Diversity of Faiths Represented, Celebrated at Multifaith Community Prayer

Hundreds of students, faculty and staff gather to embrace the many faith traditions on campus
January 28th, 2019 by 

Students stand with lit candles during the Multifaith Community Prayer
Students stand with lit candles during the Multifaith Community Prayer. Photo by Avanell Brock

As hundreds of students, faculty and staff entered Mary Chapel for the College of the Holy Cross’ eighth annual Multifaith Community Prayer, each was handed a candle. The reason why was soon revealed as 12 students representing a variety of religions — from Unitarian Universalism to Jainism to Orthodox Christianity — lit a candle in the center of the chapel before sharing their flame with those sitting around them. As light fanned down each aisle, the chapel was soon illuminated with hundreds of lit candles, a powerful, visual representation of unity and tranquility.

Following welcoming remarks from Marybeth Kearns-Barrett ’84, director of the Office of College Chaplains, invited religious leaders from the Worcester community offered readings from their faiths, sharing texts and songs from Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and Judaism.

Here, a handful of students reflect on the meaning and power of hearing their faiths included and celebrated on campus.

Vidya Madineedi ’20

Vidya Madineeni smiles at the Multifaith Community Prayer

“The Hindu reading at the service was a prayer for peace, known as a Shantih Mantra in Sanskrit. The prayers read by Dr. Kolar Kondandapani are used to calm the body, mind and its surrounding environment. These prayers are read daily by Hindus to maintain a peaceful soul. This prayer means a lot to me, as it is something that I read on a daily basis.

I have participated in this service since my first year on campus and I am extremely grateful for the experience it has given me. Hinduism, as well as the other religions represented at the service, is underrepresented at the College. The service brought together members of various faith traditions in the community to pray and learn about each other’s traditions. I hope everyone who attended learned something new about our community at Holy Cross.”

Isabel Block ’19

Isabel Block reads during the Multifaith Community Prayer

“I really enjoyed the Jewish song that Cantor Rachel Reef-Simpson and her son sang at the service. The message of not waiting for change, but rather being the change you wish to see in the world is an important one and something I think about and act to live up to on a daily basis.

In times when it seems hate crimes and acts of anti-Semitism are increasing, it can be challenging to be one of the few Jewish students on campus. Having my religion represented at this service is a reminder to me and others that no matter what race, religion or beliefs Holy Cross community members may have, we all stand together, support each other and are kind to one another.”

Princy Sindurakar ’20

Princy Sindurakar lights a candle during the Multifaith Community Prayer

“As someone who grew up in Kathmandu, Nepal and with Buddhist traditions my whole life, it feels special that even in a Catholic college, there is an effort to organize ceremonies that celebrate the diverse religions on campus. Buddhism has been an important part of my life and after my move to the U.S., I had been a little disconnected compared to how accessible it was back in Nepal.

It is really great that the college holds this ceremony so I am able to pause and reflect on how my religion plays a role in my life. By having a leader recite the reading during the service, I believe it shows respect and acceptance of students practicing Buddhism. It is always calming and pleasant to reflect on the prayers that Reverend Demer recites, motivating me to start the semester with a humble and focused mind.”

Joe Ertle ’21

Joe Ertle reads and holds a lit candle during the Multifaith Community Prayer

“It was exciting to be able to serve as a representative of Catholicism. I hope my presence showed that I look forward to entering into dialogue with members of other faith traditions and that there is always time to have these incredibly important conversations.

The song “O Day of Peace” that was sung serves as a great representation of the hope that lies in the fundamental beliefs of Christianity. Subscribers to the faith are those who believe it is in Jesus’ second coming that “all the earth shall know the Lord.” We are encouraged to look ahead to the images of the peace that are written in Isaiah 11.”

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