From the virtual to the physical

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by Fr.Chris Valka, C.S.B. 

Thank goodness school has started again.

I know – it is not the usual comment you would expect from anyone who is involved with higher education.  However, summertime on a university campus is actually a lot of work; more specifically, it is a lot of meetings with few reminders about why those meetings are so important.

In other words, it is wonderful to have the students back on campus, for it is the students that give purpose to education.

Of course, in an age of online classes and distance education, some my argue this point; but make no mistake, until the knowledge obtained in the classroom has been applied to the real lives of other people, it is just theory.  That is not to say there is not value in a virtual classroom; in fact, sometimes it is the best place to begin.

Last year, Commen-Table was launched with this idea in mind.  We wanted to plant a seed; to begin a conversation; to paint a picture.  We wanted people to see just how similar (and different) or lives are despite our religious differences.

Together, we learned the importance of our faith tradition in each of our lives and how those traditions shaped our perspective and education.  We learned the importance of relationships and that real progress will not be made by reducing religion to a common point; rather, by appreciating the diversity that each tradition holds.

And so, it is from that place that we set out on another journey with each other as we begin another season of Commen-Table.  However, at the University of Windsor, that journey no longer takes place in the virtual realm alone, since over the summer, several students, along myself and other members of the faculty and staff, finalized the plans for a Multi-Faith Space in the heart of the Student Centre.

What was at one time merely virtual now exists in the physical.  Last year, our “table” was nothing more than a logo, but now it is something concrete.

Just one week from now, the University will dedicate a space, along with leaders and representatives from many faith traditions, that declares exactly what we have all been writing and reading about for the past year – that religion not only matters, but that understanding how and why it matters is an important part of education.

So what will be the fruits of this blog in the coming year?  It is hard to say; after all, this is about a relationship, but I look forward to the conversation.

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