Moments of dialogue

In my years teaching at Loras I have been struck by how the College’s Catholic identity sustains a culture that welcomes not only diverse persons but ideas as well. The Catholic intellectual tradition embraces both faith and reason, believing that the search for truth cannot fragment knowledge or ignore fundamental dimensions of existence. At some colleges or universities questions of faith, meaning, spirituality or morality can become marginalized, but the intellectual life of Loras embraces such questions as central. Ideas that may be overlooked elsewhere are welcomed here in an atmosphere of open, civil and challenging dialogue.” Dave Cochran, Ph.D., Professor of Politics.

The “canopy” of Catholicism extending over Loras campus culture engenders dialogue. Members of the campus community explore and celebrate distinct expressions of human identity and striving, and affirm what persons hold in common. Cardinal Walter Kasper observes, “Dialogue is not only an academic and intellectual exercise,” but seeks “common ideals and values, for freedom and justice, for peace and reconciliation, for family values, preservation of creation, and above all for the sanctity of life.” Dialogue, ultimately, is a means to friendship.

  • In order to foster dialogues that will promote understanding, cooperation, and respect, the College sponsors Catholic Identity Hospitality Dinners drawing together scores of students, staff, and faculty in an ambiance of food, discussion and reflection. Topics range from ecumenical perspectives on “Who is God?” to conscience and political participation, the business of sport and the portrayal of women, the sexual abuse crisis and response in the Church, literary depictions of the human body’s sacramentality, Data Poverty, and a panel discussion on Pope Francis’ papacy.
  • Building on relationships formed in the Qur’an study group at Loras, the “Children of Abraham” monthly series hosted by Loras history professor John Eby, Ph.D., and local Islamic, Jewish, and Christian leaders sustains monthly interfaith dialogue on themes such as peace, race and discrimination, inspiration, creation, human sexuality, and civil disobedience.
  • The Fr. Ray Herman Center for Peace and Justice at Loras College generates programs devoted to dialogue around social justice issues including immigration and refugees, nonviolent resistance, Fair Trade concerns, poverty, and the environment and sustainability. Fr. Herman was a Dubuque priest whose life was taken in 1975 while tending to the poor and vulnerable of Bolivia.
  • Students live in intentional residential communities that include rich conversations about faith and prayer in common; these communities include the Koinonia House sponsored by Campus Ministry, and the male Sons of Joseph and female FIAT groups.
  • Staff-Faculty “Mini-Retreats” integrating meditation and prayer are sponsored quarterly by the Spiritual Life Division. Loras employees and invited guests present reflections on work as vocation, selflessness and centeredness in Eastern spiritual traditions, how to disconnect from overly electronically-connected lives and adapt to change, going “all in” for Lent, and Celtic spirituality.
  • Inspired by Interfaith Youth Corps (IFYC) founder Dr. Eboo Patel, Modes of Inquiry consecutive classes of first year students together read Patel’s “Acts of Faith,” relating personal stories with interfaith awareness and attitudes. Several Loras students and campus ministry staff have undergone IFYC-sponsored leadership training.
  • The Archbishop Kucera Center for Catholic Studies sponsors faculty-staff reading and discussion groups each semester, engaging themes such as the Catholic imagination, Catholic Social Teaching, the collected writings of Dorothy Day, Augustine’s Confessions, and the aesthetic dimensions of Catholic thought and practice.

“Peter proceedeto speak and said, ‘In truth, I see that God showno partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fearhim anactuprightly iacceptable to him’.” Act10:34-35