Seton Hall University will kick off its yearlong commemoration “Building Bridges: Sixty Years of Jewish-Christian Dialogue on Wednesday. This will be the first of several events celebrating the work of Monsignor John M. Oesterreicher, among others, and their involvement with the Church’s relationship with the Jewish community.
Oesterreicher, who came to Seton Hall in 1953, escaped Nazi Germany and converted to Christianity.
According to Professor Paul Gibbons, chairman of the board, Oesterreicher often said: “I would never become a Catholic if it meant not being a Jew.”
It was with this mentality that Oesterreicher founded the Institute of Judeo-Christian Studies at Seton Hall University.
This institute created one of the first dialogues of its kind, and has continued undisturbed to date.
“The year long commemoration, ‘Building Bridges: 60 Years of Interreligious Dialogue,’ focuses on the Catholic mission of Seton Hall University by honoring the legacy of Monsignor Jon M. Oesterreicher, who founded the Institute of Judeo-Christian Studies here in 1953,” President Gabriel Esteban said.
“During 2013, which Pope Benedict XVI has designated the Year of Faith for the Church, Seton Hall will host a series of events intended to highlight who we are as an academically attuned university and to enrich our community with opportunities for reconciliation that Monsignor Oesterreicher and his successors have fostered in the aftermath of the Holocaust and in a world beset with misunderstanding among religions and cultures around the globe,” said Esteban.
Following the inaugural celebration Jan. 30, events will continue throughout the spring semester as well as fall 2013.
One notable event will take place March 21, according to Gibbons. The University will celebrate the 20th annual Evening of Roses, in memory of Sister Rose Thering.
Sister Rose also was heavily involved in forming and continuing the Jewish-Christian dialogue, accoring to Gibbons.
Additionally these events will involve the community at large, just as the efforts of Oesterreicher, according to Gibbons. The South Orange Maplewood Holocaust Interfaith Service will host an event later this spring.
A year of celebration acknowledges the impact Seton Hall University itself had on Nostra Aetate, a document that emphasized the religious bond and lineage shared by Jews and the Catholic Church
“We view Seton Hall as a sacred space where reason, reflection, research and religious tradition all have a place” Esteban said, “in the classroom, in worship, in social engagement and in dialogue. In this way, and in this time we are all called to turn darkness into light.”
The current director of the Institute of Judeo-Christian studies, the Rev. Lawrence Frizzell, agreed.
“The 60th anniversary of the Institute of Judeo-Christian Studies is a time to express gratitude to God and to Monsignor. John M. Oesterreicher, its founder and director for forty years, and to Mme. H. Suzanne Jobert, a Catholic lady who was our major benefactor over the decades,” he said. “Rabbi Asher Finkel and I were speakers at the 20th anniversary celebration in October 1973, in the shadow of the Yom Kippur War. the institute continues to pursue education as the means to promote understanding and amity between Christians and Jews, building upon the foundation of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65).”
Frizell stated also the nature of the celebration was not only a celebration of the past.
“The celebration focus is twofold: past and future. The dialogue is 60 years strong,” he said.
According to Frizell, the institute hopes for religious issues of the modern day to be resolved as ones in the past have been.
“Our hope and prayer: May the Middle East be blessed with peacemakers who reflect the call of God, the true maker of peace!”
Erin Williams can be reached at email@example.com.