Interfaith Partnership and the World Affairs Council in Dialogue about Service

015On May 10, 2013, Board member and Community Service Chair Mary Pedersen and the Very Reverend Robert Flannery, Director of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs from the Belleville, IL, Archdiocese spoke with 20 International Guests. The meeting was held downtown at the World Affairs Council office and arranged by their Manager in Administration, Rudo Gray.

These visitors were invited for a 21-day immersion of training and community service in the U.S. to examine the impact of volunteerism. Their visit to St. Louis focused on how faith-based volunteers are inspired to help foster a culture of service, civic involvement and responsibility. NGO, civic and community leaders, government officials and educators from 20 different countries were here under the auspices of the Department of State’s International Visitor leadership Program.

Father Flannery who is active in IP’s Metro–East Affiliate and a leader in the Carbondale, IL Interfaith Council, and Pedersen, a faithful contributor of IP’s outreach and community service initiatives for over 12 years, had never met one another before this meeting. However, they delivered messages and answered questions with synergy and collaboration. Both spoke from experience about the impact of service on volunteers and the communities they serve. The discussions also lead into dialogue between Catholicism and Mormonism whose faith traditions they represented.

In reflection, Rudo Gray commented, “Most of our visitors do not have the luxury of enjoying religious freedoms that we have in the U.S. It does not surprise me that many of the inquiries guided the speakers toward interfaith dialogue.”

Fr. Flannery and Pedersen addressed how dialogue and service can work together. Father said, “We have more in common than we have differences. One of those commonalities is we all try to work for the goodwill of all humans in need.” Pedersen then added, “What better way to serve the community than to have two people of different backgrounds and beliefs working shoulder to shoulder for a common cause while learning about each other in dialogue.” They also spoke about how each inspires volunteerism among their faiths, especially with young people, volunteer retention and commitment to causes that they feel passionate about.

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