by Sahana Rao (’26) | February 3, 2023
In line with the year’s theme of Celebrating Family, Saint Francis held its annual Interfaith Prayer Service, an event in which students from various religious backgrounds shared their faith with the school community. The day featured student-led prayers and traditions from the faiths of Judaism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Baháʼí, Hinduism, Islam, and two branches of Christianity, Mormonism and Armenian Aposticilism. Organized by Ms. Natalie Lai (’06) and Mr. Andrew Brown, the special event allowed the entire Lancer community to come together.
The event began with an introduction from Arhana Aatresh (’23) and a speech from Principal Teekell (’00) about Saint Francis’ strides in creating an environment for students to have connections with people from “all walks of life,” as well as creating a home for everyone. Then, a representative of each of the eight faiths offered a unique prayer that was accompanied by an intention in English, a new addition to the prayer service. These were all related to the world’s differences and diversity. The entire program was enlivened thanks to the aid of the choir’s music and the engaging visuals projected onto the wall.
Many students had the opportunity to share how they personally practice their faith. Salma Afify (’25), who shared an Arabic story from the Surah Ad-Duha in the Quran, noted the significance of the service: “I find the Interfaith Faith Prayer service very important to widen our perspectives to other cultures and religions and to expose ourselves to different languages.” Additionally, Will Li (’23) shared a prayer from Nichiren Buddhism and taught the students the chant, “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo,” after which he led them in words of the prayer. Involving the Saint Francis community in the prayer helped create a more meaningful form of worship, as Gabriella Ip (’24), who also helped lead the event, explained: “It’s essential that we take the time to understand and fully immerse ourselves in other cultures that are shared.”
The planning behind this event was a community-building experience as well. The students leading the event elaborated on their collaborative experiences in preparation for the event. Ip noted, “We had all affinity groups represented by an affinity council member. Hearing all of the different religions and experiences, along with the many ideas of putting them all together was amazing. We all had so many great ideas, and we were able to see them come to life during the prayer service!” Li emphasized that the process of meetings and rehearsals filled with brainstorming and crafting was what made this event possible. The dedication of the students involved was truly the foundation of the service.
Overall, the Interfaith Prayer Service allowed Lancers to learn about the many different religions and cultures in the world, strengthening Saint Francis’ connections by expanding the school community’s knowledge. However, it was also a reminder to the community of the diversity present at Saint Francis, and the privilege this community had of experiencing this religious and cultural diversity with everyone in such a beautiful way.
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