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Better Together club crafts community, interfaith dialogue

| Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Saint Mary’s Better Together club hosted on Monday night “Craft Your Spiritual Journey,” an event designed to engage the campus community in interfaith dialogue through the accessibility of crafting and conversing with friends. 

Senior and Better Together club president Sophia McDevitt said the goal of the event was to open up interfaith dialogue to every student on campus, regardless of religious background. 

“Everyone has a spiritual journey regardless of religious affiliation and this gives them the chance to talk about that in whatever language they see fit to express it,” McDevitt said. “It’s also a way for those of us who come from different religious traditions to see the different markers that may identify another tradition. And this event makes that interfaith dialogue more accessible because we all speak in layman’s terms and not in theological language.”

Providing inclusive spaces for interfaith dialogue is the duty of a Catholic institution, McDevitt said.

“We are a Catholic college and that means we are founded in protecting the religious rights of other people,” she said. “At one time, Catholics were oppressed in this country and we were kept from practicing. That’s why Catholic schools were founded: so we had a safe place to practice. Now it’s our job to make sure everyone has that safe place.” 

Yet, Better Together club seeks to surpass that obligation, McDevitt said, and not only foster a space for interreligious dialogue, but a place where students of every denomination can feel safe and understood.

“Specifically at a religious college, everyone should feel that their religious needs will be met and that they can find a religious community while there,” McDevitt said. “Our world is becoming more and more globalized and we’re constantly being connected with people who are different from us, so it’s crucial that we actually understand each other and build a relationship across that difference while breaking down some of these barriers that lead to hate.”

 

Gina Twardosz

Saint Mary’s students from varying faith backgrounds come together for a crafting session hosted by Saint Mary’s Better Together club.

 

Better Together club historian, sophomore Caitlin Wirtz, said she feels students should not feel ashamed to ask others about their religion; in fact, Wirtz encourages it.

“I think it’s important for everyone to know that their religion or spirituality is valid,” she said. “It doesn’t really matter if you don’t know much about other religions because it’s important to ask questions and that’s why we want people to have an open dialogue space so that everyone can feel safe to ask those questions. No one here is really an expert and I think people should be able to speak on their own experiences.” 

McDevitt agreed and said that the purpose of the club is to encourage others to learn from those who lead different faith lives than themselves.

“The whole point is to build a community where we can address where we went wrong together and make it better,” she said. “We should learn from our mistakes and not just exist in that ignorance. We may be ignorant now but the purpose of this group is to educate everyone.” 

Senior Iman Omar, Better Together club treasurer, said the informal nature of the club and its events is what makes the club so accessible. (Editor’s Note: Iman Omar is a former writer for The Observer).

“It’s something different than having a formal panel discussion and it’s a better way to have people connect with one another in a way where there’s no pressure,” Omar said. “The best types of conversations are the ones that come up organically and I feel like I learn a lot just by talking to people who are different from me.”

Crafting is another way in which students can engage with each other about their spiritual journeys in a comfortable, low-stress way, Better Together club secretary junior Jackie Rojas said. The crafts are to be inspired by one’s spiritual journey, she said. 

“Arts and crafts is very fun, engaging and visual way for everyone to share their own spiritual journey with one another, because we each have our own unique experiences,” Rojas said. “Once we’re done creating these crafts, we’ll have the opportunity to share them with each other.” 

McDevitt said this year, Better Together is focusing on involving more underclassmen students so that the club can thrive next year once the senior board members have graduated. Additionally, McDevitt said she hopes the club’s value of interfaith inclusivity persists in the years to come, even after all the original founders of the club have left Saint Mary’s. 

“The goal of this club is to make [interfaith dialogue] widespread and make this a safe space for students on Saint Mary’s campus and for students in general,” she said. “This club gives us the opportunity to provide resources and community events to spiritually underrepresented students and help them find what they need in this community and not just be left behind because they’re one in a few.”

Freshman Sabina Jaromin said she attended the event because she was inspired by the club’s name to put herself out there and meet new students of different faiths. 

“When I hear ‘better together’ it speaks to me of community, and how we can all strengthen community and get to know everyone just by being together,” Jaromin said.

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About Gina Twardosz

Gina Twardosz is a senior English Writing and Communication Studies double major at Saint Mary's College. She's the co-editor of the Investigative Unit, a Saint Mary's social media liaison, and she occasionally writes for SMC News and Scene. Gina is a tried and true Midwesterner and yes, she does say "ope" often.

Contact Gina