CommUNITY Week is an excellent time to reflect on the important roles that art, culture, spirituality and learning have in our lives. It is a time for the University of St. Thomas and Twin Cities communities to share and exchange through formal and informal networks.

In its third year, CommUNITY Week has turned the spotlight on the vital contribution that culture and spirituality make in learning and in life. Music, faith, books, theater and dialogue about uncomfortable issues are a part of daily life and have a lasting impact. They inspire and challenge us and broaden our horizons. We respect the Ramadan and Rosh Hashanah religious traditions as we reflect and celebrate.

The third annual CommUNITY Week celebration will begin Sunday, Sept. 28, with an Ecumenical Gospel Music Celebration fundraiser in the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas. As a learning community rich in faith and heritage, it is important that we work toward uniting our community through a greater sense of shared spirituality. The Office of Institutional Diversity continues to support St. Thomas' strategic priorities of access, excellence and Catholic identity.

One goal of the OID is to improve and enhance campus climate through a number of intentional initiatives. One way to do this is to fortify our humanity in the name of God through gospel music. Music is a universal language that transcends social status, ethnic origin, gender, generation, faiths, culture and background.

The Ecumenical Gospel Music Celebration fundraiser is a diverse program that features gospel music performed by a mixture of Twin Cities musicians and choirs. Funds raised will benefit diversity and access initiatives in the Office of Institutional Diversity.

Award-winning artists performing in this celebration will include: Bruce A. Henry, Debbie Duncan, T. Mychael Rambo and Yolande Bruce. Henry will serve as guest director and Rambo as master of ceremonies.

The Hallel Praise Team Ministry from Holding Forth the Word of Life Ministries International and the Voices of Unity Choir from Pilgrim Baptist Church will join in this jubilant celebration from 3 to 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 28, in the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas.

Legendary editor emerita of Essence magazine, Susan L. Taylor, also will headline CommUNITY Week. Taylor has empowered the powerless and provided hope for "all God's children" through her famous "In the Spirit" columns. She is an accomplished author, editor, humanitarian and national spokeswoman for National Cares Mentoring Movement. .
Susan L. Taylor

Taylor will join our community for two major events: 1) "All About Love: Living Fearlessly in a Changing World," 7-9 p.m. Monday, Sept. 29, in Room 304, Murray-Herrick Campus Center (followed by a reception and book signing), and 2) "Diversity Dialogues: Lifting Voices in the Circle," 11:45 a.m.-1 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 30, in Room 304, Murray-Herrick Campus Center. Get details on these events in the CommUNITY Week schedule that follows this column.

I appreciate the forward thinking of co-chairs Michael Glirbas and Cynthia Fraction. In addition, we always are fortunate to have eager students, faculty and staff who contribute their time by serving on the Steering and Volunteer Committee. A special "thank you" to all these willing volunteers who publicly support our diversity initiatives. In addition, thank you Gayle Lamb and Food Service for providing special menus in various dining facilities throughout this week.

I personally invite students, faculty and staff members to attend as many events as possible. I encourage faculty to provide students with co-curricular learning opportunities by considering CommUNITY Week events for extra credit. On a college campus, diversity becomes intellectually, culturally and socially productive and central to the university's educational mission when it is a source of mutual enrichment to all members of the university community. In this way, education becomes a tool through which the fact of diversity is transformed to exciting and productive actions of diversity, creating a climate and environment so stimulating and attractive that the experience of difference becomes a source of excellence and an instrument of achievement.

A very special "thank you" is extended to all CommUNITY Week sponsors for their generosity and support. Each sponsor is recognized in the schedule of events below. Visit our Web site for additional details.

Here is the schedule of CommUNITY Week events:

Sunday, Sept. 28

* Ecumenical Gospel Music Celebration fundraiser, 3-5:30 p.m. in the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas, honorary co-host Anchor Hilyard Lodge. Tickets will be on sale at the St. Thomas Box Office and Expeditions, lower level, Murray-Herrick Campus Center, and online Sept. 17 through Sept. 26. Tickets prices are $25 for general admission and $15 for students (with ID). Discounts are available for general admission groups (10 tickets for $225 and 20 tickets for $450). Tickets may be purchased concert day from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Box Office. VISA, Master Card, Discover and student eXpress cards will be accepted. Call the Box Office at (651) 962-6137 with questions.


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