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Not Everyone is Catholic

Some insights from the other 15%

RELATED: Administration addresses anti-Semitic remarks

RELATED: Administration addresses anti-Semitic remarks

Administration Addresses Student Anti-Semitic Remarks

Head of School Mr. Christian Talbot and President Fr. James Flynn sent an email to the Malvern community of parents on Wednesday, May 28, recognizing and denouncing Anti-Semitic remarks made by Malvern students.  On at least three separate occasions, Haverford students were the subject of these remarks.

“These comments are antithetical to our Augustinian, Catholic values. They express neither Truth, nor Unity, nor Love. Indeed, these comments express the opposite of our Augustinian values,” wrote Talbot in the email, also signed by Fr. Flynn.

Talbot took the issue “personally,” as his wife is Jewish.  He also noted that a member of the Malvern faculty is Jewish.

These comments were made back in August to a campus visitor from Haverford, on social media after a lacrosse game, and during the Inter-Ac Lacrosse Championships.

There was a call to action for the parents to talk with their sons about the incidents.  Talbot stated that there will be follow-up in grade-level awards assemblies this week.

“We know that young men will say and do thoughtless things. It is our responsibility as adults to intervene when we see these errors in judgment,” Talbot wrote.

-J. Bennett, J. Marchesani

Nearly every Monday, the students of Malvern Prep gather in Our Lady of Good Counsel Chapel to get a spiritual message for the week. This is to be expected at a Catholic school. However, not all of our brothers are Catholic, and Malvern is also an independent school. On the Malvern webpage, it’s says that only 85% of students at Malvern are Catholic. Who are the other 15% of students – nearly 100 members of our student community?

On the recent Student Diversity Survey, members of our student community also identified as Protestant, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Atheist, Agnostic, other Christian denominations, and having no religious beliefs.  The non-Catholic brotherhood of Malvern includes students such as Justice Bennett ‘16, Hadid Thomas ‘14, and Andrew Freed ‘14.

Do non-Catholic students have an equal voice on Malvern’s campus?  “I do not think we have an equal representation on campus. And I do not think we should, as it is a Catholic institution,” said Freed, who is a member of the United Church of Christ. “But we do have a voice, and I’m satisfied with our representation as it is.”

Sophomore Justice Bennett, an atheist, sees things a little differently. “I would say that everything at Malvern is pretty much taught or whatever it may be with the expectation that everyone is Catholic,” said Bennett. “I think it may be forgotten that there are 15% of the school who isn’t Catholic, and that the mentality should change, especially in the wake of the diversity initiative.”

There are substantive differences in beliefs between their religions and the principles of the Catholic Church. On occasion, teachers and fellow Malvern students say or do things that are counter to the beliefs of non-Catholic students.

“It’s stuff that they say that I clearly don’t believe in because it’s two different faiths. I don’t think it comes from disrespect, just from thinking different things,” said senior Hadid Thomas, who is Muslim.  “When I have to hear it I just take what I can from the message because it’s more about the syntax not the whole belief point.”

Freed provided an example. “I do not believe in transubstantiation. So at every Eucharist the Friars are doing something against what I believe. But I respect what they believe and just wait quietly to the side. It’s never made me uncomfortable.”

“I also don’t agree with the idea of a huge controlling body to the Church,” noted Freed. “The Pope, cardinals, etc. And sometimes that is brought up in conversation. But I have never felt uncomfortable around the Friars to talk about my personal beliefs, and they are very respectful. They are trying to spread peace, not guilt me into converting,” he said.

For Catholic students, participation in chapel services may range from prayerful participation and a rousing alma mater to dozing off.  How do the non-Catholic students participate in chapel?  “Most of the time I prove math theories in my head, bring something, like a squish ball, into chapel to keep me occupied, or think about philosophical questions completely unrelated,” said Bennett.  “However, some of the speakers, like the Augustinian recruiter, I find hilarious and actually listen to.”

On the recent diversity survey, over 20% of our students reported hearing students make disparaging remarks about persons of particular religious backgrounds frequently or very often.  Hadid Thomas’s Muslim faith is one that has invoked slurs during his time at Malvern. Thomas has called students out on their behavior. “It’s mostly ignorance but I don’t appreciate disrespect,” he said.

How does Malvern work to make students of other faiths feel welcome at the school?”  As an Augustinian school, the concept of forming a dynamic Christian community has always been very important to Malvern, so it goes without saying that our first priority is to welcome everyone and to try to make everyone feel welcome,” said President Fr. James Flynn, OSA.  “The upperclassmen are traditionally great models in this.  Essentially, we try to make them feel welcome by loving them.”

“As a Catholic school, we are committed to forming all of our students within the Roman Catholic tradition, but we should also welcome and learn from our non-Catholic brothers and sisters,” according to Mr. Christian Talbot, Head of School.  “St. Augustine himself sought out non-Catholics – that dialogue didn’t threaten his faith, it actually strengthened it!”

“Diversity of religious belief is akin to diversity of ethnicity, socio-economic status, and other differences,” continued Talbot.  “Every graduate of Malvern is entering a global economy, and the more comfortable and conversant you are with the diverse beliefs of others, the better equipped you will be to succeed.”

Talbot believes that discussion based in diversity “allows you to be a more committed Catholic while allowing your brother to be equally committed to his own faith tradition.”

Students sometimes wonder why students who aren’t Catholic come to Malvern. Each of the three students had different answers.

Hadid Thomas had three distinct reasons, “Brotherhood, sports and the opportunity to achieve major things after high school.”

According to Bennett, “I chose to attend Malvern for the higher academic standard than my public school.”

“I didn’t choose to. My parents forced me to attend. Haha, but that wasn’t because of religious reasons.  I just didn’t want to leave my public school friends behind,” said Freed.

“And obviously I am very glad they made me come!”

 

 

About Anthony Abron

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One comment

  1. Nicely written, Anthony. It was well researched and balanced. A very nice news piece.

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