In the Spotlight
by Alicen Schade
This past fall, I packed my bags and said arrivederci to Chicago for my semester abroad in bella Roma. Home to Vatican City, Rome is arguably the most Catholic place on the planet. I invite you to pound the cobblestones with me as I reminisce about walking with God through la città eterna.
The first day I arrived, I got to visit Rome’s most famous monument, Il Colosseo. I was surprised to see a giant, rusted green copper cross when I walked through one of the many rounded archways. The tour guide explained that in 1750, hundreds of thousands of Christian pilgrims came to Rome. To accommodate the influx of the faithful, Masses were said in Rome’s most colossal structure- the Colosseum. Later, the Colosseum held the Stations of the Cross within its walls. This pagan structure from the first century AD intersecting with Catholicism was my first glimpse of Rome’s multifaith landscape.
On the Tiber River ear the Great Synagogue of Rome there is a string of heavily populated kosher restaurants. The area, now a vibrant residential neighborhood, was once a breeding ground for despair leading up to World War II when it was a ghetto from which 2,000 Jewish Italians were deported to concentration camps. To honor the lives lost, a Danish artist replaced some of the neighborhood’s cobblestones with copper plaques naming the people who were deported from their homes. Walking down the narrow, winding streets, I could not help thinking about the people in whose footsteps I was walking 70 years later. The Synagogue itself is a major tourist attraction in Rome housing both a worship space and the Jewish Museum of Rome.
Although I did not make it to the Mosque of Rome, I think it’s worth mentioning as another example of how different religious traditions are finding a home in a culturally Catholic city. The Mosque of Rome is Europe’s largest, accommodating up to 12,000 people. The architecturally renowned structure is home to both the Mosque and the Italian Islamic Cultural Center. The Muslim population has been growing rapidly in Rome since the 1980s, made up of immigrants and more recently, converts.
Of course, Vatican City is the most prodigious site in Rome for Catholicism as the seat of the Holy See. I closed out my first day in Italy by ascending all 320 steps to the Cupola of St. Peter’s Basilica. At the top, I could see the city the way I imagine God does; millions of tiny specks going about their days, indistinguishable by race or creed. For those of you planning to study abroad at Loyola’s John Felice Rome Center, Rome is ready for you however you experience the divine.
Faith and its Intersections
by Rachel Patterson
Often times I wonder what will happen to my voice in interfaith when I am not an interfaith advocate at Loyola. I know I had been a part of the interfaith community before I entered Loyola, and I will continue to seek out interfaith dialogue long after I graduate in May. However, what form will that take on and how will I contribute as an individual to the interfaith movement?
Recently, I had the opportunity to give a sermon at my synagogue in Oak Park, IL. I was asked to talk about my experience as a Jewish college student. What have I experienced? What have I learned? How am I growing as a Jewish person in college? I transferred to Loyola from New York University and much of my experiences at Loyola have been shaped by experiences at NYU. Unfortunately, I was not readily accepted as a Jewish person of color at NYU. I have always been Jewish. And I have always been a person of color.
My congregation was dismayed to hear about negative experiences I had at both of my colleges. I knew it would be difficult for the community I was raised in to imagine me defending my identity to those who were not enthusiastic about accepting it. However, it was important for an older generation to hear about threats to the Jewish community: Comments made to me about who can or can’t be Jewish. What distinguishes a “good” Jew from a “bad” Jew? My synagogue gave me the strength to know I never need to settle for conversations and questions of that nature. I can move beyond only defending my religion into something more dynamic and spiritual.
I was excited to tell them about the interfaith community at Loyola. A place where I have the ability to surround myself with people who are confident and comfortable in their own belief system and in their desire to make the world a better place. I ended my sermon with a quote from the author Anthony Burgess who wrote: “it’s always good to remember where you come from and celebrate it. To remember where you come from is a part of where you’re going.” I was blessed to come from a synagogue that supported me for who I am. I am blessed to be in an environment now where I am consistently challenged and growing. Throughout this semester, I will continue to be proactive in seeking out an interfaith community beyond Loyola.