As the holidays approach, it is a good time to recognize all of the different faiths on campus. Thanksgiving and Christmas are approaching, but so is Hanukah.
At Spring Hill College, there are many students with varying faiths. According to Colleen Lee, who works with Campus Ministry, “We know that there are students that follow the tradition of Islam, we know that there are Jewish students on campus. Of course Catholic students, given our Catholic identity. Christian students, Baptist, Methodists, some non-denominational Christian students as well. And of course there are those students who are just beginning to explore their faith.”
Spring Hill College creates an atmosphere that encourages students to practice and share their faiths, according to Fr. Chris Viscardi. He also stated that there are non-Christians both within faculty and staff, and he’s known Muslim faculty and students, and Hindus. Fr. Viscardi points out that the diversity of faiths is also present in the college's Board of Trustees, of which he is a member. Fr. Viscardi said,“The Jewish Trustee, is non-Christian obviously, but a very important and active member of the Board of Trustees.”
Even with Spring Hill College creating a more accepting atmosphere, there are still times that students of other faiths could feel excluded. According to Dr. Demetrius Semien, a sociology professor on campus, “We do a lot of work to bring the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian faiths together on campus with the trio-loges that I’m part of.” However, he is “More concerned about the Buddhism, Hinduism, and other non-Abrahamic faiths on campus.”
The Holidays, for all faiths, means “It’s a time off from the regular routine, work or school, or whatever and it’s also a time in which it’s not just a vacation but it’s celebrating some of the common faith,” according to Fr. Viscardi. The Holidays for different faiths also share similar themes. For example, Fr. Viscardi said that the holidays is a time of remembrance for all of the faiths.
Thanksgiving is coming up. Fr. Viscardi describes it as a general holiday since it’s religious but it isn’t necessarily Christian. Fr. Viscardi said, “It celebrates that gratitude and thanksgiving for the abundance of the earth.” He also shares that this holiday is adopted and celebrated by Muslim, Hindu, and immigrants. For the students who can’t go home for Thanksgiving, Campus Ministry is stocking the food pantry on campus.
Hanukah is very popular for American Jews. That is because it gives a Jewish celebration at the same time that Christmas is taking place. “Hanukah has nothing to do with any birth, Hanukah celebrates the rededication of the temple of Jerusalem that had been desecrated,” said Fr. Viscardi. He empathized that while Christians have Christmas trees and gifts, Jews can have a Hanukah gifts and tree.
The Holidays can be an emotional time of the year. According to Dr. Semien, “I know that I’ve had some friends and some students who feel really excluded at this time of the year and the Holidays are a lonely time of the year anyway.” To try and include students, Campus Ministry holds their lessons in carols service, which invites all students but is focused on the Christian faith for Christmas.
As the Holidays approach be aware of your own faith, remember what you believe, share your beliefs with others, and be open to those around you who do not share your faith. Dr. Semien said, “I become more conscious about the stranger or the neighbor this time of the year. We all need to be loved.”