Inclusivity, Diversity, and the Value of Community
As one enters St. Thomas More Chapel and gazes upon the expanse of the Kurelek mural on the north wall, one notices that images of gathering abound. Indigenous peoples and newcomers, women and men, young and old (and even one ghost!) gather around the central figure of Christ feeding the multitudes. Better than any other image in the College, the mural depicts a core feature of STM’s communal life – we are an inclusive community.
To be an inclusive community means being conscious of God working in each person’s life, recognizing the dignity of the individual as a unique creation and revelation of the divine. To that end, all are welcome at STM. Furthermore, following Catholic tradition, discrimination is not tolerated on any grounds.* We strive to live out of a deep respect for the human person, convinced that she/he is created in the “image and likeness of God.”1
Perhaps paradoxically, but also boldly, we believe that being both inclusive and diverse strengthens the Catholic identity of St. Thomas More College. Identity is never born in a vacuum. Identity is forged and discovered in relationship. Healthy identities breed healthy relationships; healthy relationships enable the deepening of our identity. Theologian Peter Phan articulates well this mystery: "Rather than differentiation or exclusiveness, I conceive Catholic identity as intensification and deepening of those deep structures that are pervasive in the Catholic church’s faith and practice and that are possessed in common with other Churches and even with non-Christian believers. In this way ecumenical and interreligious dialogues do not constitute a threat to the preservation of the Catholic identity; rather they provide necessary means and opportunities for deepening and intensifying the Catholic identity; not over [or] against the others but with them."3
At St. Thomas More College, we live in the context of a federated relationship with the University of Saskatchewan. Within that relationship we are both humble and confident, not only in our dialogue with believers from other traditions, but also with those who claim no faith tradition. We also foster dialogue among the many expressions of faith within Catholicism. Each encounter, each conversation, allows for a dynamic deepening of the quest toward greater truth. We celebrate the discovery of our own collective identity as we develop a wide constellation of relationships within a diverse academic community, both at STM and the wider campus.
In practical terms, this means that our students, faculty and staff represent a wide range of beliefs and backgrounds. We ask that those who participate in this community of learners willingly engage in dialogue ever conscious that, within a Catholic college, one of the interlocutors will always be the Catholic intellectual tradition.
At the end of the day, community must have the last word. We see ourselves as a community of learners, striving for unity of vision amidst the diversity of human perspectives that naturally make-up our world. Transcending difference and deepening communion is an act of love to which we bear witness.
Questions for Reflection
What are images or instances of community that you recognize at STM?
How might we better communicate to all who enter that we are an inclusive community?
*Gaudium et Spes #29: “…with respect to the fundamental rights of the person, every type of discrimination, whether social or cultural, whether based on sex, race, colour, social condition, language or religion, is to be overcome and eradicated as contrary to God’s intent.”
1 Genesis 1:26
2 Peter C. Phan, Being Religious Interreligiously: Asian Perspectives on Interfaith Dialogue (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2004), 59.