Interfaith USFCA' Blog

Last May, I was excited about starting a year filled of interfaith activity on USF’s campus

In June & July, I was confident that everything was going to go absolutely perfect. Getting the list of other fellows was exiting!

In August, I was starting to be worried that I might mess up everything that I set up

In September, I was anxious for everything to begin and wanted to just get to the IFYC office in Chicago already! Read more about it:

In October, I was energized by the orientation and really ready to get the Better Together Campaign started on my campus. The Conversations on Faith were going well and I was feeling really confident that USF did have a place for Interfaith!

In November, I was nervous that no one would show up to what WHAT IF event, but they did, and it was an amazing event thanks to the hardwork of my Steering Committee! Read more about it:

In December, I was exhausted from all the hard work and a semester full of school work and I enjoyed a relaxing SolidariTEA with the Tony Blair Faith Foundation to check in my with my fellow classmates and regroup before the holiday season while discussing the Millenium Development Goals. Read more about it: and watch a video

In January, I was interested in seeing how interfaith worked on a different scale. I had been working with interfaith worked in a city, but now I wanted to see how it worked within a small town. Read more about it:

At the end of January, my energy was revived by the IFYC reorientation and sparked the idea of an Interfaith Week at USF.

In February, I was reminded about the amazing things that IFYC can do at the Bay Area ILI. I was inspired and revived as I watched people become introduced to Interfaith Action for the first time. I had forgotten how powerful the message of Interfaith is, but was reminded by all the wonderful people who were in Berkeley that weekend.  Watch a video:

In March, we planned an Interfaith Prayer Vigil for Japan after the Earthquake and Tsunami, and we were excited to hear about the The President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge. USF began working on our proposal right away!

In April, I was overwhelmed with the amount of excitement that I had in my body. I was so fully invested in the First Interfaith Week at USF that I almost forgot that I was a student. We did a bunch of events (see below) and I was SO proud of my campus for their involvement with all the activities.

Sunday 8pm-9pm Student Mass (St. Ignatius)

Join us for our weekly Student Mass in St. Ignatius Church with Fr. Stephen Privett as the presider.

Monday 6pm-7pm: Interfaith Prayer Service (Berman Room)

Participate in the religious diversity of USF. Join together with the various faiths represented on campus for an evening of prayer.

Tuesday 6:30pm-8pm:Better Together: Interfaith Education (Romero Room)

Come celebrate and gain knowledge the upcoming holidays from 5 different religions! (Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Baha’i)

Wednesday 7:00pm-8:00pm: Stations of the Cross/Reconciliation Service  (St. Ignatius)

Join us for an evening of meditation on the Stations of the Cross through a musical lens.

Thursday: 5:30pm: Hunger Banquet (Romero Room)

CRS’s Operation Rice Bowl program in a simulation of the disproportional allocation of food that occurs in our world.

Friday: 12Noon: Sacred Place Tour around the campus. (Meet at UM)

Take a different kind of tour around USF’s campus. Find out about the secret sacred places on campus, and end the tour in the bell tower of St. Ignatius Church.

Saturday 7:30am-1pm: April Action (Meet in Harney Plaza)

Join 150 of our USF faculty, staff, and students for a day of service in the Bay Area.  A continental breakfast will be provided. We will be volunteering at Golden Gate Park, Urban Spouts, Local Elementary Schools, as well and many more locations.

Read more about it:

Now that it’s May, I’m sad. My year has been shaped by my involvement in Interfaith, and I wonder how it will continue to shape my life. I can confidently leave USF knowing that Interfaith has made an impact and that it will continue to after I leave.  The Presidents Challenge proposal is complete, and it will help to shape the Interfaith Programs at USF.

I hope to come back in 5 years to USF’s campus and have people not remember what our campus was like without Interfaith Action.


Yesterday I was inspired by my friend Emily, I hope you enjoy it as well. Below is the post from

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

[Just Don’t Know]

**Inspired by the spoken word performance I went to last night and the conversation that followed.**

Prayer is a litany

a liturgy—
the work of the people.
Prayer is words
no, more than words–
a conversation.
I squeeze out words through my teeth,
out of my fingertips.
Sometimes onto paper–
mostly into the dense air
hoping that maybe, just maybe
I’ll hear a voice.
Hoping maybe, just maybe
a bush will turn ablaze.
the work of the people.
not just soft words spoken to the immense
sky up above
or to the back of my eyelids
trying to find God wherever I can
to tell her how I feel…
saving it for a moment that is just between us
because no one else understands.
Not just sweet whispers
Sometimes firm demands
Sometimes angry shouts
Sometimes painful tears
… too painful to speak.
We try to make meaning–
cuz that’s what we’re told.
We try to hold back tears–
cuz that’s what we’re told.
“Why?” they ask.
Go ahead and ask my “Why?” one more time–
because for the last time I’ll tell you…
I don’t know why it hurts.
I don’t know why this joy has me beaming.
I don’t know why life has people stuck in vicious cycles
of oppression and violence.
I don’t know.
Can’t that be enough?
my litany.
my liturgy.
my words.
My sometimes soft, sometimes angry
My hopes, fears, joys, doubts, desires, pain, struggle.
My words.
For when I don’t have the words.
But I am confident.
They’re Gods words too.
She feels… this… too.
Above all else
my prayer– my words–
are our words.
They acknowledge that this pain
these desires
these hopes
….are real.
For all of us.
one people.
bound together.
by God.


We kicked off the week with a Student Mass in St. Ignatius Church with Fr. Stephen Privett as the presider. The next night we had a wonderful Interfaith Prayer Service. We were able to participate in the religious diversity of USF first hand for a calm quick evening of prayer. On Tuesday we realized that we are BETTER TOGETHER with an Interfaith Education & Celebration night. Participants celebrated and gain knowledge the upcoming holidays from 5 different religions! (Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Baha’i) On Wednesday we headed back to St. Ignatius church for an evening of meditation on the Stations of the Cross through a musical lens. We were all humbled on Thursday at our Hunger Banquet that was planned by the Catholic Relief Services Representative on campus to simulate the disproportional allocation of food that occurs in our world.

You would think the week would be winding down, but nope, it was just getting exciting! Friday took us all on a different kind of tour around USF’s campus. We found out about the secret sacred places on campus AND were able to end the tour all the way up in the bell tower of St. Ignatius Church. Saturday morning, BRIGHT and EARLY at 7:30am, Over 200 of our USF faculty, staff, students, and alumni got together for a day of service in the Bay Area. After a quick breakfast, we headed out to volunteer in different locations such as Golden Gate Park, Urban Spouts, Local Elementary Schools, as well as many more locations.

Overall, it was a great week, but the most exciting part? This was just the first one. Next year we will have one EACH semester!

When I headed home to New Jersey for Thanksgiving, I had a few things on my to do list.

  1. Get Johns Boy Pizza.
  2. Go to the Religious Communities of Glen Rock Thanksgiving Eve Celebration
  3. Hang out with my friends.
  4. Spend quality time with family.

Goals number 1, 3 and 4 were on the list of all my friends, so they were easy to accomplish. By accomplishing number 2, I missed out on a fancy dinner with friends, and ended up with tears in my eyes.

I didn’t cry because I was sad that I missed out on friends, I cried because I didn’t realize how much it meant to me that my hometown embraced interfaith cooperation.

The Religious Communities of Glen Rock have been working together for over 40 years (almost twice as long as the San Francisco Interfaith Council!) They walk together in solidarity collecting food and donations during the Fourth of July Parade, waving to members of their congregations and the people they know from other congregations, as well as hosting the Thanksgiving Eve Celebration.  While these two events have been their main focus in the past, they have been able to come together on a moments notice when challenging issues come up.

A few years back, they were able to come together for a supportive interfaith prayer service after Glen Rock High School had an incident with swastikas being drawn on school property. Without the structure that the Religious Communities of Glen Rock has, it would have taken days to arrange this service, not the few hours that it took in reality.

After realizing the amazing work that the Religious Communities of Glen Rock did, I wanted to see how a meeting of theirs ran. I simply asked my pastor at St. Catharine’s, Fr. Tom, if I would be able to sit in on a meeting. He was more than welcoming, and even drove me to their January Meeting at the Glen Rock Jewish Center.

Walking into the January Meeting, I was welcomed with warm hellos and hugs. There were 18 people from all different religious communities in Glen Rock; I knew most of the people by sight, and people I didn’t even recognize knew my family. The group included members of the Board of Education, the Town Council, and many of the other groups that help to run our small town. That’s how Glen Rock is.  It really is a town to come home to. It didn’t matter that I was a college student, or that I spend most of the time in San Francisco, they were interested in my perspective and allowed me to ask questions.

The meeting began with an interesting background on the Jewish Faith from Rabbi Tow of the Jewish Center, and went on to talk about topics that were relevant to all of us. The Religious Communities are forming a team for the upcoming Relay for Life that will help to raise funds for cancer research. They participated in an Interfaith Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration with the surrounding towns. They collaborate with Family Promises, a shelter program that provides a warm bed for families without a place to stay during the cold months. They talked about bullying in the public schools and how they can help to prevent it. They stayed on task, and laughed a lot. It was Glen Rock as it’s best.

Next time I come home, my to do list will be similar to mine from Thanksgiving, but this time I won’t need to wait till Thanksgiving to be part of the Interfaith community that Glen Rock is. I am so excited to wave to all of the religious leaders in the Fourth of July Parade, or the stop to chat in Kilroy’s Wonder Market with someone I met at that meeting. Even though Thanksgiving is months away, I am even looking forward to the Thanksgiving Eve Celebration when everyone comes together again.

I am proud to be from Glen Rock, where religious cooperation is practiced.

This past week has been packed with interfaith events!

USF had a Holiday Tree for the first time in years, and the Associated Students were nice enough to invite University Ministry to be involved. I provided them with a list of some of the Winter Holidays, and they had the information out while students, faculty, and staff enjoyed holiday music, ate cookies, drank hot cocoa, and watched the tree be lit. It was a great turn out for the first time this is happening again!

The next night, as part of a the Tony Blair Faith Foundations SolidariTea, University Ministry hosted our own SolidariTea. It was the perfect platform the What IF group to get back together and talk about our next steps before the semester ended. We were all provided with a relaxing moment during finals to enjoy a cup of tea and talk about our plans for the future of USF. Learn more about the SolidariTeas at

In addition to these two great events, plans continue for Conversations on Faith next semester, and for continuing the Better Together campaign.

Hope this week wasn’t too crazy for you!

On Thursday November 18th University Ministry hosted the WHAT IF? Speak in event as part of the Better Together Campaign sponsored by the Interfaith Youth Core ( The Better Together Campaign is a piece of a much larger, worldwide movement of youth-based advocacy for social justice and interfaith cooperation happening on more than 150 campuses across the country. In a world that paints religion as a negative force, young people must come together for the common good as people from different religious backgrounds to demonstrate that our community is better when we work together for mutual understanding and respect.  University Ministry opened its doors to over 20 students from different majors, religions, and countries of origin, who gathered to talk about how faith traditions can impact Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and what that has to do with us as students at the University of San Francisco.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are the most broadly supported, comprehensive and specific development goals the world has ever agreed upon. These eight time-bound goals provide concrete, numerical benchmarks for tackling extreme poverty in its many dimensions. They include goals and targets on income poverty, hunger, maternal and child mortality, disease, inadequate shelter, gender inequality, environmental degradation and the Global Partnership for Development.

Adopted by world leaders in the year 2000 and set to be achieved by 2015, the MDGs are both global and local, tailored by each country to suit specific development needs. They provide a framework for the entire international community to work together towards a common end — making sure that human development reaches everyone, everywhere. If these goals are achieved, world poverty will be cut by half, tens of millions of lives will be saved, and billions more people will have the opportunity to benefit from the global economy

The members of the student-run committee took turns giving a brief overview of each MDG, reading quotes from different religious traditions, and opening the discussion to everyone on what they mean to us. We exchanged information about clubs on campus that involved the MDGs, places to volunteer in San Francisco, organizations that were working to change policy in the United States, and companies that have already made impact throughout the world. There was not enough time in the two hour meeting to cover all the ways that we are impacted by the MDGs, and how we can impact them, but it was a good start.

There is no possible way for only 20 students to work on this alone. We need your help in making interfaith cooperation with the Millennium Development Goals a social norm at USF and in our larger community. I believe that this affects our entire community, and that we will all benefit from any change that is made. If you are interested in getting involved in this, please email, or call me at Laura Gengler in University Ministry at, 201-805-2805.

As a Religious Studies and Education student at the University of San Francisco, I have committed to a year of working with the Interfaith Youth Core as part of the Fellows Alliance. This allows me to have a support group of 19 peers on college campuses across the country who are in the same situation as I am: making interfaith cooperation a social norm.

We all have different action plans, and for good reason. Our campuses vary from coast to coast, big to small, private to public, religious to secular. One thing we have in common is our commitment to religious pluralism.

What is Religious Pluralism? Well, Religious pluralism describes a community where different individuals or groups respect each other’s distinct religious and philosophical identities and perspectives, seek mutually enriching relationships across lines of difference based on their shared values, and establish active partnerships oriented toward common action for the common good of all. Religious Pluralists don’t have to be particularly religious; secular, agnostic and atheist people can all be religious pluralists.

So where did we start? At the IFYC’s headquarters in Chicago at an intensive 4 day training that filled me with energy and excitement, while at the same time leaving me with a long “to-do” list, a bunch of homework I didn’t get to, and 19 new friends.

I am about to embark on one of the most exciting (and challenging) years of my life. Let’s see if I can make it through 10 classes, a senior thesis, a commitment to making my campus more interfaith friendly, and somehow continue to keep up a social life.

And hey, look at all the work I’ve already accomplished… I have a twitter, a blog, AND a youtube account. All in the
past 48 hours.


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