Opinions & Editorials

The need for interfaith: Spirit Celebration ignores campus diversity

For the past three summers, I have dedicated myself to sleepless nights, sore limbs and satisfying interactions with some of the most wonderful people I know. To those who think that I’m conditioning for a Division I sport, the joke is on you. In truth, I am volunteering as a member of Manresa program. This program has shaped me in tremendous ways, one of which is spiritually.

There remains a crucial component of the program that informs students of the inclusivity and respect that Xavier has towards all faiths. At the conclusion of the four-day event, the Office of Interfaith Community Engagement sponsors an interfaith service featuring readings from students of different faiths. This connectivity is an invaluable asset to our campus community and especially to our incoming first-year students.

Unfortunately, this type of communal interfaith experience has not been made available for the rest of the student body.

Recently, the university held its annual Spirit Celebration as a sort of theological kick-off for the entire university. While the Office for Mission and Identity states that the celebration was “an opportunity for the Xavier community, composed of people of a variety of faith traditions, to gather together and be united in common prayer asking for God’s blessing on the new year,” the vague title of “Spirit Celebration” left many questions unanswered.
Many returning students (myself included) knew that the celebration was a Catholic Mass. However, many new first-year and transfer students were left unaware of the service’s nature and purpose.

As a method of increasing attendance to the event, the university cancelled all classes and most offices were closed for roughly two hours while the celebration occurred. Beyond this, the dining hall was also closed, as boxed lunches were being served to the service patrons. While the cancellation of classes sparked unanimous cries of jubilation throughout the student body, the closure of the dining hall crowded popular on-campus restaurants and angered those students who only had this time to grab lunch.

What frustrates me the most is a lack of inclusive celebration – that spiritual exploration that so drew me to the Jesuit identity of Xavier in the first place – for our community. The intent behind cancelling class and work conflicts just for the sake of the Spirit Celebration demonstrates that the university only wants us to come together as a Catholic community. Our student body deserves spiritual services that are as eclectic and varied as it is.

Retention statistics state that roughly 60 percent of our students identify as Catholic, but a large portion of these individuals either do not practice or are questioning their faith. Furthermore, what can we say about the remaining 40 percent? Are they expected to attend a “Spirit Celebration” with customs and dogma strikingly different from their own? Though different ordained religious leaders were represented at the service, the trajectory for spiritual reflection was aimed at Christian and, more specifically, Catholic beliefs.

It seems as if the university failed to uphold one of its pillars for Jesuit identity: reflection. By this, I mean true spiritual reflection that encapsulates a variety of opinions that don’t necessarily fall under the same theological umbrella. I was among many students who were fearful to attend due to a lack of religious certainty. I’m not insisting that the university attempted to shove Catholicism down our throats, but rather that an attempt at campus-wide spiritual celebration was miscalculated. For the past three summers, I have dedicated myself to sleepless nights, sore limbs and satisfying interactions with some of the most wonderful people I know. To those who think that I’m conditioning for a Division I sport, the joke is on you. In truth, I am volunteering as a member of Manresa program. This program has shaped me in tremendous ways, one of which is spiritually.

There remains a crucial component of the program that informs students of the inclusivity and respect that Xavier has towards all faiths. At the conclusion of the four-day event, the Office of Interfaith Community Engagement sponsors an interfaith service featuring readings from students of different faiths. This connectivity is an invaluable asset to our campus community and especially to our incoming first-year students.

Alex2

Alexander Spindler is the Arts & Entertainment Editor of the Newswire. He is a senior Honors Bachelor of Arts and Spanish double major from Indianapolis.

Unfortunately, this type of communal interfaith experience has not been made available for the rest of the student body.

Recently, the university held its annual Spirit Celebration as a sort of theological kick-off for the entire university. While the Office for Mission and Identity states that the celebration was “an opportunity for the Xavier community, composed of people of a variety of faith traditions, to gather together and be united in common prayer asking for God’s blessing on the new year,” the vague title of “Spirit Celebration” left many questions unanswered.
Many returning students (myself included) knew that the celebration was a Catholic Mass. However, many new first-year and transfer students were left unaware of the service’s nature and purpose.

As a method of increasing attendance to the event, the university cancelled all classes and most offices were closed for roughly two hours while the celebration occurred. Beyond this, the dining hall was also closed, as boxed lunches were being served to the service patrons. While the cancellation of classes sparked unanimous cries of jubilation throughout the student body, the closure of the dining hall crowded popular on-campus restaurants and angered those students who only had this time to grab lunch.

What frustrates me the most is a lack of inclusive celebration – that spiritual exploration that so drew me to the Jesuit identity of Xavier in the first place – for our community. The intent behind cancelling class and work conflicts just for the sake of the Spirit Celebration demonstrates that the university only wants us to come together as a Catholic community. Our student body deserves spiritual services that are as eclectic and varied as it is.

Retention statistics state that roughly 60 percent of our students identify as Catholic, but a large portion of these individuals either do not practice or are questioning their faith. Furthermore, what can we say about the remaining 40 percent? Are they expected to attend a “Spirit Celebration” with customs and dogma strikingly different from their own? Though different ordained religious leaders were represented at the service, the trajectory for spiritual reflection was aimed at Christian and, more specifically, Catholic beliefs.

It seems as if the university failed to uphold one of its pillars for Jesuit identity: reflection. By this, I mean true spiritual reflection that encapsulates a variety of opinions that don’t necessarily fall under the same theological umbrella. I was among many students who were fearful to attend due to a lack of religious certainty. I’m not insisting that the university attempted to shove Catholicism down our throats, but rather that an attempt at campus-wide spiritual celebration was miscalculated.