When Catholicism meets Hinduism

Sr. Annelle Fitzpatrick, CSJ, Special to the Torch

The Diocese of Brooklyn (Office of Interreligious Affairs) and St. John’s University (Vincentian Center for Church & Society) co-sponsored an interactive workshop on Saturday, Oct. 15 entitled “Hinduism: Explored, Explained & Experienced.” 50 people were in attendance. Participants came from throughout the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens as well as  from the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Rockville Center. Participants included teachers, college students, chaplains, pastors, Directors of Religious Education, Deacons and retirees.

This interactive workshop started with the morning session involving two lectures, “explaining” the Hindu tradition. The first lecture was given by Dr. Susan Maurer “Hinduism – An Overview”– followed by a second presentation by Dr. Craig Baron entitled, “Hinduism and Catholicism: Points of Synergy.”  Both lecturers are professors at St. John’s University.

The afternoon session involved boarding a bus and “exploring” two Hindu temples. The first stop was the “Sarvamangala Temple” in Queens Village where visitors  had the opportunity to witness a “puja ceremony” (worship service) and observe a catechetical class with young children of Indian descent.  

wThey were learning  the teachings inherent in the classical “Vedas” of the Hindu tradition.  After spending almost two hours in the “Saneeswara Temple of New York”, participants then traveled to the Ganesh Temple in Flushing where they again had the opportunity to observe devout Hindus worship and pray in their sacred space.

The evening concluded with “experiencing” a traditional Hindu meal consisting of curry chicken, rice, lentils and fruit. Guests from the Sarvamangal Temple were invited to join in the festivities on the University campus. Students from the St. John’s Hindu Student Council and students from the Saneeswara Temple of New York entertained the dinner guests with traditional Indian dance and song.  At the conclusion of the workshop, participants agreed that, while it was a long day, it was a worthwhile experience. The lectures were extremely informative. The actual experience of going into a Hindu temple, of meeting Hindu children and their teachers and of observing their neighbors at prayer – made them realize that Catholics have much in common with these newcomers to American shores.  

Msgr. Guy Massie, the Vicar for Interfaith Affairs for the Diocese of Brooklyn stated that because the Diocese of Brooklyn & Queens is the most diverse Diocese in the United States, it is imperative that we learn more about the cultural and religious beliefs of these new immigrant populations.  The Office of Interreligious Affairs looks forward to partnering with St. John’s University in hosting additional educational programs where participants can meet their new neighbors and “explore and experience”  other faith traditions in this – the most diverse Diocese in the United States.