Who are the people that make up Minnesota? And what are the implications of shifting demographics in Twin Cities for religious leaders? On March 11 and 12, 2018, the Collegeville Institute’s Multi-Religious Fellows met for their second gathering in Saint Paul, MN to learn from a variety of speakers on the topic of Minnesota identity. The Multi-Religious Fellows Program seeks to enhance civic participation by bringing faith leaders into conversation with the finest professionals and experts working to improve community life.
Dr. Laura Kalambokidis, Minnesota state economist and Allison Liuzzi, the director of the Compass demographic project at the Amhert H. Wilder Foundation, presented on the changing nature of Minnesota, including employment statistics and population profiles. Among the many data points conveyed was the decline in projected civic engagement in Minnesota. The headline in the 2018 COMPASS demographic report said it this way: MINNESOTA RANKS AMONG TOP STATES ON MEASURES OF CIVIC ENGAGEMENT – FOR NOW. This latest news from Wilder suggests the need for programs like the Multi-Religious Fellows, which seek to encourage local engagement from faith communities.
Other speakers spoke passionately about methods and tools by which congregations and communities can build alliances and pursue the common good, demonstrating that religious leadership can accomplish amazing, far reaching communal outcomes. Father Kevin McDonough, pastor of the 8,000 member Sagrado Corazon de Jesus parish in South Minneapolis, counseled the fellows on strategies required to both safeguard his congregation and help it thrive in challenging times. Rev. Rachel McIver Morey, senior pastor of Northfield United Methodist Church, challenged the fellows to not be afraid to break old coalitions. She had been a fellow in the original cohort of the Twin Cities Fellows and created a shelter for homeless teens for her final project in that program. In her talk, McIVer Morey shared advice about upending the safe and staid in pursuit of one’s goal and recounted the hurdles overcome in pulling off her pioneering venture.
Following the presentations, the Multi-Religious Fellows engaged in discussion and reflection from the viewpoint of their respective religious traditions. Director Barry Cytron noted that the fellows are “eager to both teach and learn from one another” and that he views the “eighteen months ahead in the program with with much promise and excitement.”