Campus provides choices in matters of differing faiths

This weekend, some of the UM community observed Easter and Passover from experiencing the stations of the cross on the Green to attending the seder at the Hillel Jewish Student Center.

The on-campus celebration of the two major religious holidays exposed students’ religiosity, an aspect of college culture that is often overlooked.

In fact, 32 percent of the undergraduate students identified as Catholic, 45 percent identified as Protestant,  10 percent are Jewish, 2 percent are Muslim, 2 percent are Hindu, and 9 percent identify with another faith, according to a study of 4,860 students published in UM’s Factbook for fall 2011.

“There are a lot of religions here, there is no choice but to be open,” said sophomore Djevelyn Phileus, a member of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. “Just look at the number of churches here, you don’t see that at UF or FSU’s campuses. The churches here provide a lot of resources for kids that are spiritual and want to reach out.”

Hillel Jewish Student Center

Hillel is a place for students to explore the many aspects of Jewish life, from their cultural roots to their religious foundations. They offer weekly Shabbat dinners on Friday nights. Shabbat is a the day of rest in the Judaic religion and is also known as the Sabbath. Recently, the group hosted president Donna E. Shalala at a Shabbat dinner.

“I find it much easier to be involved in Jewish life and observe Jewish holidays because of the great work that the UM Hillel does,” senior Margaret Goldgof said. “I grew up in a community with few Jews which made being Jewish harder. Being around such a strong, Jewish community has made me more proud to be a part of it.”

Catholic Student Association

Every Thursday night, the CSA has dinner at 7 p.m. at the St. Augustine’s Catholic Student Center. The meal is followed by group discussions and worship. The group also has a lecture series that takes place every Tuesday night. During the season of Lent, CSA held an Ash Wednesday service on the UC patio and held a reenactment of the stations of the cross on the Green on Good Friday. The reenactment featured the events that led to Jesus’s death on the cross.

“The community, along with learning about the background and history of our traditions, has made it possible to dive deeper into holidays and see the true beauty of why we are celebrating,” said sophomore Kimberly Bremer, a member of CSA. “Through retreats, formation, small groups, and fellowship, I have learned the basics of Catholicism, increased my knowledge of scripture, learned of the Church’s social teachings, and practiced living a more virtuous life.”

Muslim Students of the University of Miami

MSUM hosts weekly Friday prayer in the UC ballrooms, and provide a musallah, or room, for students to pray in and store their religious books. They also host meetings every other week in the musallah, which is located in room 21-Q in the Student Services Building.

During Ramadan, a month when Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, the group provides iftar dinners and food donated by restaurants because the dining halls are usually closed when it is time to eat for Muslims.

“Finding friends with the same opinions of things and the same values makes you feel comfortable,” sophomore Masood Mohammed said.  “It’s a relief to know you’re not alone. It gave me that missing piece I was afraid I wouldn’t find at UM.”

Intervarsity Christian Fellowship

Intervarsity hosted the event Porn Exxxposed, which shed light on porn addictions and sex trafficking.

“It’s controversial, that’s the point,” Phileus said. “We want to make people do a double-take, stop and take pictures with their phone, and have people stop by. If they hear two words, we’ve done our job.”

According to the group, their main goal is to spread the love of Jesus. The group also welcomes diversity in all forms.

The group meets on Mondays at 5:15 p.m. for small group discussions in the UC Ballrooms, on Tuesdays at 5:30 p.m. for a prayer walk at the Rock, and on Fridays at 8 p.m for a prayer group in Mahoney-Pearson Residential College, room 614.

Tibetan Buddhist Student Association

TBSA meets Mondays and Wednesdays to meditate on the University Green.

Last semester, they also brought in a group of monks from India to perform a sand mandala ceremony in the lower UC lounge. The ceremony consisted of seven monks spending several hours a day for five days putting together an elaborate work of art made completely of sand. Then on the last day they destroyed it and spread the sand throughout campus and the lake.

“I really enjoy having the club on campus,” Dominic Vita said.  “It allows us to show people something completely new that most college students don’t get to experience. Almost every member we have is completely new to the practice with the exception of reading about Buddhism in a text book.”

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Ashley Martinez is a senior majoring in journalism and psychology, which have sharpened her people-watching skills. She has worked as a staff writer, copy editor, assistant editor and is now the Edge arts and entertainment editor at The Miami Hurricane. She serves as the president of UM's chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Her work has been featured in The Hurricane, Distraction Magazine, The Communique, Gables Home Page and The Miami Herald. When she's not working on a story, she loves going to the theatre and singing show tunes.