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Committed to interfaith work

Posted on September 1, 2023, by Beth Blissman CoL

Beth Blissman was a participant at the Parliament of the World Religions in Chicago in August.
Photo courtesy of Beth Blissman

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my nearly seven years serving as Loretto’s United Nations representative, it’s that no one gets anything done by themselves. We collaborate on programs and on shaping policy proposals, share information about meetings and work together for a better world. These collaborations go beyond working with Catholic colleagues, as there are representatives of many faith traditions at the U.N.

I’m inspired to do this work by two of my Loretto role models — Maureen McCormack and Mary Peter Bruce. In addition to serving as Loretto’s president for two terms, Maureen was president of the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado for four years. She also served on the boards of Eco-Justice Ministries in Denver and National Interfaith Alliance in Washington, D.C. Maureen took the spirit of Vatican II to heart in her recognition of the Divine in all, no matter the religious path.

When she was our U.N. rep, Mary Peter worked with many Indigenous peoples and was a consistent presence at the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Her many years of service in Bolivia and other locations prepared her well for the job, and she spoke five languages fluently! I’ll never forget sharing a house in Denver with Mary Peter when I was in graduate school — she went to the public library to bring home some cassette tapes to teach herself Mandarin before heading off to the U.N. Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995.

I’ve often said that I try my best to walk in the shoes of some amazing women, and in that spirit I’m happy to represent Loretto and the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Dubuque, Iowa, at the Parliament of the World’s Religions. The largest Interfaith gathering in the world, the Parliament convened from Aug. 14 to 18 in Chicago. The 2023 theme was “A Call to Conscience: Defending Freedom and Human Rights.”

The Parliament convening, which occurs about every five years, attracts participants from more than 200 faith traditions and secular beliefs from more than 80 nations. Participants enjoy access to all the plenary sessions, hundreds of breakout sessions, art and cultural exhibits, performances, a film festival and countless opportunities to connect with individuals and organizations committed to justice, peace and sustainability.

I presented on panels on the following topics:
• “An Evaluation of Faith-Based Advocacy on Climate Change”

• “Interfaith Environmental and Gender Justice for the Human Right to a Healthy Environment”

• “Sacred Water in a Climate Changed Era”

Though I’ve already attended three Parliament gatherings (two in person and one virtual), I was most excited to experience the Parliament in Chicago, the place where it first happened 130 years ago! The spirits of Maureen, Mary Peter and so many Lorettos and BVMs who have gone before us were present and palpable.


Beth Blissman CoL

Beth, a Loretto Co-member, is the Community’s UN NGO representative.
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