Monday, May 31, 2010

The Future of Faiths

John L. Allen has written a new book about the future of the Catholic Church. He states that because of demographics, in the near future 3/4s of the worlds Catholics will be in the Southern hemisphere, the Church is in for some changes. Now this comes as no surprise. Many like to joke that the Catholic Church does not change or believe in change but in fact it has repeatedly transformed itself to meet the challenges of different ages.

Allen sees the difference in terms of greater influence of the South. He anticipates that cities in Africa and Asia will become centers of theological development. He sees a Church that is called upon to deal with feeding the hungry, addressing inequalities in the world economy and dealing with corruption.

My question is, what do you see as a possible future for the other World Religions? If Allen is correct and the Church is influenced at multiple levels by its growing membership in the South what immigration and growth factors may also influence Islam? We know the impact of post-colonialism, post-Cold War politics in radicalizing people. We know the role poverty and dictatorship plays in removing hope. As Pacific Rim nations become wealthier is it possible that Islam may reclaim its its past glory by again excelling in the areas of science, medicine, the arts and philosophy?

What about the influence of living in the West? Beyond sleeper cells and Islamic ghettos in Europe are there other factors? Is it possible that Muslims growing up in North America, Europe and Australia may also experience a moderating influence? Perhaps family structure and the role of women in the family will change. To be sure such changes will also depend on how the nations that are becoming the new homes for Muslims react to their new citizens. Perhaps one of the changes will be that greater contact with other faiths may lead to Westerners being more comfortable with Muslims and seeing them as individuals rather then stereotypes.

What might Judaism look like in the coming century? As the Catholic Church increases its dialogue with the Islamic World will this cause concern to Jews? Other than the very real concern of World Jewry to assure the existence of the State of Israel what other unifying issues may emerge? Will the relationship between Evangelical Christians and Israel continue or will competing interests lead to a weakening of this relationship?

How might Buddhism be influenced by the world in the coming century? To be sure it would be important to clarify which Buddhism. It may be that this becomes the faith of scientists, that men and women of science may find the philosophy of Buddhism more compatible with a neutral, empirical world view. Certainly as the world becomes smaller more people may become Buddhist simply out of exposure to it.

Finally, what will Hinduism look like in the coming century? Certainly there is a growing movement to claim India as a Hindu nation. While this appeals to some citizens of India it ignores a long history of being a multicultural, multi-religious nation. The question is what influence will this ancient faith have outside the subcontinent and a few pockets of the South Pacific and immigrant colonies around the globe?

Finally, what impact will the ecological crisis the people of this planet are facing have on members of each of these faith traditions?

What is clear is that in each case there are far too many variables to speak with certainty about what the future may hold. In each case there is reason to hope for greater interfaith cooperation and greater mutual respect. In each case politics and local need may easily alter this positive picture.

So my challenge to you is, in as a respectful manner as possible please tell me what you believe the future is for the world religions for the coming century. Your answer need not be consistent. The future of the Church in Nigeria may be very different from the Church’s future in Brazil. The experiences of Muslim immigrants to their new homes may be very different depending on what country the immigrants originate from or which country is their new home. I would ask you formulate your answers based on demographics, politics, and the influence of competing cultures. Theology and scripture will be for another time.

Peace, Shalom, Salaam

The CITY of Fort Wayne

During the second week of June we will have visitors to our campus. We will have attendees to the AFCU 2010 Symposium. They will come from 22 Franciscan colleges and universities, from Franciscan “think tanks” and from the community. For many this will be their first and possibly last time to visit the city of Fort Wayne.

The attendees will be busy. There are major speakers, plenary sessions, breakout sessions, café style presentations and a student focused poster session. Beside the opening dinner there will also be a gala dinner. There will be three socials. One will highlight Brookside (Bass Mansion) and the John Paul II Center. Another will focus on Achatz Science Hall and the planetarium. This will include a show in our planetarium and a map of our skies. Finally, the last social will be in the Rolland Art Center. Besides all of this there will be special tours, lawn games and bikes will be available through the assistance of our biking club, Tour de Francis.

So, for the most part folks will not have time to leave the campus. Still, for those who arrive early or have time before they leave there will be plenty for them to see. The fact is, there is more, far more, than corn in Indiana! So for the visiting attendees looking to browse a little local culture they may want to make the following brief trips:

Museums: this city is rich in museums. Most are small which are ideal for brief trips.

The Fort Wayne Fire Fighter’s Museum is downtown and hosed in the old #3 fire house. View streamers, hand pumpers, learn about the history of a volunteer fire department that became professional. The second floor houses the Fire House Café.

Not far from the museum is the distinctive History Center. This building use to serve as city hall. The museum is the home of over 23,000 artifacts from the history of the city and Allen County. Don’t miss the jail lock up in the basement.

A little south east from here is the relatively new African African-American Museum. This is a powerful museum. You will encounter the slaves’ passage to North America. You will experience Jim Crow. You learn about the local connection with the Underground Railroad. You will also encounter inventors, leaders, and contributors to the history of Fort Wayne.

An Interview with Ms Hana L. Stith: Curator

North of here is Science Central. Science Central is a converted electrical station that is now a hands- on science center for children. It is however, fun for adults as well. Ride the bike on a monorail, walk the musical steps, play with the water works and enjoy the energy of young children.

Two blocks from the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception is the Bishop Noll Center. Housed on first floor is the Cathedral Museum. The museum is home to religious artifacts from the early days of the diocese. It also has artifacts dating back to the 13th century.

The theme for the symposium is Educating for the Care of Creation: Contemporary Verses for the Canticle of the Creatures. Well, nature is everywhere to be seen in Fort Wayne. We are known as the City of Churches, however, we are also the City of Parks. It is one of the reasons Fort Wayne has been named All American City three times. Headwaters Park is a logical destination to take in some beauty as well as history. However, there are other near by sites.

Across the street from the cathedral is the Botanical Gardens. Inside you will view three environments. One is the world of the gardener, next a tropical world complete with waterfall. Finally you will visit the desert. There is an outside courtyard for lunches, music and viewing more plant life.

North of the campus is Franke Park. This is a large park with river walks, ponds and a bmx bike site. However, it is also home to the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo. This is a small, beautiful zoo. It is enjoyed as much for its gardens as its animals. Visit the new African Journey area, the Indonesian Rainforest or the Australian Adventure.

You may want to then go back downtown to visit the downtown Allen County Public Library. The library was recently renovated and in fact doubled in size. It is the home of art, movies, lectures and concerts. This is home to one of the most important genealogy departments in the country. It also houses a large collection of Lincoln letters and documents. The library has an art gallery, coffee shop and an active play area for children. It is across the street from the First Presbyterian Theater.

Going east again you will bump into the Civic Center, home to our local community theater. Next to the Civic Center heater is the Fort Wayne Museum of Art. This is a newly renovated and expanded museum. At this time the exhibits include Depression Era Art as well as local artists and a photo exhibit by Cara Wade, a faculty member of USF.

There is a lot more to do downtown. For visitors who appreciate history there are a lot more people who shaped the history of the area to become acquainted with. Still, this seems like enough for now. Especially since most of the symposium experience will be on campus. Enjoy your visit to The Fort!

Friday, May 28, 2010

All Things Franciscan

Last week a group of faculty and staff left for the AFCU sponsored pilgrimage to Assisi and Rome. They will be spending two weeks getting to know Francis and Clare by visiting the sites where they grew up, had multiple conversion experiences and created a spiritual and intellectual tradition that has lasted 800 years.


I made that very same pilgrimage four years ago. My daughter made the pilgrimage last winter. Normally I make a virtual pilgrimage at this time of year. I blog about where the pilgrims are going and relate it to my own experiences. Not this year.

This year I am too busy. I like to walk with the pilgrims in support of them, to remember my pilgrimage and to re energize myself. Certainly I, like all the other pilgrims on campus, think about our current pilgrims and pray for them daily. However, this year there are more immediate and local pressing Franciscan concerns for me.

Our school is part of the Association of Franciscan Colleges and Universities. Every two years the association holds a symposium at one of the member institutions. Well, for the past two years we have been planning for the symposium to be held at our campus. That will occur in two weeks. We live and breath the symposium. We are not even able to escape it when we sleep because it permeates our dreams. Yep, we are excited.

Our school may not be the biggest school and we may not have row after row of residential housing. However, we are special. We have Mirror Lake, we have the renovated Brookside Manor known by many as the Bass Mansion. We have an incredible art complex. We are in the heart of the city and yet our love of creation is manifest by our many trees, turtles, herons, geese, squirrels and hawks. This is a perfect setting for this symposium’s unifying theme.

USF Mirror Lake and Stadium: AFCU 2010

This years theme is: Educating for the Care of Creation: Contemporary Verses for the Canticle of the Creatures. The Canticle of the Creatures was the first poem in Western history written in the vernacular. It was the on-going song of Brother Francis. It is the Canticle that connects us all to all other creations, animate and inanimate. The Canticle is the focus of our stain glass windows in our modest chapel. The values in the Canticle are reflected on our campus. The struggle to care for creation in today’s world is also a struggle that our campus like most campuses is forced to deal with. In light of global warming, melting glaciers, the current disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and the ever increasing list of animals and plants becoming extinct this is a very important and timely theme.

San Francis - The Canticle of the Creatures" -

The symposium is creative. We have major speakers, breakout sessions, café style presentations and poster sessions. We will have 22 Franciscan schools represented at the symposium. The planning for the symposium included the very real contributions of our neighboring Midwest schools. They include
• Lourdes College
• Madonna University
• Marian University
• Silver Lake College of the Holy Family
• University of St. Francis—Joliet, IL

Attendees will have time to tour the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. They may decide to go Mussleing and visit the burial site of John Chapman (Johnny Appleseed). They may sign up to take a tour of our local nature center. Lawn games and bikes will be available. There will be three socials and a gala dinner. The symposium will take place in the North Campus building, the auditorium, Brookside, the John Paul Center, Achatz Science Hall (including the planetarium) and the Rolland Art Center.

While it is not Franciscan, it is not humble, I may still find time to brag. I will brag about the fact that since this March our school has won their first two national Championships. The fist was the Men’s Basketball team and last night we won our second in Women’s Hammer Toss. Yep, I will brag.

We have great speakers. Brother Keith Warner, PhD Environmental Studies – Assistant Director for Education, Center for Science, Technology & Society; Lecturer, Department of Religious Studies – Santa Clara University, CA, .will talk about The Incarnation Matters! Franciscan Education for Ecological Conversion. His will be our keynote address which is open to the public. His book is required reading for all attendees. It is a good book.

We have a number of other major speakers. They include:

Sister Pat Smith, O.S.F., PhD Canon Law – Assistant Professor: Theology – Neumann University, Aston, PA and Sister Kathleen Moffatt, O.S.F., MA Franciscan Studies – Program Developer of “God’s Extravagant Love” – Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, Aston, PA. Their presentation is titled, Sharing the Franciscan Intellectual Tradition

Our very own Esperanca Camara, PhD, Associate Professor – Art History – University of Saint Francis, Fort Wayne, IN will speak on, Saint Francis and Creation: A Lesson for the 21st Century.

William R. Cook, PhD, Distinguished Professor of History – State University of New York, Geneseo, NY, will speak on The Influence of St. Francis on Pictorial Art

Finally, Brother Bill Short, O.F.M., Professor of Spirituality at Franciscan School of Theology at Berkley; CFIT scholar will speak on Breaking Open Our Franciscan Intellectual and Spiritual Tradition.

So, the symposium is only two weeks away. I would love to focus exclusively on our brothers and sisters in Assisi. However, time does not allow that. This is a time of working closely with colleagues, paying attention to detail in a way I have never done before. It is a time to pray and to listen. Most importantly, it is a time of Thankfulness.