The Parliament of the World’s Religions Returns to Chicago

World’s first Parliament of Religions, held in Chicago in connection with the Columbian Exposition of 1893. Image from public domain, via Princeton Theological Seminary Library.

The first time I heard about the Parliament of the World’s Religions, I was attending college at DePaul. It was 1993, and one of my professors, Dr. Jeffrey Carlson, was actively involved in that Parliament in Chicago, the first to be held in 100 years. (The very first convening of the World’s Parliament of Religions was held during the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.)

A facilitator of “interfaith encounter, dialogue, and cooperative common action,” the Parliament was created to “cultivate harmony among the world’s religious and spiritual communities and foster their engagement with the world and its guiding institutions in order to achieve a just, peaceful and sustainable world.”

I almost went down the path of Divinity School because of how much I loved those comparative religion classes and interfaith dialog. They got me thinking about how communities seek to understand life’s mysteries and find meaning in the stories and practices of their faith traditions. Instead I chose the path of storytelling. They are not so different, and myth and spirituality are still a part of my life and work.

In 2004, we were living in Frankfurt, Germany, and the Parliament was in Barcelona, so we brought our one-year-old to mingle with priests, teachers, monks, and mystics. It was pretty amazing. One of my fondest memories was watching her dance in the middle of a circle of participants from all over the world. There were many moving and transformational moments.

I didn’t anticipate that it would be 19 years before I had another opportunity.

Next week, the Parliament returns to Chicago, and I am excited to be attending. I will be participating in a morning observance, as well as a ritual performance, “Goddess Speaks: Our Earth Has a Voice” on Tuesday afternoon, August 15, 3-4:30pm in room E353c (which will feature the culinary artistry of my aunt Katia Hrynewycz). I will write more about that next week.

I also wanted to share a link to a segment NPR did about the upcoming gathering. It will be attended by 10,000 participants from more than 80 countries and 200 religious traditions. This year’s theme is the “A Call to Conscience: Defending Freedom & Human Rights.” I will also include a link to the Parliament website if anyone wants to learn more:

“When people come to the Parliament they get to experience something that everybody longs for. They get to experience the world as we all long for it to be: peaceful, curious, open-hearted, and not just tolerant but grateful for our diversity.”

–Rev. HPs. Phyllis Curott, Program Chair for the 2023 Parliament of the World’s Religions,

Ukrainian Poets at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art

I was honored to return to the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art in Chicago, to read with Olena Jennings, Krystia Nora, and Virlana Tkacz from the Ukrainian Poets Respond anthology. It was a lovely surprise to hear Waldemart Klyuzko talk about his experience working on the set and design for Radio 477! which just closed in NYC:

Inspired by the 1929 Ukrainian avant-garde jazz musical (the first jazz musical in Ukraine), Radio 477! has original songs and text by New York City-based Yara Arts Group in collaboration with artists in Ukraine, including Serhiy Zhadan.

Another the wonderful projects created by Virlana and Yara Arts. Thank you to Marta Farion for taking and sharing the following photos from the reading, and thank you to UIMA for providing us with the space, surrounded by inspirational art. Thank you also to everyone who came out to hear us read!
It is always an honor to share the stage with these remarkable artists and writers, and to be gifted with an audience that is so present and open-hearted.
We are a force when we join our voices with those across the ocean—past and present—and we are stronger together.

My Father Taught Me About Hope

It is my father, Walter Dudycz’s birthday today. These past few weeks I have been thinking about a lot about what he taught me about hope. (In Ukrainian the word is надія….also my sister’s name.) I can see how hope shaped my father’s life, and his example of hope has shaped who I am.

When I was a teenager, I thought that I was just an optimist; but the older I got, the more I realized that was not true. Optimism is not the same as hope. Optimists expect good things to happen.

I’m actually not an optimist. What I am is hopeful. I was taught by my father that hope is the belief that when the bad things happen, you can work together to overcome those things.

That idea and all its parts have shaped everything for me:
It implies awareness that bad things that have happened and will happen.
It calls out that hope requires action.
It also implies that hope can be shared. Hope in community is powerful.
And at its heart, hope is a belief. For my father and for me, belief implies the mystery of something greater than us in the Universe. That belief means that hope and prayer are interconnected.

From my father, I also learned:
We need to keep practicing hope, or we can lose it. The more we use it, the stronger it becomes.
The memory of hope can help us to rediscover it.
Hope is a tool. We take it, and we do things with it. We need hope to make changes in the world.
Sometimes those changes take a long time. Hope can come in tiny steps.
Stories and songs about hope help it to grow and spread.
When we share hope, it gets stronger.

I thought about this when I was at one of the rallies in support of Ukraine last weekend. I saw that hope in my father’s eyes, and on the faces of the people around us holding signs and chanting, as well those passersby who honked and waved.

Someone asked me why we go to rallies, what good does it do? I think I have a better answer for them now after thinking about it.

The answer is hope.

Happy Birthday, Tato

(Photo by 8 Eyes Photography)