The Levesque Institute hosted its first interfaith community leaders’ breakfast at Niagara University on Wednesday, June 18, 2014. The purpose of the breakfast was to share information about programs that would be of interest to leaders of the faith community and to extend a dialogue and conversation about opportunities for partnerships and collaboration.
The breakfast opened with remarks from the Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., president, who metaphorically painted a picture for how he envisions NU’s role with local faith leaders and their organizations. He encouraged the audience of approximately 50 participants to view the university and the Vincentian values that drive it as a bridge that connects the community to Niagara’s resources.
The morning dialogue included a diverse set of speakers who offered initiatives worthy of support.
- Connie Matthews, director of NUOP, provided an overview of the program and the valuable resources available to students needing extra support academically and financially.
- Dr. Mary McCourt (chemistry) and Dr. Fran Crosby (nursing) shared exciting research that is taking place in conjunction with Avon to discover new ways to collect and screen urine samples as a way to detect early breast cancer.
- Jay Stockslader, director of Continuing Education, spoke on behalf of the Institute for Public Ministry and the professional development certificate program offered to the faith community. The program was held in prior years and clergy shared great enthusiasm about future offerings.
- Lastly, AnnaLynn Williams, a leukemia survivor and bone marrow donation advocate, shared invaluable information about her experience being diagnosed as a young woman, treatment and the need to find donors across diverse backgrounds.
The energy was high all morning and ended with positive feedback about next steps. Dr. David Taylor, director of the Levesque Institute, facilitated the morning-long session and reassured participants that we would continue the conversations and turn feedback into action.
Last year, Father Maher and several members from the Levesque Institute attended a two-day conference at Georgetown University to gain insight, tools and inspiration about interfaith work occurring on campuses across the nation. The conference was sponsored by President Obama’s administration and several government partners that oversee the annual President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. As a result, Niagara is beginning to forge a path toward inclusive partnerships with the faith community and around interfaith dialogue.