Meet Justine Carlson, interfaith scholar and service advocate
Religious faith is an inseparable part of Justine Carlson's education. It all started several years ago during a five-day service trip to the Menominee Native American Reservation with her high school's youth group. The experience caused her to consider education, faith and service together, rather than as separate entities.
"After the trip, I started going to my youth group more. From there I made some of the best friends of my life," Carlson says. "We practiced service and learned together, which inspired me to prioritize my faith."
Now a DePaul junior studying early childhood education with a minor in Catholic studies, Carlson continues to practice her faith and serve while she learns. As a Roman Catholic interfaith scholar in the Office of Religious Diversity, she develops programs,meets with students to explore what it means to be a practicing Catholic and shares theological knowledge regarding Catholicism. She also plays an integral role in planning and executing DePaul's Quarterly Inter-religious Celebration.
Held every quarter and planned by the interfaith scholars, the Quarterly Inter-religious Celebration brings together students from service, social justice and faith groups across campus to foster fruitful dialogue about life experiences. By seeking students from a variety of backgrounds, faiths and worldviews, the celebration embraces diversity in both mindsets and spiritual beliefs.
"During each QIRC, we carve out time for students to share their experiences with each other in four ways: through the dialogues of life, theological exchange, religious experience and action," Carlson says. "My approach to planning the QIRC intentionally creates a welcoming and inviting environment for all students - religious and nonreligious."
Beyond QIRC, Carlson, other interfaith scholars and staff in the Office of Religious Diversity convene weekly to study theological texts from different religions. Currently, the scholars are reading "God is Not One" by Stephen Prothero and "Interfaith Leadership, A Primer" by Eboo Patel. In addition to discussing theological works, Carlson and the interfaith scholars examine ways to imagine social justice within the context of the today's world through the lens of faith.
Outside of her duties as the Roman Catholic interfaith scholar, Carlson is an active member of the DePaul Dance Company's Modern and Lyrical dance teams, and president of DePaul Students for Life. Off campus she leads retreats for middle and high school students with the Diocese of Joliet, a district of the Roman Catholic Church. But whatever endeavor she pursues, Carlson strives to view everything with an eye of selfless faith.
"I see the world in a way that all humans, at every stage, should be appreciated and valued," Carlson says. "If I had to sum it up, my philosophy of life is all about serving others. I didn't learn this until I took my faith more seriously. It calls me to look at the problems of the world, and allows me to reflect on my lifestyle and how to contribute for the common good of everyone."