It was the rhythmic sequence of Amir Etemadzadeh’s hands on a large frame drum. Nuns from San Diego’s Ngoc Minh Temple exhibited unity while chanting a Buddhist prayer. Being witness to Steve Garcia, dressed in full regalia, performing a Native American Eagle Dance with respect and honor was a sight to behold. Passionate words of reflection from Rabbi David Wolpe spoke volumes. Ethnic Studies Professor and Chair Alberto Pulido and Theology and Religious Studies Professor Lance Nelson brought the spirit and wisdom of Cesar Chavez and Mahatma Gandhi, respectively, to the forefront.
The 18th annual All Faith Service, held during the first week of the spring semester at the University of San Diego, celebrated the “Dignity of Work and Workers” on Thursday in a packed Shiley Theatre. Muslim, Buddhist, Native American, Jewish, Christian and Hindu presentations honored this theme — bookended by Monsignor Daniel J. Dillabough’s officiating — and a photo slideshow of students, staff, faculty and administrators at USD was introduced by Julia Norgaard ’12 and USD employee Santos Rodriguez.
“I feel a lot of pride being associated with USD,” said Founders Chapel choir member Daniel Dunne, a senior communications major and math minor who is working toward a single-subject teaching credential in math. “To bring people from all different faiths and let them do what they want and share their spiritual rituals … I don’t know if any other universities do it, but to accept all faiths shows that USD doesn’t turn anyone away. I think it helps make USD unique.”
While it was the fourth All Faith Service attended by Dunne, the first impressions of Rabbi Wolpe and by musician Jose “Pepe” Villarino, who performed as a member of the Los Romanticos Musical Ensemble after Pulido’s reflection of Chavez, were just as inspiring.
“It was such a powerful experience, very beautiful,” Wolpe said. “This event is phenomenal; to have it at a Catholic university makes it all the more special.”
Villarino, whose performance of “De Colores,” a song adopted by the Chavez-led National Farm Workers Association in 1962 paid homage to the influential leader, said he was equally pleased to be part of an event that brought out the best in all people.
“I was elated to be able to do something,” he said. “I felt very much a part of this and I got wrapped up in it. It was very unique in every aspect. And, in these times and with so many problems, we need something that can bring us all together.”
Indeed, an important aspect of USD’s Catholic identity is a healthy respect for all individual religious traditions that are represented within its community. This year’s theme was evident, from the words of Kabul-born Nazanian Wahid ’03 (MA, Peace and Justice Studies) to Nelson’s excerpts from Gandhi, giving the former a chance to indulge the audience with the profound thoughts of “one of the first cross-cultural leaders of the world, a real pioneer,” he said.
Each of the faith representatives featured an aspect of praise and respect for all people who perform the necessity of honest work.
“I’ll never look at a floor the same way again,” Wolpe said while reflecting on a recent trip to Haiti where he helped rebuild an orphanage by doing grout work.
“We live in an unfinished world,” he said. “God stopped doing the work and left us the space to do God’s work. … We owe workers our lives.”
It’s words such as those that demonstrate the power of attending the All Faith Service and, according to University Ministry Director Michael Lovette-Colyer, showcase the best that USD can be. Call it a homage to the example set forth by the university’s founders, Mother Rosalie Clifton Hill and Bishop Charles Francis Buddy. “It’s such a wonderful affirmation that the mission and the values of the university are alive and well.”
— Ryan T. Blystone
Photo courtesy of Nick Abadilla