The Lake Oswego Review, May 28, 2009

06 Jun
June 6, 2009


Ministries program starts new era here
Effort reaches out to other religions
By Cliff Newell

Ready to lead Marylhurst University Ministries into a new era are directors, from left, Father Rick Ganz, SJ, Dr. Cecilia Ranger and Dr. Sheila O’Connell-Roussell.
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Marylhurst University has made great strides in recent years, and now its ministries program is stepping up to keep pace.

“Marylhurst University has been changing ever since it started,” said Dr. Cecelia Ranger of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, the order that founded Marylhurst. “It has continually evolved to meet the needs of people. The ministries program needs to evolve, too.”

Ranger will be directing this evolution, along with Father Rick Ganz, SJ, and Dr. Sheila O’Connell-Roussell. They are heading up a ministries program that formerly was sort of like Marylhurst campus buildings before they were recently so beautifully renovated – somewhat shabby and worn.

But the blueprints are ready for some great work:

n Major emphasis on interfaith relationships.

n Reaching out to the surrounding community.

n Provide religious instruction to students, no matter what their faith.

n Confront “real world” issues with spiritual insight.

It will be new energy and new methods devoted to a mission that has been the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, from the start.

“The Sisters have always taught anybody who came to their door,” Ranger said. “Whatever their denomination or age. We want to help them develop to their fullest capacity possible.”

Perhaps the most eye-catching aspect of the re-invigorated ministries program is the emphasis on reaching out to other Christian denominations and other religions.

“Things have changed so much already,” said Ganz. “When I was growing up in the 1950s it was considered a sin to even go into a Protestant church.”

Still, if there has been great progress in improving contact and creating empathy between persons of different faiths over the past 50 years, in some ways things have stayed disappointingly the same.

“We have worked so hard over the last 100 years to achieve unity – Anglicans, Lutherans, Greek Orthodox, Catholics,” Ganz said. “But most people don’t know that. We have got to get going to heal our world and not sit back in our camps.”

“Reaching out to others does not obliterate my Catholic calling,” Ranger said. “We aren’t asking people to change their religion. We want to help a Presbyterian be the best Presbyterian he can be.”

To that end, Marylhurst recently has become the scene for some impressive ecumenical gatherings, including “Partners for Peace” on March 15, which attracted Jews, Muslims, Sabeel (a Palestinian Christian group), Catholics, Buddhists, all praying together for peace in the Middle East.

These are efforts that Marylhurst, with its history, seems uniquely qualified to achieve.

However, the main impact of the new ministries program could be in reaching people one-on-one, students who are burdened by the problems of the real world.

O’Connell-Roussell sees them all of the time.

“Twice in my own classroom there have been episodes involving Iraq veterans,” she said. “There have been deaths in families. These are real issues we must deal with.”

It is a unique challenge that the three ministries directors face at Marylhurst. Looking around at the campus on a typical spring day you see some students sunning themselves or throwing a Frisbee.

But most Marylhurst students are “non-typical” college students. As Ranger put it, “They’re not here for summer camp.” They’re at Marylhurst to achieve more education and better their lives.

In meeting Ranger, O’Connell-Roussell and Ganz, you are impressed with their vast credentials. In fact, one of Ranger’s accomplishments was hiring O’Connell-Roussell in 1992 when she was dean of the religious studies department at Marylhurst.

But what really wins you over is their incredible enthusiasm.

With a big smile, Ranger said, “It is an exciting time to be alive and to be here and walk with people down these paths.”

To read more about Marylhurst University Ministry, go to the site http://universityministry.blogspot.com .

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