as a United Methodist Christian.

“I never feel like my faith is being suppressed at [Notre Dame], if anything, I attend Mass more, because it’s so convenient in the dorms,” she said. “However, sometimes it is difficult, because in order to go to a Protestant Mass, I’d have to go off campus.”

Perkins said Campus Ministry offers students resources to attend church services in their denomination.

“We have an online church directory and ride list that helps students find local churches or other places of worship, including those for Jewish or Muslim students,” he said. “The directory includes entries for churches of over 25 different traditions and denominations.”

Even with resources like the church directory, many students attend Catholic Mass with their friends.

“The presence of so many of our fellow Christians at Catholic Masses on campus means especially that Catholic Christians need to be ever watchful for ways that they can make the Mass more inviting and/or accessible to others, that all might find there a welcoming spiritual home,” Perkins said.

Notre Dame has other faith-based organizations for students, such as the Jewish Club, which offers opportunities to celebrate the holidays and attend lectures off campus.

Freshman Ali Buersmeyer said students on campus are respectful and often eager to learn about her Jewish faith, though many do not know much about it. Even with the acceptance she feels, Buersmeyer said it is not always easy to observe her faith on a predominantly Catholic campus.

“Last week I observed the Passover by following the traditional diet free of any wheat, corn, beans, rice, pork, or shellfish for eight days – it was very hard to find Passover-friendly options in the dining hall, ” she said.

According to the Campus Ministry website, there is also an active Muslim Student Association (MSA) at Notre Dame. The goal of the organization is to provide resources for Muslims, as well as to cultivate understanding and respect with other faiths. In the past, MSA has arranged Quran reading group, dinners, lectures, films and comedy shows.

Contact Sarah Very at svery@nd.edu