Dear First Years, Welcome to Loyola
August 22, 2016
On behalf of Campus Ministry, I would like to welcome you to Loyola. I am your Muslim Chaplain, here to serve you in your spiritual and personal needs and ambitions.
As you well know, Loyola University Chicago is a Jesuit Institution with strong focus on academics, faith, and social justice. Though the university itself is less than 150 years old, you are joining a tradition that spans centuries. As a Muslim on campus, you are adding to the conversation by bringing our own rich traditions to the campus.
In your entering class, there are 200 Muslims, coming from all over the globe. In the entire Undergraduate population, we have nearly 800 Muslims. We are 7-8% of the population, growing each year.
I have two roles in the University. On the one hand, I teach academic courses, usually in the Department of Theology, and sometimes in the Department of Modern Languages and Literature. I started teaching here in 2008, having taught at many of the schools across Chicagoland. Most of my classes are related to Islam, including “Introduction to Islam” and “The Qur’an as Literature.” Other courses I have taught include, “Revival and Reform in Islamic History and Thought,” and “Masterpieces of Literature: Islam.”
On the other hand, I am Muslim Chaplain, beginning my third year in the role. I am here to assist and guide you in your personal growth, no matter how much of a priority Islam is for you or not, and no matter how you approach Islam. I have very good relationships with students. Many return to talk even years after they have graduated from Loyola.
Among the ways I serve you include pastoral care. Every day students make appointments with me seeking help or conversation on matters related to belief, personal life, as well as academics. Some students feel that they have already developed extensively as Muslims prior to starting their college careers, and seek more. Other students feel that they need to learn where to begin, and might be timid in asking. Whatever your outlook is, you will find me eager to work with you. Whatever your level is, I will meet you there. My goal is to figure out how to help you grow and find your fulfillment. Consider me to be a personal trainer for your heart.
Other programs I provide include reading groups, where we go through material, whether it is a book or article, and read and discuss together. Last year, some of the topics included the Qur’an, with focus on Surah al-Baqarah, neo-Atheism, Muslim Feminism, Socrates, and Muhammad Iqbal. This year, I hope to offer other programs that will help you in your personal growth, with focus on community building.
And, considering the political and global situation we are in right now, consider me (as well as the entire Campus Ministry staff) to be a source for comfort for you. We live in a time that is full of uncertainty and chaos. You will always find me to be your friend, and older brother. My wonderful colleagues in Campus Ministry feel the same way toward you.
I am looking forward to meeting with you. Please make an appointment with me and we can work together to figure out where to focus over the course of your college career and beyond. I hope to reach out to you personally over the course of the year, to develop our relationship. My office is in the Campus Ministry Suite in the Damen Student Center, Room 217.
You might know that just outside our Suite, we have the Muslim prayer space. We have space for women and men, with separate rooms for each to perform their ablutions (wudu).
Frequently throughout the semester, I write “Chaplain Letters” providing reflection and food for thought about life. I encourage you to read them and discuss them. They are available here:
Further, I run a Facebook page that has announcements and other communications. I encourage you to “Like” it.
I encourage you also to take part in the Muslim Students Association, and will send you more information on that soon.
I do look forward to the great things you will do here at Loyola, and beyond. Thus, I give you three simple assignments: make an appointment with me, read my Chaplain letters, and “Like” the Chaplain Facebook page.
My prayers are with you.
Omer M. Mozaffar