By Patricia Brennan
The University of Dallas celebrated a multitude of cultures and countries during International Week, which took place March 17-20. The celbration consisted of various activities, lectures and events celebrating the cultural diversity on campus, in the world and within the Catholic Church.
On Tuesday, the School of Ministry held a lecture as a part of International Week focusing on the Virgin Mary and how she is venerated around the world. The “Mary Around the World” lecture was presented by Dr. Ted Whapham, the dean of the School of Ministry; Pía Septien, the director of Continuing Education Instructor; and Michele Meny, the coordinator for graduation enrollment and student services.
“[The point of the presentation was] to show the many faces of Mary, through a cultural aspect, through a time period aspect, and through a veneration aspect,” said Meny. Mary, as the mother of God, is an intrinsic component of the Catholic faith. However, as Meny pointed out in the beginning of the presentation, she is viewed in unique ways by each culture.
“That’s the beauty of Christ, and of the Blessed Mother,” Meny said. “The message is for all, and the conduit in which you hear it may be heard from many different people.”
Meny opened her presentation with the story of Our Lady of Czestochowa, also known as the Black Madonna, who is the “Protectress of Poland.” She also told the story of Mary Undoer of Knots, a painting of Mary commissioned by a priest after his parents’ marriage was saved by the divine intercession of Mary. She touched upon several other venerations of Mary, including Mary Queen of Ireland and Our Lady of Lourdes.
Septien presented next, and spoke of Mary in the Americas, choosing to focus on other, lesser known venerations of Mary, rather than Our Lady of Guadalupe. She first spoke of Our Lady of Charity in Cuba. According to the story, several fishermen saw something floating in the water off of the coast of Cuba after a terrible storm. When they approached the object, they found that it was a wooden statue of Our Lady of Charity. Believing Our Lady to have saved them, they made a shrine for her once they returned to shore. There is a statue of Our Lady of Charity in the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Dallas. It was a gift from Cuban refugees who were welcomed to the diocese, showing the universality of Mary and the Catholic Church.
“Mary herself gets close to the people, no matter where she is,” Septien said. “She was there at the precise moment and that is how the veneration begins.”
Whapham chose to focus on how Mary is honored in Africa and Asia, and, specifically, how she is honored in religions other than Roman Catholicism.
“Mary is an image of the Church,” Whapham said. “Whenever we say something about Mary, we’re either saying something about Christ, or we’re saying something about the Church, and therefore all of us.”
Whapham’s presentation included the honor bestowed on Mary in the Eastern Orthodox and Islamic religions. In the Qur’an, Mary is the most mentioned woman.
“Mary is someone who not only crosses cultures, but crosses various religious traditions,” said Whapham.
Meny summarized the importance of Mary to the Catholic Church and the world as a whole.
“What Mary teaches and is a role model for, ‘I am the handmaiden of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your Word,’ resonates however she is seen throughout the world,” she said.
Mary was not the only prominent topic of International Week. Festivities began with the opening ceremony and presentation of flags, along with an international fashion show. The flags remained on the Mall during most of International Week. Students were invited to participate in all of the activities and events held.
On Tuesday, many booths were set up on the Mall, representing various nations and cultures. The Spanish Club sold cascarones, which are hollowed eggs with confetti inside of them. Graduate students wrote names in Arabic, and many booths provided food from different cultures.
Several lectures and discussions were held on Wednesday: “Mexico Myth Busting,” “Beyond UD into the World,” and “Cultural and Educational Non-Profit Organizations.” There was also an opportunity for people to attend Zumba class and drink smoothies in Gregory Hall that evening.
Thursday’s events included an Italian cookout in honor of St. Joseph’s feast day, as well as a cricket exhibition and a movie screening. The night ended with a St. Patrick’s Day-themed TGIT in honor of the feast day of St. Patrick that occurred earlier in the week.
International Week concluded on Friday with an Indian Movie Night held in Lynch Auditorium. The week’s events showed an appreciation and respect for all cultures and nations. UD represents a multicultural environment, emphasized by the Italian flag flying adjacent to the American flag in Vilfordi Plaza. Students are taught about classical works from around the world, learn the history of nations and are given the opportunity to truly see the world thanks to the Rome Program. Through the activities planned for the student body both religious and otherwise, International Week highlighted the meaning of the Universal Church.