Wood Oaks students discover commonality among religions, despite differences
Wood Oaks Jr. High students arrive to Techny Towers during a field trip on Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013, in Northbrook. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 15, 2013 12:09PM
NORTHBROOK — Curious Wood Oaks Junior High School sixth-graders from Northbrook visited different houses of worship as part of their “World Beliefs” studies.
They toured on Jan. 31 Beth Shalom, a Jewish synagogue in Northbrook; Manav Seva Mandir, a Hindu temple in Bensenville; and the chapel at Techny, home of the Divine Word Missionaries, a Roman Catholic Order of religious men.
The Rev. Carlos Paniagua-Monroy, SVD, chaplain of Techny’s Chapel of the Holy Spirit, explained that Techny was the place where the first Divine Word Missionaries sent to the U.S. settled in 1896. The Society in 1909 opened St. Mary’s Mission Seminary at Techny, the first seminary established in the U.S. primarily to train men for foreign missions.
In this chapel, hundreds or seminarians at a time worshipped God. That’s why it’s so big, he said in response to a student’s question about the chapel’s expansive dimensions.
Why do you worship on Sunday? Why are those statues up there? What is that structure? students asked.
“That structure is a confessional. In the Catholic faith we have this tradition where when we have done a pile of bad things we are sorry for, we tell them to a priest in confession,” Rev. Monroy said.
“Then the priest gives absolution, offering God’s forgiveness. No matter what, God is there for you. That’s a Catholic thing.”
Statues of saints are on the altars because Catholics venerate people who have achieved a higher level of sanctity, he added.
“They were not perfect. They may even be people who had fallen, but had gotten up to lead good lives,” Rev. Monroy said. “And Catholics worship God on Sunday because they believe that God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh day. Because we believe that we are the image and likeness of God, we do the same thing.”
Sixth Grade teacher Geoffrey Marshall noted that learning “World Beliefs” such as these became part of the students’ studies about four years ago after a curriculum revision.
Prior to it becoming a stand-alone unit, “beliefs” had been incorporated into the geographical and cultural studies of each unit, he said.
“The decision was made to collectively address different beliefs to give the students broader exposure,” Marshall added. “Also, it was to allow them to draw out more universal themes and parallels among the beliefs, teachings and practices.”
Samantha Greenberg, 12, said today she learned at Techny that Jesus was killed on a cross and “Christmas is not all about Santa Claus.”
“I was surprised that Christianity and Judaism are so similar and have so much in common. They are really connected,” added Alyssa Mages, 12.
And Abby Schaefer, 11, noted that if she chose to learn more about any of the religions it would be about Hinduism, because it is so different.
“Hindus believe in a Supreme Being and truth, dharma and karma,” she said. “They also believe that Brahman is the true God, and invisible and formless like electricity. That is different to me.”