April 24, 2023
Culver Academies held its first Day of Spirit on April 17 to give students a chance to take a moment from their daily classes to connect with their spiritual sides.
The Rev. Dr. Sam Boys, director of spiritual life at Culver Academies, described the day as a moment to recognize the diversity of spirituality practiced by those at Culver and how that diversity unites the community.
“We come from many world views and cultures, and at the same time, we find our unity in our shared virtues and values,” Boys said.
“This is a day that we have an opportunity to take in a collective deep breath as a community, to take a break from the regular Culver intensity and to slow down just a little bit and dive deeper into how is it that we connect with ourselves and how is it that we connect with others and with the wider world,” Boys said.
Students were allowed to sleep in, kicking off the day with an hourlong all-school meeting that included students telling classmates about their religions and musical performances. The meeting began with a mindfulness moment, with Alexandrine Harig ’25 (Deerfield, Illinois) playing the harp while students either meditated, prayed, or took time for personal reflection.
Boys was the first speaker, urging students to “rest, reflect, restore, renew, all the re-s that you can think of.”
“Allow yourself to just be. It’s so counter-Culver, because we always do here at Culver. But today is an opportunity to just simply be. So, I invite you to be in that space now, and to fill your cup in the way that you know how,” he said.
Students then watched a film by the Interfaith Youth Corps that talked about how religions around the world work together to help communities thrive.
Richard Conlon ’23 (San Francisco) then talked about purpose, saying it is what each student as a person is meant to do. He said the question is then: “What are you meant to do?”
“You must uncover your purpose yourself and devote yourself to that purpose every day,” he said. “The purpose can be idealistic and grand or simple and common. Both are equally a purpose.”
He encouraged students to pursue their purpose rigorously.
Kareemat Adeagbo ’25 (Indianapolis) recited verses from the Quran and told students about Ramadan, the Muslim holy month.
“These Surahs are especially important because we’re currently in the month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast for 30 days. The reason why we fast for 30 days is to commemorate the revelations of the Quran,” she said.
Natalia Somma Tang ’24 (San Francisco) told the students about her Buddhist spirituality and Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk whom Martin Luther King Jr. nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 1967.
“His work sparked a movement of engaged Buddhism, which emphasizes the importance of applying mindfulness and compassion to social and political activism,” she said. “Nhat Hanh encouraged practitioners to utilize Buddhist principles to create meaningful change and social awareness.”
She said she believes non-Buddhists can utilize similar principles as they engage with the problems facing the world today.
“While most in this room do not practice the same religious practice as I do, I hope that you may apply the values of unity and compassion to your own spiritual practice and interactions with others,” she said.
Sydney Tumpson ’24 (Knoxville, Tennessee) and Chloe Putnam ’23 (Edwards, Colorado) then held a trivia contest about the Jewish religion for teams representing each class at Culver. Teams representing the freshmen and seniors tied for first, with the senior class winning when they correctly answered that the cap worn by Jewish men is called a yarmulke.
Sydney Kauffman ’23 (Carmel, Indiana) talked about attending Unitarian Universalist services, where participants don’t worship a specific deity but instead pursue spiritual growth without boundaries. She described it as an “enlightened, flexible religion characterized by free and responsible search for truth and meaning.”
She said participants follow seven principles, which start with honoring the inherent worth and dignity of every person.
“We take pride in these seven principles and try to practice them not just on Sundays, but through our everyday spiritual practices,” she said.
She then told the students about what happens at a typical service.
During the meeting there were several musical performances. Boys played the didgeridoo and Camren Allman ’25 and senior humanities instructor Mitch Barnes played drums and had students clapping along. The band Three Day Rain, comprising vocalist and keyboard player Katya Sorg ’26 (Limassol, Ukraine), Benjamin Rader Jr. ’25 (Plymouth, Indiana) on guitar, Justice White ’25 (Columbus, Indiana) on bass, and Will Hancock ’24 (Austin, Texas) on drums, performed the song “I’m Going Back to 505” and drew loud cheers from the crowd.
Destiny Ndubuisi-Obi ’24 (Chicago), Monique Tamon ’23 (Novi, Michigan) and Joseph Parker ’24 (Maywood, Illinois), representing the Catholic and Protestant faiths, then capped off the gathering with a jazzy arrangement of “How Great is Our God,” with students clapping along. They then got the crowd on their feet and clapping when they performed Kirk Franklin’s “I Smile.”
Boys then dismissed the students by the different spiritual groups. Here are the activities the students were involved with on Spirit Day:
By Jacinta Ndubuisi-Obi
Catholic students took buses to the University of Notre Dame. On the way up, we all sat paired up as we listened to CGA master counselor Beth Schmiedlin teach us about the rosary. After that, we prayed the Divine Mercy Rosary.
Once we got to Notre Dame, we started our walk through the campus to its historic Basilica of the Sacred Heart. We were awed at the beautiful campus scenery and architecture. We headed inside the basilica to see this huge, massive space decorated with glass windows and paintings dating back to the 19th century. The history and sense of peace that the basilica brought emanated through each and everyone. I watched as students knelt to pray, sit in the pews to be in the grace of God, and ask questions to the basilica volunteers that worked there.
After the basilica, students headed to the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, which is an outdoor place where people can light candles and send their prayers to God. Students stood in line one by one, waiting until it was their turn to light a candle. You could tell that the Grotto was indeed sacred and special to all who walked in it. It was as if nothing but peace was flowing in the air.
As we walked back across campus we saw students walking in between classes and even coming up to us to ask us questions, like what our uniforms were for.
The drive back was filled with laughter and learning as humanities instructor Colin McKay and physics instructor Patrick Mulkerin told us their "come-to-Jesus" stories. These stories are usually moments in people's lives when they have seen the acts of God come before them in unexplainable ways. We learned from them with their incredible stories of survival and growth. We finished off the bus ride with some Catholic trivia as we did the left vs. the right side of the bus. Things were tense and I still don't quite know who won, but we had fun all the more.
Overall, the Day of Spirit was truly one that helped me get closer to God and much needed for the students!
By Tony Zhou
The guided meditation group went to Ancilla College of Marian University, accompanied by wellness education senior instructor Brian Rosenau and leadership education master instructor Susan Freymiller deVillier. The main theme of the activity was “labyrinth,” which is an ancient religious practice used by Christians who could not visit the holy city during the Crusades. They used labyrinths as substitutes for pilgrimages. The formal activity started when we arrived at the outdoor labyrinth on the Ancilla College campus. To start the labyrinth, four candle holders are needed to take the candles in the center of the labyrinth to the four sides of the labyrinth – north, south, west, and east. The four directions represent the philosophy of the four seasons from the Native American culture and reflect the four elements of matter in ancient Greek philosophy.
After the candle holders placed the candles, we formed a circle and greeted each other with “namaste,” a Hindu greeting that expresses politeness and respect. After the labyrinth was opened, we were free to wander around the labyrinth and start walking whenever we felt ready.
Walking in the labyrinth is simply following its way, and since it is not a maze, it is not possible to get lost. Walking in the circular labyrinth is not simply moving from outside to inside. One can easily walk to the inner part of the labyrinth but suddenly travel to the outer part as one continues to walk. When we arrived at the center of the labyrinth, we were free to stay there and feel the calmness and spirituality. Whenever one is ready, they are free to exit the labyrinth just as entering it. The labyrinth brings people calmness and contemplation about philosophical questions. Along with the religious background of the labyrinth, it provided us a chance to feel the amalgamation of religious beliefs that are similar.
By Emilia Murphy
Students in Islamic Studies visited the Islamic Society of Michiana, along with the South Bend Mosque. Students started the trip off with a tour of the mosque, guided by the Imam Mohammed Sirajuddin. Following the tour, students engaged in a discussion with the imam about several aspects of Islam. They started by talking about Tawhid, a key concept in Islam that indicates God’s individuality and oneness. From there, they also reflected on several other key concepts of the religion.
“Students were able to learn the values of Islam through the group discussion and by asking questions,” said Nur Islam, one of the service’s adult advisors. “Overall, we had a wonderful day.”
At the end of the day, four students also traveled to the mosque to celebrate Iftar, an evening meal that ends daily fasts during the month of Ramadan. Students enjoyed food and participated in the Maghrib prayer with members of the ISM.
By Sydney Tumpson
Members of Jewish service took a trip to the Jewish Federation in South Bend. Their rabbi talked to us about many different things, from politics in Israel to what it really means to be a Jew. We were able to look around at the artwork that some eighth graders made for them, which was interesting. One thing I wish was that we could have taken a tour of the building.
The Jewish Federation receives donations and uses those donations to help others. They help them get to where they need to be. They focus on connecting and supporting Jews locally and globally through services, educational programming, coordinated fundraising, and more. They want others to be engaged and connected with one another.
Thank you to all the staff that helped organize this and we hope to do something like this next year!
Nature and Spirituality
By Kate Lin
Students in the Nature & Spirituality Service, which is led by humanities instructor Shalena Eaton, participated in indoor meditation and outdoor hiking. The meditation session was led by Ciel counselor Jill Strange in the library, where we used crystals and breathing exercises to get energized and prepared for the hike. We were then joined by humanities senior instructor Oliver Eaton, CGA residential curriculum leader Angie Strobel, and other adults, by the climbing tower. Dogs Stevie and Willow were also part of the crowd, as humans and animals are both part of nature!
Before the hike, Brookelynn Conti ’23 led a short session of smudging, which is a traditional practice of the Lakota people. Conti lit up some sage and people passed it around in a circle. The calming smoke helped us to stop, slow down, and be mindful of the moment. Conti also introduced the Medicine Wheel and guided us to appreciate the four directions, east to the north (spring to winter), facing each direction and showing gratitude to nature and life. The service ended with a hike in the woods, as we appreciated the beauty of nature while feeling the mud and leaves underneath our feet.
By Bowen Xiao
Students in Philosopher’s Café joined a class session at the University of Notre Dame, learning how to work a good life. Before the session, students were well prepared and learned the basic knowledge of alienation proposed by Karl Marx. Upon arrival, the Culver students were divided into four groups, with each assigned a Notre Dame student for discussion. In small groups, students pondered and shared their dream careers in childhood and now. For most individuals, their dream jobs have changed over time, mainly because of practical and utilitarian purposes.
Following those discussions, professor Justin Christy gave a lecture on linking philosophical principles with life events. Christy categorized several forms of labor and dived deep into the benefits and shortages of wage labor. While wage labor provides compensation, a sense of community, and self-realization to individuals, it may hinder those to spend time for leisure and family, and health conditions. There, he extends the further discussion to Marx’s alienation, who proposed that work alienates workers from the products, the other workers, and their human nature.
Culver students were fortunate and fruitful to be engaged in a college-level lecture and to further develop their spirituality from the philosophical approach.
By Melany Zurita
The Protestant service connected us deeply with our faith again. It made us as a whole question what being Christian is actually about. With the special guest JT Jester, we listened to a deep talk about his struggles and how Christianity and his “prayer warriors” helped him through his darkest moments. He told us his story of adversity and how he made his climb up Mount Kilimanjaro. We were given copies of his book, “No Bad Days.”
After the guest speaker, we were separated into small groups to deepen our understanding of our faith. Ten stations took place, but each group visited only six. At my favorite station, we gave greater meaning to the Lord's Prayer and even memorized a few Bible verses. We learned so many wonderful things!
By Ashley Zheng
The Unitarian Universalist service, consisting of a Hindu, Buddhist, and Meditative Freewriting group, visited the Hindu Bharatiya Temple in Merrillville. The priest showed statues of gods who were worshiped in different regions, including Sri Ganesha, Rama, and Vishnu. Students also observed the worship ritual and listened to an educational presentation about the philosophy of Hinduism and personal gods.
“The visit allowed me to see the countless connections between different religions,” said Michael Ma ’24, a practicing Buddhist.
y comparing and contrasting different religions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, students reflected on their own beliefs.
“Visiting this Hindu temple drastically changed my view of Hinduism,” said Michael Yin ’24. “In the past, I saw Hinduism as conservative and traditional, but after listening to the presentation, I realized that Hinduism is inclusive and open-minded.”