Claire Hawkins

Posted: January 27, 2011 in Uncategorized

Watch as sophomore student Claire Hawkins describes her view on interfaith.

Molly Zhang

Posted: January 27, 2011 in Uncategorized

Watch as Chinese student Molly Zhang describes her perspective on interfaith at UIndy.

Interfaith in Appalachia

Posted: January 18, 2011 in Uncategorized

When I traveled to Jonesville, Virginia with the University of Indianapolis to work with a Christian organization named Appalachia Service Project (ASP) in 2010, I thoroughly enjoyed myself.  We met amazing families that we were able to assist in making their homes “warmer, safer, and dryer.”  We participated in colloquial activities that left a lasting impression.  We grew closer together as a community of students.  When I traveled to Jonesville in 2011, UIndy had named the trip to be “interfaith.”  As a result, our 2011 experience was even better.

We started our trip at 7:00 am on a chilly Sunday morning.  Very few of the excursion’s attendees had ever communicated before, so connections needed to be made to achieve success.  Over the course of week, I personally remember many encounters of building friendship.  During travel to Virginia, I better acquainted myself with Anu, a Hindu student, by discussing our passions for non-profit humanitarian work from our different cultural perspectives and Derick, a Chinese student, by conversing about Chinese and American cultural differences.  Once at the ASP center, I started learning more about the members of my work team and gained more fellowship as a result.  When coming home from the mountains of Appalachia, I felt that I had gained meaningful relationships with many people.

There was many times where team-building fellowship grew away from the home repair work.  On a few nights, one work crew would offer ice breakers and reflection to better process our work days and have fun.  We also played “Megatron Drawfest,” which is the best game of Pictionary one could ever play.  When dining came to mind, we “made Oreos better” (M.O.B.) with icing, peanut butter, chocolate syrup, and other goodies.  By interacting with a Louisiana church group that also lived with the university group for the week, we learned authentic Lousiana dance moves.  When the weather caused unexpected delays, we talked (often while knitting) together and found creative ways to spend our time.  Overall, we participated in many activities that brought everyone closer together.

We became unified through our sweat, too.  While some of our work team members had greater strengths than others, everyone contributed to the project.  From our limited time at our worksite due to snow, we managed to deconstruct the original flooring in the house, place insulation, lay down sub-flooring, and start the process of installing luann, (the material placed before tiling.)  Sometimes we were using power tools; other times, we were using common ingenuity.  From working together as a team, we came to know each other better and could claim that we had achieved our goals together.

While I obtained more friends from the university, I also spent important time with the homeowners that we helped.  Our students were split into three work teams, and the family that my team helped was friendly in the midst of need.  Gary and Misty are a young couple with a three-year old daughter and two-year old son, and their hospitality was boundless.  After spending one full day on the worksite, Misty insisted on giving a keepsake to each of us to show her gratitude.  Furthermore, Gary contributed to our work efforts by providing construction expertise.  Even though the kids often hindered our progress, they were incredibly fun-loving and offered a great diversion when home repair became difficult.  My work team developed a close bond with the family, and we were sad to leave them.

Looking in retrospect upon the week I spent in Virginia, the diversity of motivations for service still remains with me.  While I expressed the importance that service has to my Christian faith through the example of Jesus on the trip, others had different reasons for their attendance.  A Hindu student discussed her willingness to serve people that was influenced less by her faith and more by the morals instilled by her parents.  A Chinese student explained the mutual benefit of serving others while refining his English communication skills for personal development.  Even for those of a similar Christian faith to mine, everyone had a unique motive for serving at ASP.  Therefore, I witnessed many students from different backgrounds come together in order to practice service in community.  I may perhaps never know the entirety of the positive consequences to result from the trip.

Mark Wolfe

Interfaith Youth Core Fellow 2010-2011

President of the Interfaith Forum

As the holiday season approaches, I am reminded of the interfaith holidays that the Interfaith Youth Core, Interfaith Forum, and UIndy celebrated this semester.

At UIndy, the campaign started with the first meeting of the Interfaith Forum on September 7.  Twenty-three students attended the meeting to hear about the interfaith movement and enjoy scrumptious international food.  For the rest of the semester, the Interfaith Forum would have exciting meeting topics that were educational and occasionally funny.  We had a lively debate when discussing the “Ground Zero Mosque” situation that came to no conclusion but upheld the First Amendment rights regardless.  We then hosted mock interfaith dialogues that had everyone laughing to the point of falling from their seats.  Lastly, our meeting about food and fasting was very informational and made an impact on our outlook on different faiths.

The Interfaith Forum also performed multiple service and social action efforts that were influential through the semester.  First, members of the Forum hosted a block party at the Interfaith Hospitality Network for homeless families that including delicious food and fun activities in September.  We then traveled to Gleaner’s Food Bank in October and made 700 food bags for the hungry in Indianapolis.  In November, UIndy students fed free pancakes to 30 people while raising $50 for Gleaner’s Food Bank.  Lastly, in December we coordinated with the Peak and Salt & Light Christian Ministries to make no-sew blankets for the Linus Project and sent materials of support to the IU Hillel after the vandalism they endured.

Through Interfaith Youth Core involvement, UIndy also hosted the first installment of the Better Together Campaign through the “What IF?” Speak-In Event.  After months of preparation, the Forum and CPB provided a no-sew blanket service project, a panel of speakers from the Interfaith Hospitality Network (IHN), and an interfaith dialogue that engaged people of different faiths.  First, the blanket project made 25 blankets for the homeless that IHN assist.  Next, the speakers gave words of wisdom to the attendants, including Mitch Katz from the Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation that wished to ask “why not interfaith?” instead of “what if interfaith?” because he saw it as a necessity.  Lastly, we hosted a 30-minute interfaith dialogue that asked the participants about service they had accomplished in the past and its effect on their faith.  Overall, everyone learned more about different faiths and made new friendships after the event had finished.

We have completed the first semester, but another one is looming in the distance.  We have some great events planned, including the Better Together Large-Scale Service Project, the Better Together Banquet, an Interfaith Peace Service, the Thirst Project Benefit Concert, a possible weekly interfaith service project with Fletcher Place Community Center, and multiple discussions and service projects through the Interfaith Forum to come.  The interfaith movement has made great strides in its first semester at UIndy.  Let’s carry the momentum further and show we are better together.


Mark Wolfe

IFYC Fellow 2010-2011

President of the Interfaith Forum

UIndy Class of 2013


Mike McGrath

Posted: December 7, 2010 in Uncategorized

Sophomore Christian student and big-time Interfaith Forum member Mike McGrath talks about his interfaith experience at UIndy.

Mitch Green

Posted: December 7, 2010 in Uncategorized

IFSC and Americorps service leader Mitch Green talks about his interfaith experiences at UIndy.

( This blog was written by Bryan Sullivan, a freshman Christian student at UIndy.)

What is Interfaith Forum to me? This question has produced multiple answers for me over my few short months at UIndy. I was very open to the idea at first, which then led to some sort of resentment where I couldn’t find the means to really participate in the activities on the Interfaith Forum agenda. Now today I have come to realize that interfaith service is exactly what God is calling myself, a follower of the Christian faith, to do.

I was first discouraged with Interfaith Forum when I realized it was definitely not an environment to attempt to convert people to the Christian faith. With my evangelistic approach to the Gospel I found this difficult and even conflicting to my faith. These ideas were fortunately pushed to the curb in a simple reading of the Bible, and seeing examples of Christian faithfulness in my friends who were surrounded around the Interfaith Forum. I came to the realization that Christian tolerance of other faith traditions and exemplification of the love of God to the world is exactly what Interfaith Forum can allow me to do.

Christians are often viewed as arrogant when dealing with interfaith issues. This, I can say is unfortunately true at many times. I myself can all too easily get caught up in how correct I believe my faith to be, that I forget to actually live out what Jesus calls me to do. Jesus told us that the second of the greatest commandments is to love your neighbor as yourself, only second to loving the Lord. Jesus’ life was an example of the ultimate love. Besides from dying on the cross for everyone’s sins, he lived a life of servitude towards others and commands his followers to do the same.

With Interfaith Forum I can live out my Christian calling by having love for my neighbors and serving the community at the same time. I learned to not only be accepting of other’s ideas but to honor their faith traditions and what one’s faith means to them. By being open to interfaith activities, I hope that others may see the light of Christ in me. I am convinced that we are truly “Better Together!”



Bryan Sullivan



Homeless to Harvard

Posted: November 28, 2010 in Uncategorized

*Check out the story of Liz Murray and how she became a successful author in the midst of homelessness and reckless parents.  We might attempt to bring her to UIndy if she is not already occupied. -Mark Wolfe*

Unsentimental Education



A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey From Homeless to Harvard

By Liz Murray

334 pp. Hyperion. $24.99

Graham Greene once said that writers should keep a chip of ice in their hearts. It’s sound advice, with exceptions. Despite her generous portrayal of her troubled family life, Liz Murray succeeds as an author. Few parents would seem to have been more deserving of contempt than the ones who raised her.

Murray was born in the autumn of 1980 with drugs in her blood (but healthy), and her memoir follows the trajectory of a Narcotics Anonymous narrative — an account of despair and redemption like the ones told nightly, as she writes, in “the basements of urban churches.” In her case, she suffered not from the ravages of her own addiction but from those of her parents. In pacing and style, however, “Breaking Night” reads more like an adventure story than an addiction-morality tale. It’s a white-knuckle account of survival, marked by desperation, brutality and fear, set in the wilds of the Bronx.

Murray’s parents usually burned through their monthly welfare check within a week, spending the money on cocaine, while Murray and her older sister, Lisa, scrambled to stay alive. They subsisted on eggs and mayonnaise sandwiches, occasionally splitting a tube of toothpaste and a cherry-flavored ChapStick to dull their hunger pangs. Once her mother left them alone with a child molester, a man who also supplied their mother with drugs. Despite such appalling, reckless behavior, Murray loved her mother, a “radiant and wild-looking” woman with “long, wavy black hair” who wore “flower-child blouses” in the East Village in the late 1970s and died of AIDS at 42. Murray also admired her father, a graduate-school dropout who kept The New Yorker by his bed and read voraciously, continually renewing his library card in a new name because he never returned the books.

She describes the everyday life of a coked-out household where blood was spattered on the kitchen walls, on clothes, even on a loaf of Wonder bread. She recalls that her mother’s track marks became so thick that her arms looked like “pale hamburger meat.” As children, she and her sister dined on Happy Meals in front of the television while their parents tripped on drugs: “The four of us together. French-fry grease on my fingertips. Lisa chewing on a cheeseburger. Ma and Daddy, twitching and shifting just behind us, euphoric.”

By age 6, Murray knew how to mainline drugs (though she never took them) and how to care for her strung-out parents. She showed uncanny maturity, even as a child, and later managed to avoid that malady of teenagers and memoir writers, self-pity. It was a luxury she couldn’t afford in her crime-ridden neighborhood, where she spent her nights looking out the window to make sure her parents returned safely from scoring drugs. Murray’s stoicism has been hard-earned; it serves her well as a writer.

Murray chronicles her days as a homeless teenager, and as a student at the Humanities Preparatory Academy in Manhattan, after her mother died and her father moved into a men’s shelter. She eventually wrote an essay about her experiences that won her a New York Times College Scholarship. She went to Harvard. She inspired a movie, “Homeless to Harvard,” that was broadcast on the Lifetime network. She survived.

Her mother, Jean Murray, comes across as a tormented character who did her best as a parent, despite addiction and mental illness, and was buried in a pine box, her name misspelled, in a pauper’s grave at the Gates of Heaven Cemetery. (Her husband didn’t show up for the funeral.) Till the end, Jean was adored by her daughter, despite the hardship she inflicted on those around her. “Breaking Night” itself is full of heart, without a sliver of ice, and deeply moving.


Tara McKelvey, a fellow with the Alicia Patterson Foundation, is a frequent contributor to the Book Review and the author of “Monstering: Inside America’s Policy of Secret Interrogations and Torture in the Terror War.”

A Purpose Driven Life After 60

Posted: November 22, 2010 in Uncategorized

A Purpose-driven Life After 60

By Rod Dreher – Director of Publications, John Templeton Foundation

“I was really depressed, and had some serious alcohol addiction issues,” he recalls. “I went up to a mountaintop, where I used to do my drinking. I was going to commit suicide. But I had a spiritual awakening, came down, and detoxed myself.”A decade ago, building contractor Allan Barsema looked at the homeless people on the street outside his Rockford, Illinois, business, and saw the man he used to be.

Barsema, then in early middle age, moved to Rockford to live with his parents. They helped him to recover and to rebuild a life shattered by alcohol abuse. He built a successful construction business, and remarried. Then, he says, in the year 2000, he and his wife Cathy “felt God tap us on the shoulder”—and point to the homeless.
“I had been there and done that. I had had an addiction, and I was by most definitions homeless. So my heart was there to help folks, but I had no idea what to do.”

That year, he opened The Carpenter’s Place, a day refuge for Rockford’s down-and-out citizens. Barsema, who has no formal training in social work, applied a building contractor’s methodology to solving the problems of the homeless. He developed a system that coordinated social services for individual clients, with the goal of helping each person build self-sufficiency, not dependency on charity.

“The problem was that so many social service agencies operate out of silos,” Barsema says today. “Until we came along, nobody could keep an eye on each person and his particular needs, and help him get the help he needed to get back on his feet.”

Barsema’s model was so successful that he founded Community Collaboration, Inc., to reproduce it on a wider scale. Today, over 140 agencies in five states use Barsema’s innovative tools and strategies to get homeless folks off the streets and back into life—and 20 more states have expressed interest in adopting this model.

Barsema embarked on his vital new career at a time in life when most people are thinking about retirement. That’s why he was one of five $100,000 winners of the 2010 Purpose Prize, an annual award given by Civic Ventures, a non-profit San Francisco-based think tank, to top achievers in what Purpose Prize founder Marc Freedman calls “encore careers.”

Encore careers are professional second acts that combine social entrepreneurship, personal meaning, and measurable social change. Purpose Prize winners are at least 60 years old, and working in a leadership capacity to address a major social problem in the United States or abroad. Ten people annually win the Prize, with five taking home$100,000 awards, and five others landing a $50,000 prize. This year, the fifth of the Purpose Prize program, 46 other encore careerists were recognized as Purpose Prize Fellows.

Inez Killingsworth, 72, another top-rank 2010 honoree, won for her work fighting community-killing home foreclosures in Cleveland, Ohio. Several years ago, she noticed that some of her neighbors weren’t coming to various meetings. When she went to check on them, she found that many had been evicted when the bank took their house in foreclosure proceedings. Killingsworth later discovered that folks could have kept their homes if they had known how to navigate the system, and how to stand up to mortgage holders taking advantage of them.

Killingsworth’s work with her organization, Empowering & Strengthening Ohio’s people, has kept thousands of distressed families in their homes by teaching them how to negotiate successfully with mortgage holders. Says the feisty community activist: “If you have a dream, you should follow it. If you just sit there and do nothing, that’s what’s going to happen to you: nothing. Get up and do something! It doesn’t matter how old you are.”

Other $100,000 winners were Margaret Gordon, a former housekeeper from Oakland, California, who led a fight to protect the health of residents in her environmentally imperiled, low-income community;Barry Childs of Marylhurst, Oregon, whose Africa Bridge organization helps impoverished Tanzanian children by building schools, opening clinics, and starting farming businesses; and Cincinnati’s Judith Van Ginkel, whose Every Child Succeeds program helps thousands of at-risk, first-time mothers and their babies get off to a good start.

The Purpose Prize is not only meant to celebrate the achievements of creative thinkers over 60, but also to spur them to further progress. For example, Killingsworth plans to use part of her prize money to start a program to help ex-prisoners integrate successfully into society. For another, Barsema is putting his award into a new organization, One Body Collaborative, which will help churches and faith-based organizations coordinate their charitable services efficiently and effectively.

“In these difficult times, we don’t have any talent to waste,” says Civic Ventures’ Marc Freedman. “Purpose Prize winners extend a hand to their neighbors, here and across the globe, and offer role models for us all.”

The Purpose Prizes are funded by grant support from the John Templeton Foundation, which has committed over $8 million to the program, and from The Atlantic Philanthropies. The late Sir John Templeton was keen on the value of working into the golden years, and helping those who wanted to keep giving of themselves in the workplace find a way to do so.

The foundation that bears his name was the encore career of Sir John Templeton, who started the Foundation in 1987 at the age of 75, and who stayed intimately involved with its activities until his death two years ago. At the 2010 Purpose Prize awards dinner, held November 13 at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, JTF president and chairman Dr. Jack Templeton shared with winners and their guests a favorite piece of advice from his late father: “Don’t ever retire. You have so much to give.”

In tandem with the Purpose Prize gala, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute honored three Philadelphia area college students as winners of the inaugural Sir John Templeton Noble Purpose Essay Contest. Two students from Eastern University, John Newman and Evan Hewitt, and Villanova student Robert Duffy won the top three awards for their essays reflecting on the qualities of noble purpose.


How far away are you from being homeless?  The speakers from the Interfaith Hospitality Network (IHN) who were at the “What IF?” Speak-In thought that everyone has the chance of losing their home in the blink of an eye.  As such, they felt that service to the homeless was necessary, whether from a call to “love like Christ” or a call to “do the duty that God asked us through the Torah.”

Service to the homeless was definitely the main theme of last night’s interfaith dialogue.  Sixty people of various faiths and traditions came together to make an impact in the world, and by their actions, they succeeded.  The night started with the making of 25 no-sew blankets for the IHN’s homeless center.  During this time, conversation occurred on the motives of the participants; in my group, a Christian, agnostic, and Muslim discussed their drive to be present.  After the blankets had been finished, the IHN discussed their own motivations for working with homelessness, and faith was a resounding answer.  They did not see faith as a dividing factor, though.  Instead, they claimed that they could only solve homelessness by working with others who had a similar drive but a different call.  In conclusion, groups broke off into interfaith dialogue on the call to social action that each faith has.  As a result, many learned new concepts from different faiths and made new friendships.

From the night’s occurrences, everyone learned that the group assembled could make a positive difference in the world by working together.  Indeed, there have already been results from interfaith cooperation.  The most poignant quote of the night was from an IHN speaker named Jo-Ann who said, “I knew a homeless lady through my work with IHN.  Now she is the vice president at a hospital and lives down the street from me.”  If someone can go from homeless to vice president on an individual basis, imagine what the whole of humanity from different backgrounds could do on a communal and global scale.  Let’s show Indianapolis and the world that we are better together!

By Mark Wolfe

IFYC Fellow and President of the Interfaith Forum

UIndy Class of 2013