Saturday, October 20, 2007

Invitation to Dialogue by Michael Loban

Seven years ago when my parents and I came to U.S., I could barely pronounce Xavier correctly, yet alone think that I will have an opportunity to travel to Rome and be in the same room with the Pope Benedict XVI. On the other hand, I doubt that Joseph Alois Ratzinger thought that he will be the Pope and will be in the same room with me.
This opportunity is extraordinary but with such opportunity comes the responsibility. I am not talking about the responsibility to prepare for the trip; I am talking about my responsibility after it. What will I learn, and how will I share this with Xavier Community? This is a Lay Conference that tries to bridge the gap of understanding between two communities, but the question is how do we have this dialogue more than once a year, how do we have this dialogue every month, every week, every day? How do we engage others to join in dialogue to achieve the future distinctly better from the past? The opportunity to travel to Rome will last 4 days, the opportunity to use what I will learn can last a lifetime.
“So if I asked you about art, you'd probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life's work, political aspirations, him and the Pope, sexual orientations, the whole works, right? But I'll bet you can't tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You've never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling; seen that.” This is a lengthy quote from a terrific movie most of you probably have seen -Good Will Hunting. I always think of this quote when I travel somewhere. Obviously, I have read a lot about Michelangelo and his works, about the beauty of Vatican and the Sistine Chapel, but now I will have a chance to experience these things differently, on a level that can’t be described in a blog or on a picture. It is something that stays in your heart for life.
I know I will not be able to describe everything that will take place during this trip. This blog is not about sightseeing and not about the beauty of the Sistine Chapel, I know it is magnificent. This blog is about dialogue and how it takes place. But why wait for when I come back. Let’s start now. I urge you to respond; I will read all the comments and do my best at sharing this experience. I subscribe to a lot of blogs and couple of my articles have been published here and there. The blogs that I like, often do not have just one person writing about his/her view of the world. On the contrary the author only sparks the interest and then community builds a fascinating conversation about the topic. I know that there are students from different religious backgrounds represented on Xavier’s campus. And I encourage and challenge each and every one of you to join me in this conversation; at the end this is called Xavier Universe.
My e-mail is, I will make sure your questions are heard.

Maggie Meyer's Pre-trip Reflections

The past couple of weeks, I have been struggling quite a bit with what my contribution to this astounding journey could possibly be. I feel indefinitely blessed for the opportunity to be a witness to something so extraordinary, but I can’t rid the notion that being a witness is not enough. Just as I will be receiving such wonderful, long lasting gifts from this experience, so too do I so very much want to have something to give. Needless to say, being in the company of such fervently intelligent and passionate people is a bit intimidating to a curious, but oftentimes unsure and naive senior in college.

I have struggled with this since that fateful and exhilarating morning this summer when I met Abie Ingber for the first time for a tour and meeting over at Hillel and left a few hours later with an invitation to attend a conference at the Vatican. Along with the incredible excitement and disbelief over the magnitude of such an opportunity, I have not, since that morning, stopped thinking, “What have I to give?” As October 20 got closer and closer, I began to pray that God would help my find my place on this journey. I lit a candle in front of the Blessed Virgin statue in Bellarmine and have stopped in most every day since then for a few brief minutes to ask Mother Mary to help me discover what my gift to all of this is meant to be.

This past Tuesday afternoon, I found myself back at Hillel, sitting in the same seat as I was the morning Abie asked if I could perhaps make some room in my schedule for the Pope in October, and I think I began to get an answer to my prayer. I am not often left speechless, but sitting in Abie’s office listening to him share with me the many experiences that have led him to where he is today, I was left without words, yet with more faith…faith that I would in some way find my answer to the prayer I had been praying for weeks, faith that God has for some reason led me to this day, and faith that this journey is not a culmination, but rather a beginning.

Tonight, when I finished my packing efforts (that is, until tomorrow morning!), I sat down to reflect a bit and got out a journal I kept for a service trip I took to New Orleans a few summers ago. The journal was opened to the address of Mr. Johnson, a gentleman in New Orleans whose house we restored while we were down there. Below his address, I wrote something he said to us the afternoon before we left. He said, “I sure do hope God blesses all of you because he sure blessed me sending you all.” This little note jotted down on the page struck me with an irony that makes you grin and say, “There you go again, God.”

The name of the exhibit Abie, Dr. Buchanan, and Dr. Madges now famously designed honoring the contributions of Pope John Paul II to the relationship between the Jewish and Christian faith communities is, of course, called “A Blessing to One Another.” How fitting Mr. Johnson’s words were for our time with him in New Orleans, and how fitting they are tonight for the time that we are about to have in Rome. We certainly are all blessings to one another, and wow, what a blessing that is.
-Maggie Meyer

Friday, October 19, 2007

Rabbi Abie Ingber's Initial Thoughts about the Vatican Trip

In less than 48 hours I begin a journey into a place that has become surprisingly familiar to this Rabbi - the Vatican. The occasion of a four-day conference I am convening on Catholic-Jewish Dialogue brings me back again to St. Peter's and Rome. But first I have to recover from a whirlwind visit to Philadelphia to join my friend and teacher and former Xavier professor, Bill Madges, at the Philly opening of the exhibit, A Blesssing to One Another. The third of the "Three Musketeers", James Buchanan, had to stay in Cincinnati for the inventive and successful Children of Abraham program at the Freedom Center. Seeing Bill and Yaffa Eliach (a former scholar in residence at XU, and the creative spark for the exhibit) was a special treat. But the highlight of the evening was having a chance once again to walk through the exhibit and to take 50 or 60 guests through on a guided tour. How wonderful it was to again be immersed in the beauty of the friendship between Karol Wojtyla and Jerzy Kluger. How grand it was to have all these old stories bubble up; stories that can heal a fragile world. I did share a tear, and more, as I recounted how the Holy Father embraced his Jewish friend at the first Papal audience. I saw once again our replica of the Western Wall in Jerusalem filling up with the prayers of Philadelphians. And, I touched the bronze casting of Pope John Paul II's right hand, the same hand I touched at my first Papal audience in 1999.
At 10:30 PM when I finally had a moment to greet my daughter, Tamar, who is studying at Drexel University in Philly, she reminded me that I didn't even tell the story of Jerzy Kluger and Karol Wojtyla pretending as young teens to be driving Jerzy's uncle's Rolls Royce. What father has such moments of pride in how his children have been raised?
Two years earlier when the College of Cardinals was meeting to select the current Pope, this same Tamar and her younger sister were following keenly to see if one of the Cardinals their father had already met might become the new Bishop of Rome. On Wednesday, God willing, their father will meet this new Pope. I doubt I will remember to tell him either about the Rolls Royce in Wadowice, Poland.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Many Rivers to Cross

Xavier President Michael Graham and Xavier (and UC) Hillel Rabbi Abie Ingber are going to Rome in a few days to attend the first Lay Conference on Catholic-Jewish Relations at the Vatican. Two Xavier students are going along - Catholic student Maggie Meyer and Jewish student Michael Loban. Abie and Maggie have agreed to send us some blog posts and hopefully Michael will, too. Stay tuned for their thoughts and impressions of this great city and an important event.

Participants will have an audience with Pope Benedict. The Xavier group will present Pope Benedict with a replica of the Menorah installed at the Vatican in observance of Holocaust Remembrance Day. They will also meet with Jerzy Kluger, the Jewish childhood friend of the late Pope John Paul II.

Abie says, “Our hope is that we can come back to the U.S. and continue these relationships and perhaps even expand it to include lay leaders from the Muslim community. If you get good at bridge building, there are lots of rivers to cross.”

In May, 2005, Xavier premiered an exhibit called “A Blessing to One Another: Pope John Paul II and the Jewish People” based on JPII’s life-long relationship with the Jewish community. A link to the site about the exhibit is at

Also check out

Halloween is fun at Xavier

Xavier's science departments like to dress up on Halloween. Where else are you taught by a Segway-riding cowboy and Dumbledore?!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Xavier’s new colors – Blue, Grey and Green?

Pope Benedict has led the Vatican toward greater environmental sustainability, joining a reforestation project aimed at offsetting its CO2 emissions, and installing solar cells on the roof.

Xavier’s new development, Xavier Square will start to take shape in the next few months, and the first step is demolition of the old Zumbiel buildings. And Xavier, too, will be a little green. Bob Sheeran, Xavier’s associate vice president for facility management says the demolition will most likely include an implosion.

Does anyone remember watching our various implosions around town? I was in the Christ Hospital maternity ward when UC’s Sander Hall was imploded. I was, however, imploding on my own. I was present for Riverfront Stadium’s ringlike implosion.

Sheeran says the Zumbiel implosion will not be as dramatic as those others. Still, some members of the Xavier campus community are already talking about an “implosion party.”

Sheeran said all the steel, even what’s buried in concrete, will be cut into small pieces and taken to a local steel mill for recycling. The concrete will be hauled out by trucks and taken to a couple of local plants to be ground up and recycled for aggregate.

The demolition, implosion and site preparation will be happening over the next year with actual groundbreaking expected to begin toward the end of 2008 or beginning of 2009.

What kinds of businesses would you like to see in Xavier Square?