Close to 100 Spring Hill College students, faculty and staff gathered for a discussion on truth, faith and politics in modern times as part of the Community Conversation Series, “The Shape of Our Democracy.” The event, held on March 9 in the Mary Lou and John Barter Student Center, was the latest installment in a series that initially began as a way to promote civil discourse and open discussion on current topics related to the recent election. Two earlier sessions were hosted in the fall semester.
Students were grouped at tables of up to 10 people. A Spring Hill College faculty or staff member served as a table captain and discussion facilitator. Attendees shared 40 minutes of group discussion, answering questions posed by three speakers who opened the event: Tom Metcalf, PhD, assistant professor of philosophy, Rev. Philip Steele, SJ, rector of the Jesuit community at Spring Hill College, and Kevin Funk, PhD, assistant professor and director of international studies. President Christopher Puto, PhD, moderated, saying the series of events “has students contemplating major issues of our time in a setting that encourages open discussions.” He went on to say, “This, to me, embodies everything this college is about.”
Metcalf began the session by posing a question: What is our moral responsibility to the truth? He encouraged listeners to seek out the truth as voters and as Christians. Steele followed by asking if faith has anything to add to the current political conversation in our country. He added that “faith gives us a place to stand – a way of looking at things and asking ‘What is God’s truth?’” Funk ended the speakers’ presentation by asking participants to consider what their personal responsibility is to the international community.
“Spring Hill College is committed to enriching the spiritual, emotional and intellectual growth of our students. We are confident that learning how to engage in dialogue with individuals whose personal opinions and beliefs may differ from our own on topics that are relevant to today’s society is essential to an individual’s personal development as well as success and continued growth in a diverse world. These conversations are part of that learning,” said Puto.
Before the open discussion began, Puto reminded participants of the event’s objective. “People must be free to share what they are thinking. The intent of this series is to open minds, not to change them.” Led by their table captains, groups discussed the questions posed to them and were encouraged to write their answers cohesively. The conclusion of the event came with a prayer from Rev. Gregory Lucey, SJ, who charged participants to “Go forth to value and recognize dignity in all persons.”
Additional conversations will be conducted throughout the remainder of the semester. The topic and date for the next Community Conversation event has not yet been set.