Juan Diego CHS students share perspective of difference with Interfaith Roundtable

Friday, Feb. 21, 2014
Juan Diego CHS students share perspective of difference with Interfaith Roundtable + Enlarge
Juan Diego Catholic High School students chat with members of the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable during a Feb. 11 lunch. Courtesy photo/JDCHS

By Molly Dumas

Special to the Intermountain Catholic

DRAPER — Rachel Kuhr loves telling newcomers about being a Juan Diego Catholic High School student: "I like to tell them I am a Seventh-day Adventist in a Mormon state attending a Catholic high school."

Kuhr was one of six students from various religious backgrounds who charmed a diverse group of faith leaders at a Feb. 11 ecumenical luncheon at JDCHS, which hosted the Interfaith Roundtable in celebration of February being Interfaith Month. Those who attended were from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Calvary Baptist Church, Hilltop Methodist, Unification Church, Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, Greek Orthodox Church, VA Medical Center Chapel and Catholic Community Services.

A common narrative among the six students was a first impression of being welcomed to the school. Ikuna Tavake is Tongan, serves as a student ambassador and on student government, and plays lacrosse. He is Mormon, and learned about Juan Diego from cousins who attended before him. He started as a sophomore after being homeschooled, and "it didn’t matter what faith I was," he said. "I really like the idea I could pray before classes – especially if I didn’t study for an exam the night before! Can’t do that in public school. Here it’s okay, and we are all a tight-knit family together."

Amber Wolff agrees. "I came from Grace Lutheran, which was so small. Juan Diego had a lot more people, but everyone was so nice; suddenly my family grew!" Wolff is a member of Good Shepherd Lutheran. She has traveled on eastern European missions to Russia and Ukraine, teaching English. She noted that in theology class, she learned that her faith is similar to Catholicism, but she could comfortably talk about the subtle differences with her peers. "In Russia, religion is rarely discussed. I used the Bible to tell stories and talk about the messages," she said, adding that the experience was like a Bible camp, but she drew on stories she heard in class.

Megha Kundra, who is Hindu and moved to Utah from New York; and Kaho Horiuchi, an international student, both shared initial concerns about being different from mainstream Utah. Horiuchi, who is Shinto, was surprised at how often religion is referenced in America, and depicted in symbols – so different from her native Japan. She said there are 40 international students at the school, most of whom are Asian, but from very diverse countries and cultures.

Kundra found that diversity makes for good topical discussions. She noted, "It really helped me become a better Hindu, but more importantly, a better human being."

Zachary Schonrock, a Juan Diego student ambassador who has been enrolled on the campus since first grade, gave tours to those who attended the interfaith lunch. He talked of spending the summer in a science internship at the University of Utah through Juan Diego’s Academy of Sciences; and the fall rehearsing as Scarecrow in the "Wizard of Oz." The irony of such a smart student playing the part of a character without a brain has not been lost on any of his teachers. In his spare time, Schonrock runs on the cross country and track teams. He told faith leaders that what he appreciates about being in a Catholic school, in addition to all the academic and extracurricular offerings, is the "ability to talk about God in a classroom with kids of other faiths without worrying about having the discussion."

Molly Dumas is the Director of Advancement at Juan Diego Catholic High School.

For questions, comments or to report inaccuracies on the website, please CLICK HERE.
© Copyright 2024 The Diocese of Salt Lake City. All rights reserved.