“I’ve been meaning to write you a note about this wondrous day I spent at the Festival! What a beautiful location, and from the moment I was greeted at the door by the volunteers in their T-shirts I felt great anticipation for the events that were to unfold. Each panel and witness left a mark on me, whether it was the speaker’s wisdom expressed so passionately, or their unique experiences that captured a fascinating aspect of life. I learned that science is collaborative and builds on the shoulders of so many that came before. I appreciated the story of the Swiss physicist who took responsibility for the technical failure of his center’s expensive cyclotron, recalling the example taught to him by his father who was a simple farmer. I was struck by the names and faces behind the breakthrough developments in computer science, each one building on the work of the other. Ilaria’s photos of the newly arrived refugees from Lampedusa gave a human face to what is all too easily reduced to a headline, but it was her testimony about her study of human flourishing from a systematic sociological approach that I found electrifying because her insights distilled from her studies of AVSI’s work in Brazil not only applied to ongoing engagements with refugees resettling in new lands, but also to my personal work and my desire to see how faith in Christ can allow for a radically human approach to engaging the other. I was deeply moved by the Spanish literature professor’s description of Cervante’s experience of being kidnapped by the Corsairs and held as a slave for years. His experience of deprivation and of the love of the missionary order that ransomed [him] was very striking. I had a wonderful lunch with Prof. Mizra, whose curiosity and listening ear about the origins of the Festival and my work in Muslim-Christian engagement revealed a humble and wise heart. I found his discussion with Steven and the teacher of the Catechism of the Good Shepherd (CotGS) a simple and honest first encounter with Fr. Carron’s rich work in Disarming Beauty. Even the poetry reading was tremendously moving – especially Ewa on the Annunciation and refugees (I bought her book and had a 40 minute conversation afterwards), and the essayist comparing the horror movie with the grief in her life. I really learned a lot from the exhibit on the CotGS, and was fascinated to learn [that] Mother Teresa had all sisters study it. Finally, the exhibit on the paintings of Millet was of exquisite beauty and very educational since I learned about how he sought to portray human labor, and how moved Van Gogh was by his art.
Thank you so very much for inviting me. Next year, let’s really work to get a crowd up form WDC. We can rent a van and bring an entire delegation up. I want to see the hall packed!”
- Mark, 2017 Pittsburgh Festival of Friendship