Interfaith luncheon at JDCHS demonstrates students' love for their Catholic school

Friday, Feb. 20, 2015
Interfaith luncheon at JDCHS demonstrates students' love for their Catholic school + Enlarge
Ellie Merrill, one of seven Juan Diego students to address the Interfaith Roundtable luncheon, speaks about her experiences encountering people of different faith at the school. Courtesy photo/Nash Elder

Nash Elder
Special to the Intermountain Catholic
On Feb. 10, the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable held an ecumenical interfaith leaders luncheon at Juan Diego Catholic High School, involving student speakers representing different beliefs within the school.
The Interfaith Roundtable, founded in 1999 in preparation for the 2002 Salt Lake Olympic Winter Games, continues to provide an interfaith connection through monthly meetings and organized events. The luncheon at JDCHS was part of the events of the 2015 Interfaith Season, which this year has been extended from Interfaith Month, which was celebrated in previous years.
After lunch was served, JDCHS seniors Rachel Kuhr, Megha Kundra, Kyle Rauterkus, Zimo Wang, Esther Kasue and Tabitha Amani, as well as junior Ellie Merrill, spoke to local religious leaders sharing their perspectives of students from different faith backgrounds attending a Catholic high school. 
Kundra, a Hindu, said attending JDCHS after moving to Utah from Manhattan, N.Y. has been a life-changing experience.
“I think just going here, being part of the Mass, being part of all the different Catholic values that we have here has actually strengthened me in my own faith,” Kundra said. “It hasn’t made me feel like I need to change to be a part of here.”
Wang, an exchange student from China, shared a different experience than the others who spoke.
“My family is non-religious. Actually, this topic is a little bit limited in China,” she said. “Students in school don’t even talk about religion. We really don’t talk about a lot.”
Wang said she did not know what it was like to discuss religion before she came to Utah, but through her theology classes, she has learned about social justice and human rights.
“When I first came to Juan Diego, I learned about social justice in Ms. Rozsahegyi’s class, and it doesn’t matter if you’re religious or not, but there is nothing wrong to be a good person,” Wang said.
Tabitha Amani, who attends a Baptist church, said going to a Catholic school has made her more willing to understand others’ religions.
“This year, in one of my theology classes, we are talking about all the different religions, and it made me realize how most religions are founded on love,” Amani said. “And at the end of the day, no matter how you worship – if you bow or if you stand, if you do the Sign of the Cross or if you put something on your head – it’s just something to humble us as people and to know that there is a higher calling and to know that this world is just about love and spreading love and being the light.”
After the students spoke, Principal Galey Colosimo led a discussion with the leaders regarding the young people of their congregations.
Among the many religious leaders in attendance, Reverend Jerrod Lowry, pastor of Community of Grace Presbyterian Church, said he heard about a love the students had for the Skaggs Catholic Center community and their high school.
“I thought particularly hearing from the students about their thoughts about being here and to hear from some intentional diversity among the student body about their feeling about being students at this school – to sense the love from so many was inspiring,” Lowry said. 
Colosimo summarized the students’ message and the school’s purpose.
“If I were to try to find the theme in what each student said, it is we really don’t try to proselytize students,” Colosimo said. “But we do try to evangelize all the students.”
The purpose of the meeting was to show how JDCHS welcomes faith differences, which can allow faith leaders to keep in mind a younger point of view with their own congregations.
Nash Elder is the online editor for The Speaking Eagle, JDCHS’ student newspaper.

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