The Jay Phillips Center for Interreligious Studies at the University of St. Thomas serves the campus community and also hosts events open to the general public. The center has a collaborative relationship with the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning at Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota, with which it shares the common mission to foster understanding, cooperation, and friendship among people of diverse religious identities through academic study and civic engagement. Both centers do this by sponsoring a host of interfaith activities, including artistic performances, lectures, panels, conferences, retreats, and service programs.
By promoting interfaith learning, friendship, and service, the Jay Phillips Center is carrying out a mandate of the Vatican Council II (1962-1965) and subsequent official Roman Catholic teaching, and it is thereby supporting the Catholic identity of its host universities.
Since Vatican II the importance of interfaith dialogue has been emphasized by many church leaders, especially Pope John Paul II. The council document Nostra Aetate (from its opening Latin words meaning “In our time”), issued in 1965 and also known as “The Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions,” calls upon Catholics to engage in “dialogue and collaboration with followers of other religions.”
Nostra Aetate claims that the Church is “ever aware of its duty to foster unity and charity among individuals, and even among nations,” and it challenges Christians to “acknowledge, preserve, and encourage the spiritual and moral truths found among non-Christians” while at the same time “witnessing to their own faith and way of life.”
The Jay Phillips Center has its roots in UST’s Center for Jewish-Christian Learning, which was established in 1985. While remaining deeply committed to the enhancement of Jewish-Christian relations, the center is now equally committed to its expanded mission of carrying out the wider interfaith mandate of Vatican II as an essential feature of Catholic identity – and therefore of UST’s identity – and as an indispensable means of strengthening the fabric of community.