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Ms. Levy attended the Seminar on Religion and Reconciliation in Global Perspective, Sept. 23, 2014.

by Lea Levy

Dr. Boesak and Dr. Turner are both very eloquent speakers, but are both very different in the ways in which they address the crowd. It is evident why Dr. Boesak chose to be a preacher, and Dr. Turner a professor.

I think that the question of whether or not the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa was worth it is a very important question and raises many others along with it. Both Dr. Boesak and Dr. Turner agreed that it was indeed worth it, but they did also address the downsides of it, implying that even though reconciliation can be very helpful and healing to many different people, there are also many risks attached to it.

In looking at South Africa’s situation today, Dr. Boesak says that the stratification of wealth, along with terrible health problems such as the spread of HIV and AIDS throughout the population make the situation within the country not look much better than it did under Apartheid for many young South Africans. The life expectancy in the 90’s was 60 years, and today it is under 50. Many people feel that their life has not gotten much better since Apartheid was knocked down, and are questioning their feelings about reconciliation and about the sincerity and worth of it.

However, the conclusion by both speakers was that it was indeed worth it. As Dr. Turner put it, South Africa’s citizens decided to look forward and to coexist, and this was a victory within itself. Though life is not perfect in South Africa, a lot of progress has been made. Though interpersonal forgiveness does not address state and structural violence, it was able to resolve a lot of feelings that many South Africans were having, and was able to create a society that listened to each other and that is able to cope with the past in a healthy way.

Religion and Reconciliation in Global Perspective; The Risks of Reconciliation Video, Sept 23, 2014 .


by Michaela Raffin

Anyone who has ever interacted with the Benedict Inn knows that it is truly a very special place. My experience as an intern there allowed me to appreciate this. It was a totally unique internship for two main reasons. One is that everyone in a leadership role at the Benedict Inn is a woman. And two is that it allowed me to see another side of my Catholic faith that I had not been exposed to before this: the role of religious life in the Catholic Church. It is directly connected to a monastery of Benedictine nuns who run the Inn.

Sr. Mary Carol

I never thought that it was odd that I worked under all women. But it kind of was. It was unusual and is something that I probably won’t ever experience again in my career. The women at the Inn became my role models. They were driven, enthusiastic, funny, and caring. They knew when and how to get the job done and when to relax and enjoy life.

I want to be just like these women. I want to have the skills and the drive in order to accomplish not only the task at hand, but also all of my goals and dreams. I want to be caring and kind to everyone that I connect with. I want to have a relationship with God. I want to stand up for what I believe in but be empathetic to others’ viewpoints. I want to be connected to people.

Michaela's Bosses

So I will take everything that I have learned from the women at the Inn and carry it with me as a student at Butler. I can represent these women; I can be one of these women in my classroom, in my sorority, and in my career. If there is one thing that I have learned by being around the women at the Benedict Inn is that when a group of women is gathered, there is a power, an electricity, that permeates the atmosphere of that gathering. As a student at Butler, I hope to be a contributor to that energy whenever I gather with my fellow women.


Now is the Time

Ellen Photoby Ellen Larson ’14

I don’t think anyone can properly prepare for graduation. You can take all the right classes, secure the high profile internships and fill your resume with campus leadership experiences but none of that prepares you for making your first career moves.

As a senior strategic communications and Spanish major, I am currently on the so-called job hunt. It’s more of a battle than a hunt to me. A month-long, exhausting, soul-searching, insecurity-filled, exciting battle that exposes you to feelings you’ve never experienced before.

I consider myself a self-reflective person, which has both helped and made this process all the more difficult. I came into college not quite sure of what I wanted to study. I jumped around a bit, from exploratory to journalism to finally landing on strategic communications and Spanish. All the while, a little, persistent and sometimes quote annoying voice kept putting the thought of education in my mind. I suppressed it, forged ahead with my public relations and advertising classes. Writing press releases, analyzing advertising campaigns, working with local clients to secure media coverage and eventually executing a semester-long campaign for a local non-profit. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed every last bit of it. I love developing ideas and projects into full-blown creative and strategic campaigns. But the ever-present voice was there and was starting to get louder. “Explore education” “Teaching is the way to go”.

I compare it to that light in the distance that you see in those terror movies. You’re sitting on your couch at home cuddled under a blanket or at the movie theatre with your knees to your eyes saying ‘don’t go there you idiot’. But they do, they always do otherwise there wouldn’t be a story. So I went closer and closer to that light, started actually listening to the voice in my head and stopped hiding the feeling. I accepted that teaching is something I feel called to do and looked at all the opportunities that were out there.

Teach for America is a program that serves communities that need a little (some bigger than others) push to grow into the wonderful and innovative educational systems they can be. It’s transformative and wonderful and calls to me in all the right ways. So I applied and am currently preparing a lesson that I will teach at my final interview day in two weeks. I’m not sure where this path I’ve chosen to go down will lead. I’m excited and scared and nervous and inspired.

My favorite author, Shauna Niequist, sums it up best in her book Bittersweet. She writes about the twenty-something life and describes my emotions in an ‘I think you’re my soul-sister’ kind of way. I’m looking forward to what’s to come and enjoying this new learning process. I hope this quote resonates with you as much as it does me.

“Now is the time to figure out what kind of work you love to do. What are you good at? What makes you feel alive? What do you dream about? You can go back to school now, switch directions entirely. You can work for almost nothing, or live in another country, or volunteer long hours for something that moves you. There will be a time when finances and schedules make this a little trickier, so do it now. Try it, apply for it, get up and do it.” – Shauna Niequist

by Erin Aquino

“When I consider the life of Nelson Mandela and how he transformed South Africa, this is what comes to mind, this is how I live because of what I learned about faith, calling, reconciliation in South Africa.”

I have recently returned from my Peace Corps service in Senegal, and as I consider the life of Nelson Mandela and South Africa I immediately think of Senegal and its people who housed, fed, developed and essentially took care of me for 27 months.

I think of Aminata, Fatimata, Djiby, and Jaynaba. I think of prayer five times a day. I think of Pulaar and language superiority. Of headscarves, long skirts, and vibrant colors. Of tattered clothes, and cold feet. When kids sneak and steal each other’s food. Of death too young, and kids too skinny. Of laughter and dancing. Of not enough rice, and fifteen people around the lunch bowl. More importantly, I think of joy and friendship and community. Around the world.

Making Friends in South Africa

Community. Around the world, injustice continues. Religious persecution, racism, ethnic cleansing, hunger, fear, fighting, domestic violence, sexism, ableism, and hunger continue.

But so does Mandela. Mandela continues. Mandela continues in all of us, and around us. Mandela did not take the world and change it. No one can. He worked hard to restore equality and stand for justice. But he did not do it alone. He was inspired by others, and will continue to inspire others for generations. He laughed and danced. He was part of a community. Mandela stood for peace, and peace stands for interconnectedness, empathy, and understanding despite any purported boundary.

South Africa was my first international experience. My first experience understanding a different world, learning from it, and knowing to always learn from it. And also to use the knowledge and experience and transform it to continue to work with others to restore equality and stand for justice. To create community. And love. And never forget to laugh and dance. Just like I did with Aminata, Fatimata, Djiby, and Jaynaba.

On njaaraama no feewi. Jam tan.

(Thank you very much. Peace only.)

Aminata and Me in Senegal The South African Group 2007




by Rebecca Rendall

MapLast semester, I spent three and a half months studying development and social pluralism in Cameroon (see map for a little geographic guidance). Both before and after my semester abroad, I was asked many questions ranging in topics from the weather conditions to the people I met to my reasons for going to the relative merits of the country as a whole. There were (and still are) some questions that always stump me. I did not have a clear and concise way to answer “How was it?” or “Did you have fun?” I usually smiled and nodded or muttered some affirmative words. In answering questions of interested and uninterested (but polite) friends and family, I began to think about what I wish they would ask. I thought about what I would say if all the layers of social convention were stripped away and my personal ability to be vulnerable was suddenly emboldened. This is what I would say. The distance between me and my family was absolutely unbearable, but the love of my family and friends assured me that I could leave again. And this is why…

My grandmother (affectionately called Grandma Me by my brothers, my cousins and me) died on October 25, 2013. It was the day before my twenty-first birthday and the day we moved from Yaoundé to Ngaoundéré. (We moved cities within Cameroon in order to interact with the populations we were learning about in class. In this case, we moved in order to study the predominantly Muslim population.) I was supposed to Skype my grandma and my mom that day. Instead, my mom answered my call with tears in her eyes and told me that my grandma had passed away a half hour before I called. There I was, 6,341 miles from home and 6,742 miles from my grandma’s house and I could not do anything about it. Thus began the hardest week of my life so far.

Christmas 2012

Before I left to go to Cameroon, I visited my grandma, my aunt and uncle and my cousins in Minnesota because I wanted to see everyone in my family before I left the country for a semester. My grandma had two rounds left in her cycle of chemotherapy when I arrived. I went with her and my aunt to the hospital the next day for her treatment, but unfortunately her blood counts were too low, requiring a blood transfusion. This started the process of my grandma undergoing tests to see if chemo would be effective anymore. When I left for Cameroon, the results were not available yet. I left home knowing that the results could indicate whether or not my grandma would be alive when I came back in December.

As you may have guessed, the results were not positive. My grandma, along with my aunts and my mom, had to make the difficult decision to switch to palliative care, essentially trying to make her as comfortable as possible while no longer aggressively fighting the cancer. Most of this information reached me via e-mail or Facebook message from my mom, yet I remained hopeful. The gravity of the situation finally hit me on October 6, when I received an e-mail from my mom. Grandma had lost feeling in her legs. That is the day that I absolutely deteriorated. Picture a person curled up in a ball in the corner of a room sobbing uncontrollably and then times that by four. That was me.

The next month proved extremely difficult as I attempted to experience Cameroon while simultaneously trying to remain connected with my family, supporting them in any way possible. When I finally received word that my grandma had passed away, I can assure you that I was not at peace. At first, I was glad that my grandma was not suffering. Then, I was immediately angry that I was not with my family. Then, I was scared. I was already overly emotional on a daily basis. What would happen to me next? Could I still function? What was I supposed to do? This is when I realized beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would always, and I mean ALWAYS, need my family. Even from over 6,000 miles away, they remained my rock. My family seemed to play a game of “Who gets to Skype Beccah today?” My sister-in-law also set up Skype at my grandma’s memorial service so that I could watch it and feel like I was at least a part of it.

For these reasons, I know that my heart rests forever in Indiana (and wherever my family decides to disperse to). But, at the same time, I know that I can leave again in full confidence that my family will find a way to remain just that: a family. We are far from perfect. We are not always happy with each other. But we are part of a shared identity. We are the grandchildren of a beautiful woman who taught us to have an insatiable love of learning and an unquenchable thirst for God. I know that this is a bond formed on earth and in heaven. Even as we begin to slowly move farther and farther from home, one thing remains: we are family.

Dance recitalDschang picture

pope cropped

A routine academic conference turns into an experience of a lifetime

by Chad M. Bauman, Associate Professor of Religion, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

There appeared to be nothing unusual about the Christianity and Freedom Conference , except, perhaps, that it was located in Rome, in the shadow of the prodigious walls that encompass Vatican City.  I’ll admit that as I prepared to attend the conference, I had humored myself by imagining that my visit there might lead to a chance encounter with the new Pope, who had already, in his short papacy, developed a reputation for slipping his security detail, abandoning the security of the papal limousine, going out into the streets, kissing babies, and exchanging skull caps with tourists.  But neither I nor those who organized and participated in the conference knew what awaited us in Rome.

The conference was sponsored by the Religious Freedom Project at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs at Georgetown University.  One of the project’s aims is to bring attention to what appears to be a growing number of situations around the world where the freedoms of religious people are circumscribed.  Though the project is concerned with the freedoms of all religious people, this particular event focused on Christianity, its contribution to the development of ideas about secularism and democratic liberty in the West, and situations in which Christians are jailed, harassed, attacked, or otherwise under pressure because of their faith or their affiliation with Christianity.  I was there to talk about my research on Hindu-Christian conflict in India.

The conference was held at the Pontifical Urbaniana University, and high Catholic officials participated—Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States, gave the opening address.  Through these connections or some other fortunate circumstance, the conference came to attention of the Pope.  Not surprisingly, perhaps, given the topic of the conference, given the fact that the Vatican represents about half of all Christians worldwide, and given that this particular Pope appears intent on improving interfaith relations, Vatican officials began to show some interest in the event.   And so, midway through the first day of the two-day conference, conference organizers announced that conference participants had been granted a private audience with Pope Francis.


Swiss guards at the entrance of the papal residence

The next morning, grateful I had packed a suit and tie to wear, I joined the other conference participants in a walk from our hotel to the Vatican.  After going through the regular security, we were led past the colorful and venerable Swiss Guards, up several flights of beautifully-wrought stairs, into the papal residence, and finally to the capacious Sala Clementina, which glows dimly with the reflected light of stunning frescos by Renaissance artists Paul Bril, Cherubino and Giovanni Alberti, and Baldassare Croce.

The Sala Clementina

The Sala Clementina

After we waited for a few minutes, Pope Francis arrived.  He was greeted by Thomas Farr, Director of the Religious Freedom Project, and then exchanged glances, gestures, and a few short words with the rest of the group.  He was smiling and joking almost the entire time, and his tendency to throw his head back in laughter, combined with the low light of the room, resulted in his image appearing blurred in most of my pictures.  He posed for some photographs with the group, interacted with us a bit more, and then left the room.  This pope is most comfortable speaking in Spanish and Italian, and the only thing he said in English the entire time was “Pray for me,” the phrase he most regularly uses in greeting.

A close-up of Papa Francesco

A close-up of Papa Francesco

I am not Catholic, but of all the popes who have served during my lifetime, it is this one who most inspires me, and who, it seems to me, shows the most potential for effecting positive change in the world.  He has already developed an admirable reputation for simplicity, demonstrated the ability, with humility, to connect with the laity and even non-Catholics, and exhibited a sincere concern for the poor.  The entire audience lasted only a few minutes, but even in that short encounter, many of the reasons why he has generated so much enthusiasm and hope, among both Catholics and non-Catholic observers, were readily apparent, and I am sincerely grateful to have had the opportunity to meet him.

debskinner13by Deb Skinner (Associate Professor of Marketing, College of Business)

One of the reasons I think I’m still hanging around a college campus, oh these 30 plus years after I graduated, is the awesomeness of that whole four year experience of being and becoming me. In retrospect, it was all the trials and tribulations, the joys and disappointments that helped to craft the person I am today.
If I think back to moments and people that had the greatest impact, I find a common thread – it was those moments of intimacy with either individuals or small groups where I was accepted for who and what I was, including the stumbles, faux pas or tantrums. It was the people that asked me the hard questions or encouraged me to keep seeking answers to the questions I asked. Who am I? Where do I belong? How do I get there? It was this amazing blend of pushing me forward, walking beside me, and having my back that helped me to walk forward across the stage at graduation and never look back.
Funny how you never outgrow those same questions even as you are staunchly set and happy in a career like college professor. Who am I? Where do I belong? How do I get there?
Over the last five plus years I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to work with the staff and students associated with the Center of Faith and Vocation. In my initial experience with the Blue House, I was part of an amazing Faculty Workshop composed of a group of faculty from across campus that met throughout the year to explore issues of faith and vocation. I remember sitting in the first meeting and being overwhelmed with a feeling of belonging, a feeling of rightness, a feeling that here too, I could find the support to continue to explore questions of being. I immediately slipped Judith Cebula, the Director of the Center and co-facilitator for the Workshop, a note. “How can I be involved with the Center? I believe in what you are doing here.”
And so, she took me up on my offer. I have been blessed to have been part of three more workshops as a facilitator and in other capacities, pseudo staff member, Center cheerleader, and advocate of the Center. I’ve taken advantage of the quiet solitude that the second floor porch offers on a spring afternoon to grade papers. I’ve sent countless students to the Center for help and nurturing from Judith, Marguerite and the associated clergy at the house.
I’m thankful for the CFV and the opportunities that faculty and staff have to continue our own personal growth and development. I’m thankful that we can continue to discern our developing purpose and meaning as we mature in our professional lives. I’m thankful that Butler students have a designated place to explore those important life questions and that people like Judith and Marguerite open their doors but more importantly their hearts to support the entire campus in our lifelong quest for “The Opportunity to Be.”

Crossby Lauren Stark

All my life, I’ve been part of a Catholic faith community. From parents to Catholic schools to the Butler Catholic Community, I’ve been blessed with faith-filled people who support me in my journey. This semester, though, I am studying in Alcalá de Henares, Spain, and it’s been quite different.

Before I arrived, I was ready for a booming Catholic presence. But I quickly learned that practicing Catholics are hard to find. Young people especially don’t care about religion here. And that realization scared me. But I knew my faith was important enough and strong enough to survive through this; it would just require a personal approach.

At home, my favorite part of Mass is the community of believers. Here, I focus on the fact that I am part of a universal faith. What an incredible comfort that even though the words are in a different language, I’m still participating in the same rituals, taking the same communion, praying the same prayers!

I also rely greatly on my “God Sightings” journal. Over a year ago, I started writing down one way I saw God each day. Studying abroad is filled with adventures and trials and struggles and triumphs, and I actively search to see God working through every stage.

Finally, I can feel comfort in the Catholic history of Spain. Some of the most beautiful sights here are the cathedrals. I was speechless seeing Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, and overwhelmed watching the five-foot botafumiero swing at the Santiago de Compostela cathedral. It’s also been a joy explaining the facets of my faith and its churches to my non-Catholic classmates.

In short, my faith has grown tremendously. I feel personally closer to God after these three months. But, of course, I can’t wait to return to my church at home soon!

by Ellen Larson

This past Friday, we held our second Big Questions event of the semester. The event was called, “Exiting the Butler Bubble: What Comes Next After Graduation.” The end of college approaches quickly and can bring with it some job search anxiety, excitement for the next life milestone and the bittersweet feeling of leaving college and moving onto the real world. This Big Questions focused on creating an environment for seniors to come together and talk about any concerns and excitements they may have for upcoming graduation.

Conversation flowed easily as the seniors in attendance were quick to share their feelings about the topic. We talked about the difficulty of interviewing, finding your passion after Butler, remaining connected to the university and much more. The subject that stuck out to me the most was the dreadful fact that we will have to deal with in the job search process: rejection. Once this topic was brought up, it was clear that everyone had an opinion.

I don’t deal all that well with rejection. I take it personally and I over analyze. I replay everything in my head from the interview to my perfectly crafted resume. It can be debilitating, honestly. Another student that was present gave some perspective on the topic. She said, “ Rejection is something we will always have to deal with. Most of the times it isn’t personal. Most of the time what we are being rejected from isn’t even ours to have in the first place. We just need to trust the process and all will work out.” This is the beauty of group conversation and Big Questions. I was able to walk away with a new outlook on rejection and the scary but comforting saying, “trust the process, it’ll all work out.” Rejection is something we all will have to deal with multiple times in our lives. I learned that it is not about the actual rejection but how we deal with it that really matters.

by Judith Cebula, director

Just this week – in time for Homecoming 2013 – a new set of banners are up outside the Butler Center for Faith and Vocation.

Blue House 10th Anniversary Banners.jpg

“10 Years. Center for Faith and Vocation. Founded 2003.”


A decade ago there was no Blue House at Butler. No dedicated place where students could connect with diverse perspectives on faith. Where they could learn to meditate. Where they could talk together or with an advisor about the longing to live a meaningful life.

There was no Muslim Students Association. No Orthodox Christian Fellowship. No association of Methodists or Presbyterians. Hillel was a tiny group. The Catholics on campus were struggling to reorganize. Grace Unlimited was still in the shadows of a fledgling Lutheran-Episcopal ministry.

The Center was hardly a center. Rather it was a small office space in Jordan Hall 212 and an idea that Butler could become a campus that nurtures religious and spiritual engagement, exploration, faith, and doubt.  There was a hope that the university’s rich history in the liberal arts and sciences tradition, and its strong professional colleges could foster a culture of calling. There was a hope that Butler could become known as a place where students could connect their deepest beliefs and their gifts to make a difference through community and career.

Today Butler is becoming that place.

The CFV has its own house – affectionately called the Blue House – on Sunset across from the Schrott Center for the Arts.  The number of diverse religious and spiritual student groups on campus has nearly doubled since 2003. Each week , nearly 100 students take part in some form of religious, spiritual, or discernment practice or reflection.  Since 2003, more than 100 professors and staff leaders have taken part in workshops and other events to them discover their own calling in education as they become stronger mentors to students.

Across each academic year the CFV intersects with commuter students, Greek chapters, the Center for Global Education, student interns and activists, exploratory students, and numerous other academic programs and classes in welcoming students to pause, reflect, and discover their calling, their vocation. Students back from a semester abroad come over to talk with each other about how their lives are different now that they have lived and studied in Spain, or India or Australia. Pre-pharmacy students stop to consider if a career in healthcare is a reflection of their gifts in math and science, or part of a greater longing to serve. Business majors are connecting their acumen in marketing, finance, or management  with interests in non-profit careers. And pre-med and pre-law students are working as interns in clinics that serve immigrants, refugees, the uninsured and other vulnerable individuals and families.

It has been a privilege to lead the Center for Faith and Vocation from its founding and to be here today as Butler works toward even more. We can grow our internship opportunities at faith-based sites. We can find more ways to support the distinctive ways all six colleges form their students as compassionate, creative leaders. We can find new ways to help professors be even better teachers and advisors. We can strengthen true diversity of thought, belief, and practice – for people of faith and no faith – as inspiration for the greater community of Indianapolis and beyond.

And the CFV is inspired to see how our experiences with students, faculty, staff, alumni, and Indianapolis religious organizations can benefit Butler’s new venture: the Desmond Tutu Center. It is a joint project of Butler and the Christian Theological Seminary.

A decade ago I walked away from a 14-year career in journalism and into life at Butler. My own sense of calling to support religious diversity and the intersection of faith and work brought me to Butler. But it is Butler that has nurtured the call in me.  My hope is that Butler can continue that work for decades to come.


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