Connecting with the Core Parts of Others

Something I have been wrestling with recently is why I feel called to be involved with the interfaith movement and how, as a future Student Affairs practitioner and Catholic woman, I can justify for myself and others the importance of religious pluralism, and the importance of spiritual growth in general.

Interfaith is the idea of different belief systems coming together, regardless of religious or nonreligious views. Campuses across the country are recognizing the importance of interfaith programming. Like other aspects of diversity such as race or sexuality, the spiritual or philosophical part of our identities are worth attention and student affairs professionals are exploring how to support this part of students.

In a recent conversation I had with a mentor, I told her how much I valued relationships. Like all of us, I have a deep desire to feel connected and I long to support others as they support me on this journey through life. Faith, spirituality, religion, beliefs, values—call it what you will, but I understand these terms as being the core parts of our soul, in these concepts one can understand why I say the things I say and what propels me to do the things I do in the world. With this in mind, if genuine, invested relationships are what help me to thrive and are so valuable to me, than I have an obligation to get to know the deepest parts of others and try to understand what makes them tick.

Interfaith work is all about building relationships and understanding each other, despite fundamental differences in thought.

To put it another way, if I want to really understand a person I need to understand what they believe and why. I’m not saying I need to agree with them, but if I can understand why people see the world the way they do, then I feel I can know them more fully.

Similarly, understanding others helps me understand myself. For example, in my undergrad at DePaul University I was amazed by how my Muslim and Jewish friends lived out their religion each and every day. Their culture and religious beliefs were intertwined and influenced how they dressed, what they ate, when they prayed, where they prayed, and a million other things. My peers’ deep investment to their religious traditions coupled with a rich knowledge of their doctrines, teachings, and traditions inspired me to want to make my faith more of a priority. I used the last of my electives senior year in college to learn about Catholic Social Teaching and met twice a month with a spiritual director to reflect on how God was speaking to me in my daily life.

My faith has ebbed and flowed throughout my life, I am still uncovering and understanding what I believe. It’s difficult to try to understand others when sometimes you barely understand yourself. However, I think that is what life is about. We evolve; if we are truly working on ourselves, our beliefs and values will inevitably change over time as we change.

One of the reasons I am pursuing a career in higher education is because I want to be a part of this developmental process for young adults— I want to support and challenge my students to never stop questioning and engaging with the world around them as well as within the deepest parts of themselves. So much of who we are is what we believe and how we act; this is why I do interfaith work and why I am an educator. I want to learn and truly understand others, and I want to facilitate opportunities for students to do the same. Community is a human need. And in this pluralistic, global, and ever-shrinking society we must learn to live together.

 Christina Ferrari

This blog post is an adaptation of a former posting on, “We Came Together”, and an online magazine article from Loyola University Chicago’s latest issue of BROAD Magazine titled “Oh My God, Oh Your Gods”

Student Affairs - the First Years

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