Theology announces new minor

Spirituality and Solidarity courses promote personal and scholarly growth

written by: Anna Verderber
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Dr. Marcus Mescher, who was integral to the creation of the Spirituality and Solidarity theology minor, is photographed above with students who traveled to El Salvador as part of a theology immersion course.

The theology department is now offering the new Spirituality and Solidarity minor as an option for students this fall semester.

The minor has been in the works 2017 and is now officially being offered to Xavier students, even to those whose intended major does not relate to the theology department.

According to theology department chair Dr. William Madges, the Spirituality and Solidarity minor aims to be a gateway for students to think deeply about their own individual beliefs, as well as to reflect on the changes going on around them. He also encourages students to pursue this minor if they seek to have a better understanding of the world around them.

“Xavier students should be interested in the minor if they wish to learn how Christian and non-Christian (e.g., Buddhist, Sufi, etc.) spirituality can deepen their sense of what it means to be human and want to gain essential knowledge and skills that will enable them to further the common good in the face of serious social divisions and economic inequalities,” Madges said.

Madges went on to say that with the new minor, the department seeks to invite students to more closely study the intersection of faith, spirituality and social-ecological responsibility.

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Students attend a hybrid theology course both remotely and in-person.

The theology department also seems to emphasize both the personal and global issues surrounding spirituality and solidarity.

According to the department website, students are invited to reflect on their own experiences, integrate spirituality and solidarity into their lives and imagine what it will take to advance inclusive solidarity in the world.

Other learning objectives include understanding what it means to live in solidarity with people who are marginalized, examining the root causes of social divisions and articulating how spirituality and solidarity fit into students’ own vocational aspirations.

The minor consists of 15 total credits. Students who wish to study the minor need to take the foundational seminar, a course in spirituality (Christian, Buddhist, or another tradition), a course focusing on social and/or ecological issues (such as poverty, hunger, violence, immigration, gender, race, climate change, etc.), as well as two theology electives.

Dr. Mescher, who teaches the foundational seminar behind this minor, expressed his passion for this minor and cited social problems as a reason why students should be interested in taking the new minor.

“The social problems we see in our world — despair, distrust and division — are spiritual problems,” Mescher said.

“This minor will equip and empower students to better understand what they believe about spirituality, as well as what others believe. (It) will also prepare students to better empathize and understand others across a number of religious and spiritual traditions.”

According to Mescher, taking the Spirituality and Solidarity minor is a good way for students to start their spiritual growth.

“There is so much social fragility and fracture in our social context — racial injustice, political polarization and echo chambers online,” Mescher said.

“By studying solidarity, our students will explore the root causes of these social divisions and unjust inequalities as well as learn more about what it takes to be bridge-builders in an increasingly diverse and interdependent moment in history.”

In describing this minor, junior theology major Maggie Hohlefelder reflected on an apparent need for solidarity after spending time studying human rights issues in Guatemala.

She noted how it is particularly difficult to achieve solidarity when we are physically separated from so many in need.

“With the people in Central America, (solidarity) is a lot harder cause we’re so separated,” said Hohlefelder. “We’re in Ohio and way over there so it’s all about reading their stories and trying to empathize with them.”

This need for reaching across borders and forming a global community is at the heart of this minor.

Students interested in declaring the Spirituality and Solidarity minor can visit the theology department website or reach out to Mescher.