By Bryana Cielo
On Jan. 31, Sacred Heart University held a colloquium presentation entitled “One Heart, Many Faiths” in the University Commons Auditorium.
During the colloquium, three new chaplains were welcomed to the campus community: Mark Block, Imam Gazmend Aga, and Rabbi Marcelo Kormis.
Mark Block, a Sacred Heart alumnus, grew up in Trumbull, Conn. He received his master’s degree in Marketing to pursue a corporate job.
During his time at Sacred Heart, Block was a founding member of the Council of Graduate Students, a group that enabled graduate students to have a stronger voice on campus.
He currently works for the Congregation Rodeph Sholom, on Park Avenue, as the Executive Director of the Synagogue Administration.
At the presentation, he spoke about how there used to be a group for the Jewish population at Sacred Heart to come together, but it no longer exists today. One of Block’s goals for his time here is to re-establish this group so that Jewish students have a place to come together one afternoon per week, on Tuesdays specifically.
He said that he plans to do so by expanding the resources and opportunities offered to Jewish students.
“It’s amazing to have watched the University grow,” said Block. “The diversity of the student body is incredible compared to years ago.”
Likewise, Rabbi Marcelo Kormis was also welcomed to the university.
Kormis was born in Chile and moved to the United States six years ago. He is currently a Rabbi at Congregation Beth El, in Fairfield, Conn.
He was first introduced to Sacred Heart through his friend, Rabbi Abraham Skorka, who was presented with an honorary degree from the University.
Kormis was later invited to be a part of the Jorge Bergoglio Hall opening ceremonies.
His goal for his time here is to be there for Jewish students and to create an environment in which they can get together to discuss current topics on Thursdays.
Another goal of his is to celebrate major Jewish holidays throughout the entire campus.
“I’m not here only for Jewish students, I’m here for anyone with a spiritual journey,” said Kormis.
Imam Gazmend Aga was the final chaplain to be introduced to the University this year.
He is originally from Albania and goes by the nickname “Gazi.” Gazi is very active in the Albanian American Muslim Community, which is one of the oldest Muslim communities in New England. He is also currently part of a mosque in Waterbury, Conn.
He spoke about the stigma surrounding his decision to study theology upon entering college.
“It’s a time where all religions are struggling,” said Aga. “[And] helping a human being, is like helping God [and]loving a human being, is like loving God.”
His plans to integrate the Sacred Heart community with the Muslim faith will include get-togethers on Wednesdays at Campus Ministry.
In an effort to learn from them, Aga will plan events where students can strengthen their faith.
His hope is to begin with simple social activities like sports in order to unite students. Then, because of his love of travel, his hope is to plan trips to places like Jerusalem so that people have the opportunity to enrich their faith by helping others in need.
Another exciting contribution of the new chaplains will be a brand new podcast that will fearure Father Tony Ciorra, Gazi, and Kormis.
It will be titled, “A Rabbi, A Priest, and an Imam Walk into a Bar,” and will be recorded in Red’s, the pub on Sacred Heart’s campus. This new podcast is part of the university’s One Heart, Many Hearts initiative.
They will discuss many things, including their own backgrounds, why they came to Sacred Heart, how to be a good person in the 21st century, and what their plans are for the future of religion at the university.
More information about this podcast will be shared through social media in the coming weeks, but ideas or requests for topics on this podcast can be sent to IPRpodcast@sacredheart.edu.