by Kasper Halevy (‘24) | March 1, 2021
In the words of National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman, “There is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it.” The seemingly interminable pandemic did not deter Saint Francis from conducting its annual Interfaith Prayer Service in all religion classes on January 28 and 29. The service invited students to experience prayers from various religions, hear stories, and share reflections amidst remote learning and other challenges.
Spearheaded by Mr. Andrew Brown, Campus Ministry produced a video that highlighted both themes of this year’s Holy Cross Service Program: light, and the BRIC value “rebuilding respect.” The video began with prayers led by faculty, guests, and students from diverse faith traditions including Hinduism, Sikhism, Islam, Christianity, Jainism, Judaism, and Buddhism. It also featured Rabbi Peretz Wolf-Prusan from Congregation Rodef Sholom, whose reflection included references to the late Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who had marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement. Guest speaker Paul Schwarzbart, a Holocaust survivor, shared a vivid yet touching account of how a Catholic school in the Ardennes Forest of Belgium saved his life, along with the lives of 86 other Jewish students during World War II. He described his initiation into Catholic traditions while sprinkling in humor. He also noted that observing the close relation between Judaism and Christianity was eye-opening, and that he has the utmost respect for the Catholic faith.
In keeping with the Holy Cross tradition of valuing diversity and its expansive vision, the service is publicly accessible on YouTube and readily shareable with family and friends around the world. As Mr. James McGarry, the emcee for the event, explained, “Blessed Basil Moreau had a radical openness to the modern world, and Holy Cross schools need to imitate that. Our world has many faiths, many paths to the one God. We journey together.” From a producer’s perspective, Brown shared that the most rewarding part was hearing the many stories: “Everyone has a light within them, but it grows brighter the more the storyteller reveals their light!”
Students and community members expressed appreciation for the prayers’ style and linguistic variety represented in the video and witnessed in the Zoom-rooms. When asked if he considered the event a success, Brown beamed: “Absolutely! As an educator, it’s our responsibility to provide opportunities for the youth to encounter God. Based upon the feedback from students and supportive emails from colleagues, this experience created that space for God to be encountered.”
Assembling footage, conducting online interviews, and seamlessly weaving segments together were only some of the challenges presented in the preparation for this year’s service. Although Zoom has been a helpful temporary surrogate for meetings, it is no permanent substitute for in-person interactions. As everyone awaits the conclusion of these unsettling circumstances, let us continue to rebuild respect by seeking mutual understanding and celebrating the rich diversity in our communities. Let us pray intentionally to grow in communion, and always remember that there is always light within and among us, not just at the end of the proverbial tunnel.