Students Asked, The Department Responded
Ellen McCormick, 5-12 Religious Studies Department Chair and HS Religious Studies Faculty

One of the greatest joys of teaching is the “aha” moments when students recognize the significance of a particular academic discipline. As a 12-year religious studies educator in a religiously diverse part of the world, I can attest that this isn't something that happens regularly. Religion has felt distant, aloof and disconnected for many of my students, despite how much I tried to make them think about how religion is a thread embedded in the quilt that makes up communities, cultures and identities.

Fortunately for me, that changed when I found myself teaching at Forest Ridge, developing curriculum with like-minded colleagues and engaging in crucial conversations with students. These conversations extend to how religion has been used both to deny agency and claim agency in our world. With the national events that have unfolded over the last 18 months, a remarkable thing happened: Forest Ridge students asked for additional religious studies electives to allow them the space, safety and support to wrestle with religion as it intersects with our world's greatest challenges.

Enthusiastically, the religious studies department responded.

Through conversations with students and our religious studies and social studies educators, the religious studies department is offering two new upper-division electives this year: Indigenous Peoples and Race and Religion. While each course is unique, both share similar goals: (1) to center the voices of those who have been historically marginalized and oppressed and (2) to investigate paths to reconciliation, renewal and re-envisioning today on personal and structural levels. These goals are what students seek and the religious studies department, in partnership with the social studies department, are thrilled to deliver.

What makes this particularly exceptional is that both Indigenous Peoples and Race and Religion are infused with the spirit of Sacred Heart Goals and Criteria, the call to action from Catholic Social Teaching and the very heart of Christ’s teachings on dignity, compassion, inclusion and forgiveness.

It is an honor and privilege to teach students who are tuned in to the world around them, who want to understand its complexity and who are committed to pursuing a world that is more compassionate and equitable.

Stay tuned. There is more on the horizon for religious studies at Forest Ridge!