Loyola University Chicago's Faith Programs

Loyola University ChicagoWebsite: https://www.luc.edu/campusministry/faithprograms/
Loyola University Chicago invites students to discover faith and meaning through their experiences. Campus Ministry offers many faith programs for students to connect, engage and grow through their spirituality, all while exploring religious diversity from different faith traditions.

Loyola University Chicago is a Catholic institution rooted in its own heritage with a self-understanding as “a home for all faiths.” [1] Founded by 1870 by Jesuits, an order that emphasizes “a profound commitment to the poor and to issues of social responsibility and justice,” Loyola continues that legacy by encouraging students to become “persons for others.”[2] 

Loyola University Chicago’s commitment to interfaith engagement begins with an appreciation for the importance of faith in human experience. The campus ministry has worked with the Interfaith Youth Core, also based in Chicago, to lead the way in creating an interfaith-friendly campus. Institutional support for campus interfaith engagement can be seen in the allocation of physical space, the promotion of student leadership development, and innovative curricular opportunities.

Since the 2010-2011 school year, Loyola has participated in IFYC’s campus assessment program. In this program, IFYC partners with a campus to assess how interfaith cooperation can be included in strategic visioning, how it aligns with the campus mission, what the current campus climate and attitudes are, and how the campus can look outward for more opportunities to promote interfaith cooperation.[3] Loyola has taken IFYC’s suggestions to heart, and they regularly send students to attend Interfaith Leadership Institutes (ILIs) that bring approximately 250-400 students together from college campuses to train as interfaith leaders.

Loyola’s campus ministry suite inhabits most of the second floor of the Damen Student Center which is centrally located on the Lake Shore campus. The suite includes a large multi-purpose room, a hall of newly refurbished rooms for religious groups, and a larger office space for chaplains and staff. The multi-purpose room, which can seat up to 600 people, is used for large campus-wide events such as guest speakers or religious holiday celebrations from a variety of traditions, including Holi, Diwali, and Eid banquets, among others. The rooms assigned to individual student groups are used for prayer, casual meetings, and smaller events and each religious group’s space comes equipped with a kitchen so that each group can observe its own specific dietary customs.

As of 2019, Loyola’s campus ministry team is composed of 15 ministers representing multiple religious traditions. The campus ministry team wants students to know, practice, and discover: know the history and texts of their own tradition, facilitate the practice of students’ own tradition, and discover the wisdom of  other traditions. With over 40% of Loyola students identifying with a religious/non-religious tradition that is not Catholicism, there is plenty of opportunity to engage with a variety of traditions and adherents. Students appear to be taking advantage of this opportunity. For instance, the annual Holi celebration is often well attended by members of other faiths; half of the students who attend are not Hindu. Another example is the “Agape Latte” interfaith series. Since 2015, Agape Latte has brought students together twice per semester to discuss life, love, and faith. The event consists of student performances, trivia, and a keynote speaker who discusses a theme of their choice.

In the fall of 2016, Loyola developed a curriculum for an interreligious and interfaith studies minor. Dr. Kathleen Maas Weigert, Assistant to the Provost for Social Justice Initiatives and Professor of Women and Leadership, mobilized the faculty to attend the Toward a Field of Interfaith Studies conference that took place January 22-24, 2014 at New York University’s Of Many Institute. After the conference, six faculty members from the theology and sociology departments began creating the new curriculum. Though the curriculum was developed and the program minor launched in 2016, the lack of student engagement and lack of housing of the program in a particular department resulted in the minor being dropped.

In 2012, then interfaith campus minister Brian Anderson, with the help of training modules offered by the Interfaith Youth Core, created a program to develop interfaith leadership skills-building opportunities for students on campus. The Interfaith Advocates program includes instruction in dialogue facilitation, event planning, and other skills such as storytelling, which IFYC understands as important in promoting interfaith engagement. During the 2013-2014 school year, 14 students from different faith backgrounds completed the year-long program.

Stemming from the Interfaith Advocate program and the visible need to educate not just students but also faculty and staff about interfaith leadership, campus ministry developed a training called Interfaith Ally Training that allows faculty, staff and students to explore how to better create a more welcoming campus environment for people of all faiths. The impetus for the program was the frequent requests from students and faculty to learn about different faith traditions, as this was not possible in the classroom. During the training, participants learn about the fundamental tenets and practices of different traditions and religious holidays, while also considering their own relationship to faith or religion. At the end of the three-hour training, participants receive a certificate designating them an Interfaith Ally. [4] Upon Anderson’s departure from Loyola in 2015, and the defunding of the interfaith campus minister position, the Interfaith Advocate program was discontinued. However, Loyola University Chicago continues to find new and innovative means of promoting interfaith interaction on campus.

[1] “Mission.” Loyola University Chicago. http://www.luc.edu/mission/index.shtml. Accessed August 2014.

[2] Ibid

[3] “Campus Engagement.” Interfaith Youth Core. https://www.ifyc.org/mission. Accessed September 2014.

[4] “Campus Ministry.” Loyola University Chicago. http://www.luc.edu/campusministry/faithprograms/interfaith/interfaithallytraining/. Accessed August 2014.