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Saint Mary’s club aims to foster interfaith understanding

and | Tuesday, September 4, 2018

This semester, students at Saint Mary’s College will be able to join a new club called Better Together. The club is focused on promoting interfaith dialogue throughout campus.

Sophomore Jackie Rojas, the secretary of Better Together, said the goal of this club is to demonstrate how people with different perspectives and religious traditions can work together to better the community as a whole. Rojas said the club will strive to make the campus community more welcoming for students who come from different religious traditions.

“Before coming to Saint Mary’s, I really didn’t know a lot about other religious traditions or other worldviews and so I took a world religions and dialogue class that really opened my eyes to the need for having this interreligious dialogue,” Rojas said. “As a Hispanic student I know how it feels to feel underrepresented so I don’t want people of other backgrounds to feel that way.”

The co-presidents, juniors Sophie McDevitt and Gabby Haff, interned for professor Anita Houck of the Religious Studies department last semester. As a result of this shared experience, McDevitt and Haff helped to organize an interfaith conference that inspired the creation of this new club.

At the conference, an acronym was created based on the work of Better Together, Rojas said.

“We have this acronym that we invented for the conference called BISC, which meanings ‘building an inter-religious student community’ and so we call ourselves ‘biscuits,’” she said.

McDevitt explained that the interfaith conference helped inspire the framework for the new club.

“After the conference we talked about what we wanted our next steps to be. How do we want to increase interfaith dialogue on campus,” she said.

The next steps, McDevitt said, consisted of integrating aspects from the conference into a group of students who would meet regularly. Aspects of the club’s work in this regard include visiting different places of worship, holding panels with various religious leaders, and open discussion nights.

“We are saying interfaith dialogue instead of inter-religious dialogue because we want people to realize that you don’t have to have any religious affiliation to come,” McDevitt said.

Rojas said the club’s plans for this semester include exploring members’ own experiences and studying different faith communities in the South Bend area.

“We want to have different events where we get together to talk about our own stories in interfaith and also visit different communities or temples or places of worship,” she said. “We also want to work with the women’s interfaith dialogue group in South Bend to work with the outside community and try to increase awareness for the importance of interfaith dialogue.”

McDevitt extended an open invitation to anyone who might be interested in joining Better Together.

“We do have some open positions on our board if anyone is interested in joining our new club,” she said.

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