Jessica White | Staff Writer
Five theology students arrive at Chautauqua on Sunday for the Institution’s new partnership with St. Bonaventure University.
The university recruited theology and religious studies majors from other universities in Pennsylvania and western New York for the first year of its two-week honors seminar in interreligious dialogue.
The students, who have been doing coursework at St. Bonaventure since Wednesday, will spend this week attending programs at Chautauqua and will return to the university next Sunday to prepare written and oral presentations about their experiences.
The collaboration has been a long-standing dream of St. Bonaventure President Sister Margaret Carney, said Father Terrance Klein, professor and chair of the school’s theology department.
“The programming at Chautauqua is really world-class in terms of the people that it brings in and makes available to the Chautauqua community,” Klein said. “She thought it was a shame that we’re this close to Chautauqua and that we had never developed a program that would utilize those resources.”
The students, who were required to have a minimum GPA of 3.5 for the program, are of St. Bonaventure University, Carlow University, Houghton College and Siena College. They have spent the past four days doing classroom readings and discussions to prepare for what they will learn at Chautauqua, Klein said.
Each day, the students and their two seminar instructors will commute to the Institution from St. Bonaventure to attend the services, lectures and conversations. They may also attend evening programming if they choose.
The Rev. Joan Brown Campbell and Maureen Rovegno, director and assistant director of the Department of Religion, coordinated the program and will act as liaisons to the group. Rovegno will also introduce the students to Chautauqua’s Abrahamic Program for Young Adults coordinators.
“We’re very happy to begin this collaborative relationship,” Rovegno said. “The lectures and what they experience here will be very fruitful to provoke and promote dialogue among them.”
The program was made possible by a grant from St. Bonaventure alumni Brian and Jean Hickey of Rochester, N.Y. Students pay $800 for three college credits that are transferable to their home schools. A three-credit course at St. Bonaventure typically costs about $3,000, Klein said.
Klein and Rovegno said the university chose Week Two because its 2012 election theme will provide rich conversation about interfaith issues.
“The hot-button issue right now in religion of any kind is the rise of fundamentalism and the need for interreligious dialogue and understanding,” Klein said. “That’s something that Chautauqua has pledged itself to and it’s increasingly an issue in theology and religious studies departments whether they’re Catholic or not.
“So we’re hoping that the students would benefit from the understanding of religion around the world.”