By Haley Seward ‘17
There are two types of Catholics who show up at Gordon College.
First, there are Catholics who have never experienced inter-denominational tension or hatred, some of whom have never even interacted with Protestant Christians. Then, there are those like myself who come in with some scars, no stranger to being considered a non-Christian or even condemned to hell. All of us, however, will walk out transformed from our time at Gordon because being a part of a theological minority is a life-changing experience.
My experiences, like the experiences of my fellow Catholics here at Gordon range widely. Largely, we are supported and encouraged by faculty and staff. However, each one of us have stories of heartache from Gordon of the times we were rejected, diminished, or misunderstood. The time a teacher declared a theological truth without acknowledging the Catholic perspective, the time a fellow student shared how their parent was a “Catholic” before they became a “Christian,” the time when a chapel speaker spoke out against religion as the antithesis of relationship with God, the time a guest lecturer made derogatory remarks about the Pope. Each one of these events hurt and isolate us, deepening the divide between Protestant and Catholic.
There are rampant misconceptions about Catholicism that are passed down in families and churches, crushing the ecumenical spirit. I see our generation fighting it, asking the right questions and challenging the present ideals, but the beliefs are pervasive and strong.
If I may speak for both myself and my fellow Catholics, I want to share what it is we truly want. Quite simply, we want to be heard. We want an ear that is willing to listen and a mind that is willing to try and understand. And ultimately, we want our view to be seen as valid – as a well thought out, faithful, and legitimate expression of Christian faith, whether you agree with it or not.
We are all a part of the Christian family, the body of Christ. Truly, there is so much we can learn from one another; where one has strengths, the other has weaknesses. As Christians, if we are not able to dialogue amongst ourselves, how can we expect to have life-giving dialogue with those outside of the faith? Similarly, we must consider what picture of Christianity we are presenting to those outside the faith when we so divisively divided.
In this year of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, I challenge all of us, Catholics and Protestants alike, to take practical steps to bridge the gap between us.
Jesus called his Church to unity. I strongly believe this is not a call to uniformity, as God made us all strikingly different. Instead, I believe this to be a call to love beyond theological differences, and often, the first step to love is just listening. I encourage you, whatever your denomination, to take the first step. Find someone who has a different background and start asking questions. Do some research to better understand your fellow Christians. Attend Gordon’s Catholic Student Fellowship on Wednesday nights at 8pm in the third floor chapel lounge and engage in dialogue with us.
As we begin to take these steps towards one another, we start looking more and more like the Church we are called to be.