By Catherine O’Grady
Last Thursday, Campus Ministry hosted Monsignor Ray East, pastor of St. Teresa of Avila parish in the historic Anacostia neighborhood of Washington D.C., as a speaker in their CUA on Tap series. East talked to students about striving to be saints, especially during the Halloween season, and about being inclusive to different people and different types of worship on campus.
East spent five years as a resident priest of Catholic U during the 1980s. Today he ministers to a predominantly African American community that attends St. Teresa of Avila parish. The way the community worships and celebrates the sacraments differs from the spiritual environment celebrated on Catholic University’s campus. To demonstrate this difference, the choir from St. Anthony of Padua Parish, located in the Brookland neighborhood, was invited to perform traditional and contemporary gospel music as attendees of the event ate dinner catered by Qdoba. The choir is led by CUA graduate and music ministry director of St. Anthony’s, Lynné Gray, affectionately known as “Mama G.”
East spent the evening sharing his own faith journey and advising students to think about dressing up as a saint for Halloween, as well as inviting students to open themselves up to different forms of worship.
“I think the challenge of expanding and opening up our hearts and minds to the greater population of diversity of our fellow brothers and sisters is one of the main messages to take away from Msgr. Ray’s talk,” said Thersa Gardner, campus minister in Opus and primary organizer for this event. “Our primary identity as the Catholic church is universality. We thus have a responsibility to ‘leave the 99 sheep to find the one lost sheep.’ We cannot afford to stay within the confines of a comfortable and secure group of believers, but we need to instead join hands with our brothers and sisters on the outside, to the most vulnerable, to the most unwelcomed, to the ‘widow, the orphan and the stranger.’”
“The goal is to get to heaven,” said East. He made sure to emphasize how every action is either leading individuals closer to God or farther away from him.
East challenged the audience to step outside of their traditional worship practices, asking everyone to hold hands as Gospel music was sung, led by the St. Anthony’s choir.
“I thought it was interesting how we all held hands towards the end while singing,” said sophomore Abbey Ottiviano. . “That was something quite different but also cool because we are all neighbors and should care for one another.”