One campus, many faiths

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St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church, located just south of the Greencastle town square, quietly rings with the sounds of beads sliding and prayers resounding. Every Wednesday night, the local church’s pews fill with DePauw students and a few citizens of the city who are part of the Rosary Group, which meets weekly to pray and reflect.  

Sophomores Christopher Lamping and Kuba Sokalski are a part of this group, and both acknowledged that it has become a significant part of their life here at DePauw for similar reasons.  

“A lot of people think homework and things get in the way so you can’t really come out, instead if I have a lot of homework, I really enjoy just coming out and taking half an hour and just kind of calming myself,” Lamping said. “Being able to pray for half an hour really just helps me in general feel a lot more at ease.” 

“It’s planted so well in the middle of a Wednesday that during the week you just go in and it’s a half hour to just do something other than schoolwork and to relax a little bit,” Sokalski said. “It is calming.” 

The connection the two men feel to their Rosary Group meetings is not uncommon on the DePauw campus. With 10 religious or meditation organizations on campus, many students find a second home within such a group.  

For sophomore Nathan DuBow, Friday night is his time to connect with his Jewish peers and attend Shabbat service just like at his home in Indianapolis. DuBow is the president of Hillel, a national organization that strives to foster a strong community among Jewish college students. Since first coming on campus, DuBow knew he wanted his life as a member of the Jewish community to be a prominent part of his life as a DePauw student.  

“I ended up going out to, I think, a Shabbat service and then an ice cream social and then I felt like I could get involved and have a good Jewish community,” DuBow said.  

Now, DuBow plans those same outings that might facilitate a more comfortable transition to college surroundings for other Jewish freshmen.  

“Being involved now and taking the leadership position, that has provided me with the opportunity to kind of build that community that I’ve grown accustomed to,” Dubow said. “I really like being able to reach out . . . and just meet some of my Jewish peers and give them a place they can call home.”  

Renowned in Indianapolis for its kosher options, Shapiro’s Deli helped make the transition a little bit tastier last semester for the new students on campus.  

“I set up a dinner that was brought in from Shapiro’s Deli in Indianapolis. A lot of people on campus had never had Shapiro’s and it was really, really good,” DuBow said. “A lot of people ended up turning out for the event, the food was great and everyone had a really good time.” 

Many groups sponsor events such as these to reach across the campus and make connections with students of any background. As a representative to the Center for Spiritual Life for Catholic Student Association, sophomore Stephanie Kohlman has been able to experience benefits of these connections.    

“CSA exposed me to a lot of other community members, and other members of different faiths and those within my own faith,” Kohlman said. “It helps me to find a community, but not just a community of only Catholics but of other faiths and community members.”  

These organizations are not only providing a religious outlet for individuals, but are also beginning to see how relationships with the other groups can bridge gaps in a positive way. 

Russ Arnold, a professor in the religious studies department, is a faculty adviser for Hillel, which works in cooperation with the Muslim Student Association to plan certain events and facilitate discussions.  

“We’ve had some discussions with Muslim students, mostly a kind of recognition that we are both small groups and in need of support of one another,” Arnold said. “So that’s been a really strong relationship over the last three or four years.”  

Muslim and Jewish students have also fasted together during the time of Ramadan and the Jewish high holidays. Arnold said that the students would join for fasting during the day before getting together at night.

“We had a joint break-the-fast during that time period, so some of the Jewish students would fast during the day with the Muslim students… and then have a meal after sunset together,” Arnold said.  

These are the kind of connections that DuBow also said he sees as very important for the religious community at DePauw.

“I’m actually an interfaith intern and I strongly believe that interfaith cooperation is imperative to any successful society or community,” said DuBow, “Everyone focuses on the differences so much when there are a lot of similarities that people overlook, so if people stop fighting and start working together there’s a lot that people can come together through.”  

DuBow is currently working with Muslim Student Association executive member junior Muska Fahim on getting a traveling photography exhibit that showcases images of Muslims helping Jews during the Holocaust. DuBow said he hopes this exhibit will show how interfaith cooperation can work on this campus.  

Loutfi Jirari, Director of International Student Services and adviser to MSA, said that leaders such as DuBow and Fahim are really showing the campus what positive relationships can look like between people of different faiths.   

“What they are doing is amazing, hopefully other people can see it. DePauw is really amazing, we have amazing students and hopefully leaders in the Middle East can see what DePauw students are doing,” Jirari said. “We want people to see, look, DePauw a small liberal arts school, and look, the Muslim students and Jewish students are not focusing on what makes them different but they’re focusing more on what unites them and what they have in common.”