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Celebration Joins Faiths In Giving Thanks

The sentiment of virtue as gratitude was expressed in many ways during the Multifaith Thanksgiving Celebration, held on Thursday Nov. 20 in Gasson 100. The celebration, titled “For This I am Grateful,” sought to unite those of different faiths at Boston College and to create a forum for the expression of shared values.

The celebration included musical selections from various faith traditions. It began with the Christian song “All are Welcome” arranged by Marty Haugen, which was followed later by two traditional Islamic songs, “Al-Hamdulillah” and “Tala’ al-Badru ‘Alayna.” The music was presented by three different groups: The Noor Ensemble­­, a Boston group that plays Middle Eastern vocal and instrumental music; Liturgy Arts Group, a BC group that provides music for Sunday liturgies; and The School of Theology and Ministry’s Liturgical Choir, a Jesuit Catholic musical group.

Besides music, the celebration also included multifaith readings such as Psalm 138 from the Bible and “Our True Heritage” a Buddhist poem by Thich Nhat Hanh. Members of various BC faith groups, such as the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship and the Buddhism Club presented these readings and prayers.

Two expressions of gratitude given by BC students were included in the celebration. Both spoke about thankfulness, diversity, and faith in their reflections. The first expression was given by Fatmah Berikaa, LSOE ’18, a member of the Muslim Students Association.

“Something that most surprised me about being at Boston College, a Jesuit-Catholic institution, was the ease with which other forms of religion and prayer are accepted,” she said. Berikaa spoke about her devout Islamic faith and said she was grateful for the chance to express her religion and daily prayers openly.

A second expression of gratitude was given by JoAnn Melina Lopez, STM ’15. Having been raised in India and Singapore, Thanksgiving was a foreign concept to her. She spoke on how she learned more about the Thanksgiving tradition and what it means to be in community with others.

“In my experience, community is a place of both belonging and accountability. We fight to forge these sorts of communities,” Lopez said. She went on to explain life lessons she has learned about thanksgiving, including being curious, paying attention, being inclusive and being willing to celebrate the joys of another.

After the two expressions of gratitude, there was a meditation on gratitude and love by John Makransky, associate professor of Buddhism and Comparative Theology. This meditation included thinking about those one is grateful for and those who may be grateful in turn. He ended the meditation by asking everyone to be in communion with each other and to wish each other well.

After this portion of the celebration bread donations were brought up. The bread was donated as a part Spread the Bread, an initiative that encourages baking and distributing bread for the hungry. The bread donated during the celebration will be distributed to various local food pantries.

This was followed by an offering which collected donations for West Africa, which is suffering from the Ebola outbreak. This was made possible due to a partnership between BC and the United Nations World Food Programme (UNWFP).

“What I want to say is that no matter what it is that you have or what it is that you’ll be able to offer, that you know that we serve a god who’s able to multiply like no other,” said Loic Assobmo, A&S ’15, referring to the celebration’s offerings to West Africa.
After the offerings there was a final hymn and a blessing of the bread. This blessing included four individual blessings of different faiths: A Buddhist blessing, a Jewish blessing, a Christian blessing, and a Muslim blessing. These blessings were given by different members of the BC community, including the Buddhist Club and Hillel.

The celebration, which was sponsored by Campus Ministry, the Office of the Vice President for University Mission and Ministry, Latino/as at Boston College, and the School of Theology and Ministry (STM), closed with final remarks and blessing by the multifaith Campus Minister Rev. Howard A. McLendon. He expressed gratitude to the many people involved in the planning of the event and joked about having gone over budget.

“The food has been blessed and you are blessed. Go forth and have a happy Thanksgiving,” he said to end to celebration.

Featured Image by Arthur Bailin / Heights Staff

November 23, 2014