Center for Faith and Vocation

Staff ~ Answering the Call

Judith Cebula, Director ~ Show Information

September 2005

I think often about the path that led me to journalism, then to Butler University, especially when I ask students here 'What do you care about? What matters to you? What do you believe in?' Reflecting on their convictions, I ask myself the same questions. Their stories lead me to answers, to the mystery of what brought me to journalism, through it, then to a university.

Journalism was a choice born of pragmatism - not unlike the genesis of the career choices of many of the students I know. When I was 17, preparing for college, I started to imagine my adulthood and wondered how I would take care of myself. I could write. That much I knew. And I had always found the stories of real places and real people interesting. It seems that I knew early on that the variety of these stories was inherently valuable and therefore good. I remember my father, a historian and teacher by his own training, telling stories about the coal mining town in eastern Pennsylvania where he grew up and about the old neighborhoods across Cincinnati where I was growing up. He told stories about working people - miners and migrant farm workers - but also about old houses and their architecture, about the river - the Ohio River - its barges and boats and the little towns along the banks.

So when I became a journalist it was because I thought the work could sustain me in salary and a health plan. It did. But it also nourished my need for stories. In that work I met the First Amendment head on, the idea that freedom of speech, freedom of the press and of religion was part of a sacred trust among citizens. It seemed to validate my belief that stories and ideas and beliefs in all their diversity were important. In its purist possible form, newspaper journalism cherishes this ideal above all others even as its commitment to truth, its promise of non-bias and its efforts to resist greed often falter. I could do this work, I thought, even when the profession compromised itself in these areas because it still valued inclusion, pluralism, openness - the idea that everyone has a potentially magnificent story to tell.

This view of the profession parallels my experience with religion. The "big tent" church of the Second Vatican Council, the reform movement in Catholicism, was all I knew of Christianity as a child. My mother, a devout and devoutly open-minded, Catholic, had made sure of that. She reared me and my sister in the faith by finding an ethnically diverse and theologically generous Catholic parish in urban Cincinnati. Only years later did I learn that that community, St. Mark Catholic Church, was technically a Black parish. I never knew because the young priest was white, a handful of very old parishioners were white and we were white. So what if most of the people in the pews and just about everyone in the parish school were Black? All I saw was a community of faith that welcomed me and embraced a faith in Jesus that knew no fear of the other.

It was in this same spirit that my mother and father sent me to public elementary school two neighborhoods away in the old Jewish immigrant community of Cincinnati. It was there, as a first-grader, that I began to learn about Judaism. It was the religion of my best friend, Beth, and of the very Old World looking families who walked everywhere on Saturdays. Judaism was from childhood a sister faith to my Catholicism. It was a place, really, where my religion came from and a tradition that I often thought was my true faith. In all honesty, I still hear Judaism calling me and I wonder if I am meant to convert.

So I never knew religion to be oppressive, or hurtful, or boring, or exclusive. Even now, knowing the truth to be otherwise, I still feel the need to somehow make religion accountable to its best self. I believe that is why I turned to writing about religion in newspapers and why the work of the broad exploration of diverse faiths has led me to Butler University and the experiment that is the Center for Faith and Vocation.

There are times that I miss the daily grind of journalism and the hopeful promise of a new edition of the newspaper coming out each day. Yet, this work of building community, supporting educators and connecting with students inspires in unexpected ways. I wonder if I will always see my work in journalism as a calling, or if journalism was part of a grand voice calling me to do the work of inclusion, openness and idealism.

Marguerite Stanciu ~ Show Information

When I reflect back on whom or what has guided me in the decisions of my life, I realize that it is faith. Faith in the sense of having confidence in oneself, to trust in one's ability to go forward, even in the midst of doubt and confusion, knowing that, at some point, there would be clarity.

Confidence, to me has an unwavering quality that, at times, can only be glimpsed. That glimpse is one of basic goodness, the belief that human beings are unconditionally, fundamentally good. This belief is expressed in the teachings of Buddhism and for me comes from my taking refuge as a Buddhist, practicing in the Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism. After years of searching within the Christian tradition, I met my Buddhist teacher Chogyam Trungpa and knew that I was "home" in terms of my religious practice and life orientation. Some people say that your teacher chooses you rather than the other way around. Sometimes I wonder about that in connection with vocation.

From there, I began to study the Shambhala teachings, a secular path of meditation introduced by Chogyam Trungpa to western students as a way of including people who were of a particular religious tradition or did not subscribe to one at all but still wanted to participate in a contemplative path. The Shambhala teachings speak to the materialism of the modern age, both in the tangible acquisition of objects and spiritual materialism. The premise is that human beings possess an inherent worth and dignity and are capable of living uplifted lives. As with Buddhism, the emphasis is on cultivating loving kindness toward oneself and extending out to others.

To me, the Center of Faith and Vocation reflects the belief that all human beings have value and possess the capability of experiencing the sacredness in everyday life and/or finding a voice for their religious and spiritual expression, however it manifests. The center provides a space for that expression and calls students, faculty and staff from the Butler University community to respond to the invitation to participate in our programs and events. Or bring your ideas about faith and vocation to us and we can explore them together.