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Religious Studies Department Santa Clara University

Spring 2012


Spring 2012

In April, I attended Assisi 2012, which drew together more than 250 participants from 55 countries to explore new ways of advancing the cause of inter-religious dialogue. The Umbrian hilltop town of Assisi was chosen as the venue because of its long association with openness, charity, dialogue, peace, harmony and communion, and with the particular charisms of the Franciscans founded by St. Francis and St. Clare. I was asked to speak on St. Clare and the unique ways she and the Poor Ladies at San Damiano created church in living the Gospel. I stood in the sanctuary of the Basilica of St. Clare, and began, “Our conference work, just as the work of the San Damiano community 800 years ago, is one of house repair . . .“ After the keynote address, my husband and I walked outside the city walls of Assisi, to the church of San Damiano, where Clare, the namesake of our University, lived most of her life. I asked a friar there about Clare and the San Damiano community. “She left an imprint of contemplation and silence, of Eucharist love and light. People come here for peace,” he said. “San Damiano links a person to eternity, in a dialogue of presence. It is a place for the Church and the world to be restored and reconciled.” Clare, Chiara in Italian, means "light." Her mother, Ortulana, while praying at a Church for a safe delivery, heard a voice, which said, "You will give birth to a light that will shine brilliantly in the world." Thus, she named her daughter, Chiara. The prophecy did not stipulate that this light would be limited to the 13th century, nor to Umbria. For a while now, I’ve wondered if Clare can be a light to us here at Santa Clara. Students, one by one, catch the light within themselves. I imagine Clare would write to each of them words similar to those she wrote to the twenty-three year old Agnes: “May you go forward, securely, joyfully and swiftly.” In her final blessing, Clare instructed her sisters to be “mirrors and examples” to one another, and to the world. As we do good, we draw out the good in one other. From my perspective, I find this mirror-activity in the Religious Studies faculty and staff, and in students – reflecting good to one another, and to the world.

Contents Speaker Series


Faculty Updates


Rutillio and Romero Commemoration


Ghost Monkey Quest


Alumna Spotlight


RS Reception & Awards


Alumni Updates



On the evening of May 10 , bells of our Mission Church rang out. In the sanctuary, alumna Elisse La Barre, ’09, stepped to the conductor’s stand, and with the gesture of her baton, brought her sister’s premier work, St. Clare’s Vespers Concert: Correspondence, to life. Leslie La Barre, ’10, had composed music inspired by Saint Clare’s Letters to Agnes of Prague, and wove antiphons and the hymn dedicated to St. Clare from the Santa Clara Mission Choral book, not heard for over 200 years, into the concert. Alumna, guest and faculty soloists with SCU chamber musicians performed the stunning Correspondence in candlelight before an audience of over a hundred to th celebrate the 800 anniversary of St. Clare of Assisi. “Correspondence was an amazing experience, drawing influences from the relevant 800 year-old text of St. Clare, transcribing 200-year-old music written for her from the Mission, and being a graduate from Santa Clara University, writing music specifically for the Mission Church,” Leslie said. “I found sheer joy and the timelessness of Clare’s letters.” Elisse found refractions of light, too. “It was about connections, soloists and the musicians with texts, ancient, in an avant-garde composition, and about connections with one another as musicians.” Indeed, the ensemble emulated an irrepressible joy, playing off one another. It was a great exchange. If I am seeing clearly, I perceive something similar catching light in our Religious Studies Department, and in the University. Reflections about the conference, Assisi 2012 attended by Professor Jean Molesky-Poz For more information on St. Clare, check the Religious Studies website (

Newsletter Editors: Adam Reiss & Olivia Skierka

Perspectives Spring 2012  

perspectives spring 2012

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