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Yesterday, Archbishop Robert J. Carlson was installed as the head of the Catholic Church in St. Louis. Now, Catholics and non-Catholics shall pray for his success at leading a vibrant and important component of the faith communities of our region. We in St. Louis are truly blessed with a strong history of inter-religious cooperation, which actually pre-dates the ground breaking initiatives of the Second Vatican Council. It is our fervent hope that Archbishop Carlson will be actively engaged with our communities of faith in our efforts to improve the quality of life for all of our citizens.
St. Louis is home to an extraordinarily rich number of faith traditions, from African Methodist Episcopal Churches to Zoroastrian communities. These groups agree on many issues such as poverty, health care, and racism. They also disagree on a host of theological concepts and beliefs. Those faith communities who are members of the Interfaith Partnership/Faith Beyond Walls have all agreed to differ, unite to serve, and promise to love. There is a whole lot of religious dialoguing going on in this town: Muslims and Jews, Bahai’s and Mormons, Catholics and Lutherans.
Just few short months before the Stock Market crash of 1929, a St. Louis businessman, Andrew “Cap” Tilles created a philanthropic fund in honor of his mother. He called it the Rosalie Tilles Non-sectarian charity Fund. The fund’s purpose was to benefit poor children in St. Louis City and County. The fund was to be administered by five trustees. Long before interfaith cooperation became the expected norm, Cap Tilles decided that the Archbishop of St. Louis and the Rabbi of Temple Israel would serve in perpetuity as two of the five trustees. In recent years the fund has annually provided over $400,000 in college scholarships to students attending Missouri universities and $300,000 in grants to organizations and institutions for programs which assist in the education of disabled youth. Cap Tilles understood that diverse faith communities could accomplish so much more good together than as isolated entities. Welcome to St. Louis Archbishop Carlson. We look forward to working with you.
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)
Mark Shook is Rabbi Emeritus at Temple Israel.