Pilgrimages from Various Religions Explored at Marymount Event

Whatever your faith, Sashi Kumar is convinced a religious pilgrimage can make it stronger. That view was reinforced after the Marymount University graduate student took part in the school’s annual Interfaith Dialogue, held March 25 in Gerard Dining Hall.

“In all faiths, the spirt of pilgrimage is the same,” Kumar said. “We may encounter new things, new traditions – even fears – but everyone will end up growing stronger in their faith.”

Kumar, who was one of five Interfaith Dialogue event panelists, described a pilgrimage he took as a 10-year-old to the Ganges River in his native India. He explained the ceremony of taking a ritual bath, along with the prayers, songs and rituals that were part of the accompanying festival.

“For Hindus, the Ganges is the symbol of ultimate purity,” Kumar said. “We believe it holds the power of purifying one’s soul and sins.”

Kumar enjoyed learning about the experiences of the other panelists. They included: Sulianys Hernandez, a sophomore who talked about her time in Santiago de Compostela, Spain; Bariq Alassaf, a sophomore who explained his pilgrimage to Mecca; undergraduate Lucila Rivera, who visited Jerusalem and the Holy Land; and Assistant Director of Campus Ministry Ashton Mallon, who went to Lourdes, France.

Mallon said her pilgrimage – one of seven she has taken – made her a better campus minister.

“My encounter with Christ encouraged my own faith, which then helps me be a better staff member for the students and a better witness for the Catholic faith for them,” she added.

The event, which drew about 60 audience members, was sponsored by the Theology and Religious Studies Department, International Student Services, Campus Ministry and the Wellness Taskforce.

Dr. Brian Flanagan, an assistant professor of theology, said he was proud of the students who participated.

“They were both very good at giving information and being personal and explaining what their pilgrimages meant to them,” Flanagan said. He added that Marymount was an “amazingly diverse place” where everyone’s religion and views are respected.

Kumar said that as an international student, he was initially hesitant to be part of the school’s campus ministry.

“I had fears of not being accepted as I am from a different faith,” said Kumar, who studies Information Technology. “I was very wrong. They welcomed me, and the best thing about them is they encouraged me to grow in my own faith.”