Georgetown Appoints Hindu Chaplain

News: Education
by Rodney Pelletier  •  •  August 11, 2016   

The Hindu priest wants a worship space with pagan deities

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WASHINGTON ( - Jesuit Catholic Georgetown University is appointing a pagan Hindu priest as a chaplain for first-year students. He's hoping the school will implement a Hindu worship space with pagan deities.

Father Howard Gray, S.J., the interim Vice President for Mission and Ministry, was "pleased" to announce in a recent email that Brahmachari Vrajvihari Sharan has been appointed Georgetown's director for Hindu life and chaplain-in-residence for first year students in the New South dormitory.

As chaplain he is expected to have an "understanding of and commitment to promoting Georgetown's Catholic, Jesuit mission and identity" and "commitment to one's own religious and spiritual life and comfort in sharing one's own religiosity and spirituality with students, staff and faculty." He is also expected to give spiritual direction to undergraduate students of any faith.

Sharan commented,

GU should make efforts to provide specific designated space for worship, congregation and cooking to Hindu students, like some other religions on the campus. It should preferably include a shrine containing murtis [statues] of popular Hindu deities like Shiva, Vishnu, Rama, Krishna, Durga, Venkateshwara, Ganesha, Murugan, Saraswati, Hanuman, Lakshmi, Kali, etc.

Georgetown's Hindu Students Association gathers for "communal chanting, meditation and discussion at weekly pujas (prayer services)" with public celebration of Hindu holy days. Out of nearly 18,000 students and faculty, there are approximately 400, or two percent, who practice Hinduism on campus.

The university website lists several "faith communities" on campus, with the Catholic faith being one of them. Other religions like Judaism, Protestantism, Orthodox Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Mormonism and "Humanist/None/Unaffiliated" are given equal billing to Catholicism.

Founded in 1789, Georgetown is the oldest Catholic and Jesuit university in the United States.

In 1968 the university was the first Catholic institution to hire a Jewish rabbi as chaplain and a Muslim imam 30 years later. The first Hindu chaplain was hired in 2015, but she left for personal reasons after three months.


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