Meet the Fellows

Cohort I

Rev. Kurian Benoy Ambazhathinal


As a pastor, Fr. Kurian has continually involved himself in religious and culturally diverse communities and chose to study at the Angelicum to help him work more successfully on issues of ecumenism and Christian-Hindu relations in India.

Educational background includes: two bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy, a bachelor’s degree in Theology, MA in English, License in Sacred Theology from The Angelicum.

Rev. Sebastian Anokwulu


Upon completion of his degree at Angelicum Fr. Sebastian returned to Nigeria to serve as point person for ecumenism and interreligious dialogue, working directly under the Bishop. He leads workshops, seminars, and retreats to bring religious leaders in the country up-to-date on issues of religious freedom and pluralism.

Educational background includes: Bachelor’s degree in theology, License Degrees in Biblical Theology and Ecumenism, Doctorate in Sacred Theology from The Angelicum.

Current position: Director, Ecumenical & Interreligious Office, Onitsha Ecclesiastic Province, Prof. Ecumenical & Interreligious Studies at Bigard Memorial Seminary and Tansi Memorial Seminary

Rev. Charles Cortinovis


Fr. Charles is a civil lawyer, who was ordained a priest in 2009 for the Archdiocese of Washington. His archbishop, Cardinal Wuerl, encouraged him to complete a degree at the Angelicum in interreligious dialogue, as there were no diocesan priests specifically trained in the area. As part of his work Fr. Charles initiates programs educating other priests and laity about the importance of interfaith understanding.

Educational background includes: Bachelors degree in Biochemistry, JD in law, License in Sacred Theology from The Angelicum.

Current position: Assistant Director, Roman Catholic Archdiocese Office of Ecumenical & Interfaith Affairs, Washington, DC; Board Member, Interfaith Council of Greater Metropolitan Washington.

Rev. Gianpaolo Pagano, O.P.


Fr. Gianpaolo is a Dominican friar, currently serving as pastor of the Sanctuary of the Madonna dell’ Arco near Naples, and is involved with the Center for Studies and Dialogue with Islam. He has contributed several articles with interreligious themes (Judeo-Christian relations, and Lutheran Sola Scriptura) to the Italian ecumenical journal O’ Odigos.

Educational background includes: B.Phil., S.T.B., S.S.L., and S.T.D. in Biblical Theology from The Angelicum.

Rev. Mr. Ioan Reikli


Robert’s course of work has included many interreligious avenues in both Romania and during his studies in Rome. With the support of his bishop he will return to his hometown in Transylvania as chair of interreligious studies at Sapientia University of Oradea.

Educational background includes: Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, Bachelor’s degree in Theology

Current position: Pastoral Assistant in the Archdiocese of Corfu, Greece, awaiting priestly ordination.

Rev. Ambrose Ezenwa Ukaonu, C.M.F.


Fr. Ambrose is a Claretian, and served as Director of Interreligious Dialogue for his congregation where he organized seminars and workshops on peace and dialogue between Christians and Muslims involving eminent scholars and speakers. He has worked as an instructor of Islamic and Comparative Religion at various seminaries and after completing his degree at the Angelicum, he returned to Nigeria to take up a position in the Interreligious Department of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, in addition to his continuing work as an instructor at seminaries in Nigeria.

Educational background includes: Bachelor degree in Theology, Bachelor degree in Philosophy, license degree in Arabic and Islamic Studies, Doctorate in Sacred Theology from the Angelicum.

Rev. Marco Zara


Don Marco has been a priest since 2003, serving in parish ministry and contributing to the academic and religious community through teaching, conferences, and constant dialogue with students and professionals of other religious backgrounds. His studies include great interest in St. Thomas Aquinas’ contributions to the Catholic Church and the ways in which he laid a foundation for modern interreligious dialogue.

Educational background includes: S.T.B., M.A. in Philosophy, and is working on an S.T.D. in Ecumenism and Dialogue from The Angelicum.

Cohort II

Rev. Francis Adedigba


Fr. Francis had been committed to interreligious dialogue since the beginning of his presbyterial ministry in Nigeria, where he chaired an interreligious commission of the archdiocese of Ibadan. He wants to train religious and lay leadership for dialogue between faiths. With that goal he has taught seminary courses in Evangelization and dialogue, and Islam and interreligious dialogue.

Educational background includes: B. Phil., S.T.B., License in Arabic and Islamic Studies, and is working toward an S.T.D. at The Angelicum.

Rev. Richard James Babao


Fr. Richard’s earliest influences led him to his commitment to interreligious dialogue. He grew up in a mixed community of Muslims and Christians in the Philippines where terror and conflict are notorious. He actively takes part in the resolution of these conflicts, serving as a parochial vicar in the St. Anthony of Padua, Parish of Singalong, Malate – Manila.

Educational background includes: B.S. in Chemical Engineering, S.T.B., S.T.L. in Ecumenism and Dialogue from The Angelicum.

Current position: Assistant Director for Ecumenical and Interfaith relations – Archdiocese of Manilla.

Rev. John Bogna Bakeni


In addition to his priestly duties in the Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri, Fr. John has held several positions focused on religious education, specifically, the formation of pastoral and catechist agents. Fr. John is a member of the Diocesan and Provincial Interreligious Dialogue Commission. His current studies are focused on the conflicts in Northern Nigeria between Christians and Muslims, to gain the tools that will help lead to peaceful resolution.

Educational background includes: B. Phil., S.T.B., S.T.L. in Ecumenism and Dialogue, S.T.D. in Ecumenism and Dialogue from The Angelicum.

Current position: He is returning to his diocese in the heart of the violence in northern Nigeria to be the director of Catholic-Muslim dialogue.

Dr. Paola Bernardini

US and Italy

Paola held several teaching and research positions prior to coming to The Angelicum: Harvard University (Graduate School of Education), University of Venice, LUMSA (Law School) in Rome, University of Teramo, and the European University Summer School in Sarajevo (Bosnia). Paola’s professional resume also comprises editorials and tutoring activities focused on conflict resolution. She is the author of two monographs, several scholarly articles, and has organized and participated in a number of international conferences on peacebuilding and interreligious dialogue. For her activism in the promotion of diversity, in 1988 she was awarded the International Understanding Award. Her goal is to develop academic courses on dialogue, peace and mediation amongst cultures and religions.

Educational background includes: Bachelor’s in Philosophy, Master’s in Education, License in Philosophy from The Angelicum, Doctorate in Philosophy from The Angelicum.

Mr. Andrew James Boyd


A.J. served as a lay ecclesial minister for the Archdiocese of Seattle for several years before coming to the Angelicum. His commitment to ecumenism and interreligious dialogue started in childhood and spans his entire ministry and academic career. He has taught courses for diocesan ministers and catechists, offered presentations at national and international conferences, and served on several local, regional, and national ecumenical or interfaith organizations. He has been certified by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for ecumenical and interfaith leadership. He was a delegate to the ecumenical prayer with Pope Benedict during his 2008 Apostolic Visit, and is representing the Catholic Church in a Vatican-sponsored Jewish-Christian dialogue for emerging scholars.

Educational background includes: Bachelors in Theology and Philosophy, Graduate studies in Theology, Diploma in Pastoral Leadership, currently working on his S.T.L. in Ecumenism and Dialogue from The Angelicum.

Mr. Val Galagate Brillo


Immediately upon completing his undergraduate studies, Val began teaching theology and moral philosophy at the University of St. Thomas in Manila where subsequently worked as an administrator. As a student, he served as editor of the university publication Inter Nos (Among Us). Val has presented at a variety of academic conferences and initiatives that promote dialogue between Christians and Muslims: Peacemakers’ Circle Foundation, Asia Pacific Policy Forum on the Role of the Youth in Peacebuliding, Asian Conference on Religions for Peace, Social Sciences Symposia on Sociology of Religions. A member of the Christian Dialogue Moral Imaginers’ Team on Muslim-Christian Dialogue, Val is currently affiliated with the Institute of Religion of the University of Santo Tomas in Manila.

Educational background includes: Bachelors in Sacred Theology, Masters in International Politics, Masters in Peacebuilding Management, S.T.L. in Ecumenism and Dialogue from The Angelicum. He is currently working an an M.A. in Philosophy, and an S.T.D. in Ecumenism and Dialogue from The Angelicum.

Mr. Peter Ivanecky


Peter’s License thesis is focused on the arguments of Moses Maimonides in the works of St. Thomas Aquinas that deal with the limits of the rational knowledge of God. Such a work represents a solid source for his further Ph.D. in interreligious dialogue among Christians and Jews. Peter also shows his commitment to interreligious dialogue through engagement in the activities of the Centro Internazionale Culturale Giovanni XXIII in Rome, Italy, where he currently resides.

Educational background includes: Bachelor’s Technical Institute of Geometry, Bachelor’s in Philosophy, License in Philosophy from The Angelicum, currently pursuing his Doctorate in Philosophy from The Angelicum.

Rev. Clement Wykliffe Karathi


Fr. Clement serves as a parish priest in the Parish of St. Francis of Assisi in Lare, Kenya. He plans to use his Ph. D. to help him promote ecumenism in the remote areas of Kenya in which he serves.

Educational background includes: Bachelor in Philosophy, S.T.B. and S.T.L. and S.T.D. in Ecumenism and Dialogue from The Angelicum.

Rev. Dr. Maria Michael Peters, C.PP.S.


Fr. Maria Michael has served as parish priest, director of missions and preaching at a local catechetical institute, and lecturer of moral theology in a number of institutions. He served for a decade as councillor and procurator of his alma mater, and before coming to Rome for doctoral studies was head of liturgy and publications of the National Biblical Catechetical and Liturgical Center.

Educational background includes: S.T.B., S.T.L., and S.T.D. in Ecumenism and Dialogue from The Angelicum.

Current position: Executive Secretary of the Commission for the Family, the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India.

Dr. Matthew John-Paul Tan

Singapore and Australia

Matthew’s work experience covers tutorials in history, international relations, law, as well as chaplain assignments in the Archdiocese of Brisbane Church Life and Mission Office. He has participated in several interreligious conferences (one of his papers was presented at the Centre for Theology and Philosophy in Rome 2008 on Reason, Politics, and Evangelization.) Matthew is interested in implementing interreligious dialogue in the resolution of anti-migrant tensions recently shown in Australia, especially towards the Shiite Afghanistan refugees.

Educational background includes: L.L.B., Ph.D. in Political Theology, S.T.L. in Ecumenism and Dialogue from The Angelicum.

Current position: Lecturer in Theology & Philosophy, Campion College, Australia

Rev. Thangaraj Michael


Fr. Thangaraj has worn many hats as an ordained priest. In addition to serving as an assistant parish priest, he has presented a variety of essays, and published booklets in Tamil and English on Christian topics. He released a CD with devotional hymns in Tamil, and a film on parent /child relationships. He has also worked in the fields of teaching and journalism. He plans to return to India with an eye to developing multi-religious discussion groups back in his home.

Educational background includes: B.S. in Computer Science, B.Phil., S.T.B., Diploma in Human Rights and Duties Education, S.T.L. in Ecumenism and Dialogue from The Angelicum and is currently pursuing his S.T.D. at The Angelicum.

Rev. Michael Ufok Udoekpo


Fr. Michael has served as a secretary to the bishop of Ikot Ekpene in Nigeria where he also taught Scripture in a seminary. He was assigned to hospital administration and chaplancy in Nigeria, and was later relocated to the New York area where he worked at a nursing home in the Bronx and at Stony Brook University Hospital, as well as having done pastoral work in the US. Fr. Michael has published several scholarly articles on evangelization and the position of the Church on key African issues including corruption, family and women’s questions. He is an active member of the Society of Biblical Literature and the Catholic Biblical Association.

Educational background includes: B.Phil., S.T.B., S.T.L., Ph.D. in Scripture, S.T.D. in Biblical Theology from The Angelicum.

Cohort III

Mr. B. Kim Dolan


Kim has been a lay ecclesial minister in Michigan, primarily campus ministry where he was involved in an ecumenical and interreligious camps ministry association.

Educational background includes: B.A. in Print Journalism and Catholic Studies, S.T.B. from the Angelicum, and is currently pursuing a S.T.L. in Ecumenism and Dialogue at The Angelicum.

Rev. Mr. Taras Dzyubanskyy


Taras holds a B.A. in Philosophy and studied at various papal institutes in the Vatican. He has deepened his involvement in interfaith dialogue by working in Kazakhstan and in the eastern Ukraine, and by teaching religion courses at St. Maurice Catholic School in Stamford, CT, U.S.A. In 2010, he received a prestigious Russell Berrie Fellowship in Interreligious Studies which enabled him to pursue his doctoral degree and to get acquainted with the study of Judaism and other religions (he obtained his PhD in Theology and Interreligious Dialogue in 2012).
Since October 2012, Taras has been working as an adviser to the mayor of Lviv for religious and ecumenical issues. In May 2013, he inaugurated an interfaith center “Libertas,” the first of its kind in Ukraine. Since its creation, the center has held over 30 ecumenical and interreligious events in view of promoting dialogue and understanding among different religious groups.
Taras has been awarded with several distinctions related to his innovative approach on interfaith dialogue and social issues. He is now an adviser to the President of the Lviv Chamber of Commerce and Industry on social issues.
Since 2014, Taras has been working as Alumni Coordinator for the Russell Berrie Alumni Network, helping coordinate various interfaith initiatives of the Berrie Alumni and facilitating communication within the network, with the Foundation and the John Paul II Center for Interreligious Dialogue.
In the fall of 2015, he participated in the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations Fellowship in Intercultural and Interreligious Dialogue, visiting Middle East and North African countries, followed by a consultation on migration, education and youth development at the UNAOC HQ in New York, U.S.A.
Since the beginning of the armed conflicts in the east of Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea in 2014, Dzyubanskyy initiated a number of programs specifically related to the issue of migrants and internal refugees.
Author of three books, Taras is strongly committed to promoting interfaith and intercultural dialogue. He believes that people of different faiths have a lot to offer to humanity through their religious experiences and traditions which are an invaluable source of wisdom, prudence, love and respect.

Educational background includes: B.Phil., S.T.B., S.T.L., S.T.D., and Ph.D. in Ecumenism and Dialogue from The Angelicum.

Rev. Celestine Ezemadubom (Also in Cohort IV)


Fr. Celestine’s interest in interreligious studies is based on his life experiences growing up in a country where there is constant tension, and war, between Christians and Muslims. For ten years he served as the Bishop’s Representative at the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), an organization that facilitates interreligious dialogue between the two groups and was an Assistant Coordinator under the interreligious section of CAN. He has published articles in the diocesan newspaper “Fides” on interreligious issues, and published a book “The Secret Behind the Catholic Priesthood”, dealing with interreligious appraisal of the priesthood in Judaism, African Traditional Religion, and Christianity.

Educational background includes: B.Phil., S.T.B., S.T.L, and S.T.D. from The Angelicum. Fr. Celestine is also a member of Cohort IV.

Ms. Claudia Leal-Luna


Claudia comes from a teaching background at the university level; courses include: Sciences of Religion, Biblical theology, Bioethics, and Eschatology, religious and Philosophical Ethics; and an assistant in the Program of Philosophy for Children at the Pontifical Universidad Catolica de Chile.

Educational background includes: Diploma in Greek Studies, S.T.B., S.T.L. in Moral Theology, currently working on her Doctorate in Sacred Theology.

Rev. Bovus Mathew Meloott


Fr. Bovus was the Director of the Youth Apostolate of the Major Archdiocese of Trivandrum, a member of the Synodal Commission for Youth for Major Archiepiscopal Curia and has been circulation manager of “Malankara”, the official news bulletin of the Holy Episcopal Synod of the Syro Malankara Catholic Church.

His interest in interreligious studies is the result of growing up in India, a religiously diverse culture of Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and others. He wishes to deepen his knowledge so that upon his return to India he can be better equipped to contribute to interreligious relations. He is currently Vicar at St. Antony’s Malankara Catholic Church and Major Archdiocese of Trivandrum in Kerala

Educational background includes: Bachelors in Political Science, Master of Social Work in Human Resource Management, currently working on his License in Sacred Theology from The Angelicum.

Rev. André Mujyambere


Fr. Andre has held teaching positions in several institutions in Cameroon and Rwanda. He speaks Kinyarwanda, French, Spanish, Italian, English, and has good skills in classical Latin, Greek, and biblical Hebrew.

During his doctoral research as a Russell Berrie Fellow he is hoping to acquire new tools in biblical fields to help to carry on interreligious and ecumenical formation, once he is back in Africa.

Educational background includes: Bachelors in Philosophy, Bachelors in Theology, License in Sacred Scriptures, currently pursuing his Doctorate in Biblical Theology at The Angelicum.

Rev. Michal Sadowski


Fr. Sadowski worked in parishes in Belarus, the Russian Federation, Poland, and the UK.

His academic area of interest was Christianity and the religions of the East, especially Islam. His doctoral research focused on the Trinitarian Dialogue between the Oriental Christianity and Islam.

Educational background included: M.A. in Theology, S.T.L., S.T.D. in Ecumenism and Dialogue from The Angelicum.

Mr. Omar Sillah (Also in Cohort IV)


Omar holds the unique position of being the only Muslim student in the Doctoral program at The Angelicum. In his native Gambia, Omar created the “Center for Interrreligious Dialogue, Tolerance, Reconciliation, and Conflict Resolution” (Citrec).He has participated in the International Interreligious Youth Gathering in 2006 and is currently working on a book entitled “Interreligious Dialogue and Tolerance – The Gambian Experience”. He believes that the resolution of international disputes and conflicts lies in peaceful diplomacy and interreligious dialogue. He wishes to teach interreligious studies at the University of Gambia upon returning home.

Educational background includes: M.A. in Islamic Civilization, M.A. in Religion and Culture specializing in Christianity for the purpose of interreligious dialogue, License in Social Sciences from The Angelicum, currently working on his Doctorate in Social Sciences at The Angelicum. Omar is also a member of Cohort IV.

Rev. Quan Dinh Tran

Viet Nam and US

Fr. Quan was six years old when his family fled to the United States after the fall of Saigon. He grew up in California. After practicing law for ten years he enrolled in seminary to philosophy and theology.

He is convinced of the importance of Christians working together with other religions in order to build relationships and work for common causes. After his studies he hopes to be a part of the Diocese’s Office of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.

Educational background includes: Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance, JD Law degree, currently working on his License in Sacred Theology at The Angelicum.

Sr. Gracy Joseph Vadakara, DC


Growing up in India, a religiously diverse country, Sister Gracy has been aware of interreligious dialogue since early adolescence. She is a member of the Daughters of the Church, whose mission in part is to conduct prayers and discussions for Christian unity and interreligious dialogue in India. Following her graduation in Sociology, she has committed herself to teaching sociology to the professional nursing students in Bangalore, India. She speaks several languages including Malayalam, Hindi, English, Italian, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Kannada, and Spanish.

Educational background includes: Bachelors of Philosophy, diploma in paramedical studies in leprosy, diploma in formative psychology, M.A. in Sociology, S.T.B. and S.T.L. in Ecumenism and Dialogue from The Angelicum. She is currently workinf on her S.T.D. in Theology in The Angelicum.

Cohort IV

Ms. Renata Nehring


As an active ecumenist, Renata plans to build bridges through participation in the Ecumenical Movement and Jewish-Christian Dialogue.

Educational background includes: Master’s degree in Romance Philology, Bachelors in journalism, Master of Theology, Master’s degree in Advanced Ecumenical Studies, and is working on a License in Sacred Theology at The Angelicum.

Fr. Anthony Okolo


Fr. Okolo’s interest in interreligious studies is shaped by growing up in a country characterized by ethnic and religious conflict between Christians and Muslims. Before leaving Nigeria, he was a lecturer in Comparative Study of Religion, Interfaith Dialogue and Ministry in the Christian Church and Acting Dean of Studies and intends to return to teach and promote Interreligious Studies.

Educational background includes: Bachelor’s degree in Religion, Master’s degree in Theology, License at the Pontifical Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies, and is currently working on his Doctorate in Ecumenical Theology at The Angelicum.

Rev. Fr. Louis Taiwo Omojola


As Diocesan Secretary, Fr. Omojola became deeply involved in interreligious dialogue and currently directs the Interreligious Dialogue Commission in the Catholic Diocese of Ekiti (Nigeria), and is involved in the Nigerian Interreligious Dialogue Council. His long-term goal is to foster peaceful relationships among followers of the three dominant religions in Nigeria: Christianity, Islam and African Traditional Religion.

Educational background includes: Bachelors in Philosophy, Bachelors in Theology, studied journalism and is currently working toward his License in Sacred Theology at The Angelicum.

Fr. Xavier Kanat Ouseph


Fr. Ouseph was a parish priest for 11 years in different parishes throughout Mumbai and
will return to Mumbai to establish a center for interreligious studies and dialogue to provide training and workshops to youth and children, through schools and colleges, to help promote religious and social harmony. Fr. Ouseph’s interest in interreligious studies started when he was studying at the Pontifical Institute Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram in Bangalore, well-known for its active role in promoting interreligious dialogue

Educational background includes: Bachelors in Philosophy, Bachelors in Theology, Bachelor of Education; currently pursuing his license and will continue toward doctorate in Sacred Theology at The Angelicum.

Sr. Teresa Piacentini, PFA


Teresa is a member of the religious order, Piccola Famiglia della Annunziata (PFA). She pursued Monastic Studies at the Benedictine Monastery of Solesmes in France where she learned French; spent a year in Jerusalem where she attended the Studium Biblicum Francescanum to learn Hebrew; lived in a monastery in Jordan and expanded her knowledge in Arabic and Islamic culture; and will now deepen her knowledge of interreligious studies at The Angelicum. Upon finishing her studies she would like to build bridges between people of different religions through the activities of her monastic community.

Educational background includes: Bachelor in Monastic and License in Liturgy, currently working toward her Doctorate in Theology at The Angelicum.

Fr. Cyrille Uwizeye


After completion of his doctoral studies and research at the Angelicum, Fr. Uwizeye would like to go back to the Program for Christian and Muslim Relations in Rwanda, and work on raising awareness of ecumenical and interreligious dialogue.

Educational background includes: Bachelor’s in Theology Catholic Univ. East Africa, , License in Theology in Dublin, License including a certificate in Arabic, Islamic Studies and Interreligious, Dialogue in Cairo, currently working toward his Doctorate in Sacred Theology at The Angelicum.

Fr. Marco Valentini


Fr. Valentini experienced different cultures and faiths throughout his eleven years spent abroad in Romania, Saudi Arabia, Canada, and Ireland; and has organized a number of interreligious events for his community.

Educational background includes: Bachelor in Philosophy and Bachelor of Theology, License in Liturgy, and currently working on his Doctorate at the Angelicum.

Joseph Michael Zwosta


Joseph’s commitment to interreligious dialogue was shaped by growing up in the diversity of New York City. While a summer Parochial Assistant he collaborated with a predominantly Jewish nursing home to provide services to the Catholic residents, and collaborated with the pastor of a nearby Protestant Church. Looking toward his priestly ministry, Zwosta wishes to continue to foster friendship and understanding among members of different faiths.

Educational background includes: Bachelors in Government, Bachelor in Theology, currently working on License from The Angelicum.

Cohort V

Rev. Vincent George Dissanayake

Sri Lanka

Fr. George was ordained to the presbyterate for the Diocese of Trincomalee-Batticaloa in 1989 and immediately began service in parish ministry in majority Hindu and Muslim areas. Before this, his secondary education was at a Buddhist school, and his interest in dialogue with non-Christian religions has been lifelong. Since 2003, he has served as rector of the diocesan Cathedral of St. Mary. He is the author of three books, and since 1997 has been secretary and co-coordinator of the Interreligious Peace Foundation. In 2011, the Sri Lankan government recognized his contributions to dialogue and peace-building with the nation’s second highest civil honor, the title of Deshamanya (Pride of the Nation).

Educational Background includes: Baccalaureate of Sacred Theology (STB), National Seminary of Our Lady of Lanka, 1989

Mr. Philip Lajo Fuentes (Also in Cohort VI)


Philip is a philosopher and assistant professor who is seeking to expand his volunteer background in interreligious dialogue in be incorporated in more formal theological education as well. A former Dominican seminarian, his ongoing vocation to philosophy, theology, and dialogue is owed to his family experience and an encounter with Pope John Paul II at the 1995 World Youth Day in Manila. He hopes to return to the University of Santo Tomas, incorporate interreligious studies into his teaching and research, and develop interreligious peace-building initiatives at the pastoral level.

Educational Background includes: Baccalaureate in Sacred Theology (STB), University of Santo Tomas, Manila, Philippines 2012; Master of Arts (MA) in Philosophy, University of Santo Tomas, 2008; Baccalaureate of Philosophy (PhB), Philippine Dominican Center of Studies, 2000

Rev. Kwan Ho Edward “Eddie” Hsueh

Hong Kong

Fr. Eddie became a consecrated member of the Focolare movement in 1976, and was ordained to the presbyterate of the diocese of Hong Kong in 2000. He brings more than twenty years experience in ecumenism and interreligious dialogue from his academic and pastoral work in Hong Kong and Macao. Much of this is rooted in his membership in Focolare, a movement based on the communitarian spirituality of its founder, and a deep commitment to dialogue and unity of all humankind. A decade of service as a social worker preceded his more than twenty years in academia, which has been augmented by a decade of pastoral ministry. He has published several articles in the areas of interreligious dialogue and the role of religion in society.

Educational Background includes: Licentiate in Sacred Theology (STL), in Ecumenism and Dialogue, Angelicum, 2011; Bachelor of Arts in Theology (BA), Holy Spirit Seminary College, Hong Kong, 2000; Master of Social Administration (MSA), London School of Economics, 1990; Bachelor of Social Work (BSW), Chinese University of Hong Kong, 1977

Mr. Carlos Roberto Latin

Mexico and US

Roberto began his college studies at the University of Texas Pan American, majoring in Rehabilitative Services (B.A. in 1996). He then continued his studies at the Catholic Seminary in Monterrey (Mexico) and obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and Theology there in 2006. Robert also obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Theology at Pontifical University in Mexico City, where he plans to graduate with a License in Systematic Theology in May 2011.
During his missionary work performed in Massachusetts and Mexico City, Roberto worked with people from the three monotheistic beliefs: Christians, Jews, and Muslims, as well as with Hindus and Buddhists. After completing his degree, he plans on continuing his work towards developing diplomatic relations between European countries and Mexico, and establishing relations among people of different faiths.

Educational Background includes: License in Sacred Theology (STL) in Systematic Theology, Pontifical University of Mexico, 2012; Bachelor in Sacred Theology (STB), Archdiocesan Seminary in Monterrey, 2009; Diploma in Philosophy, Archdiocesan Seminary in Monterrey, 2006; Teaching Certificate in Special Education, State of Texas, 1998 (?); Bachelor of Science (BS) in Rehabilitative Services, University of Texas Pan American, 1996

Ms. Linda Taggart


Linda is an adjunct professor of Hebrew Scriptures and Interreligious Studies, and has been working with St. Leo University’s Center for Jewish-Catholic dialogue for over a decade. She serves as a member of the diaconate formation faculty for the diocese of St. Petersburg, and an active member of the Florida Holocaust Museum’s Leadership Council. She has developed and taught a dozen different courses in interreligious studies, and produced more than fifty presentations and publications on the same topic. She intends to pursue a doctorate degree to allow her to continue her research, teaching, and formation of pastoral leaders in interreligious dialogue.

Educational Background includes: Master of Arts (MA) in Religious Studies, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL, USA, 1999; Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Writing, University of Tampa, Tampa, FL, USA 1993; Bachelor of Arts (BA) in English Language and Literature, University of South Florida, 1973

Cohort VI

Ms. Rebecca Theresa Cohen


Rebecca’s interest in interreligious dialogue was sparked in her first days of university studies, and the flame has only continued to grow. While a full-time student, she has worked as an intern or volunteer with the USCCB Secretariat of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, the Institute for Interreligious Study and Dialogue at CUA, and the Interfaith Families Project in Washington, DC. Last year alone, she was invited by the Holy See to participate in a Catholic-Jewish Emerging Leadership Conference in New York, and by the USCCB to participate in the National Sikh-Catholic Retreat. She is a contributing scholar to the online interreligious journal, State of Formation. Rebecca plans to dedicate her life to promoting Catholic Christian engagement in dialogue with Judaism, through ecclesial leadership and teaching.

Educational Background includes: Master of Arts (MA) in Theology, The Catholic University of America, DC, 2013; Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Theology and Philosophy, Georgetown University, DC, 2011

Ms. Marija Corusa

Bosnia I Herzegovina

Marija was only seven years old when the Balkan war began. As a Croatian Catholic living in Bosnia, the culture of her childhood told her that the ‘other’, whether Bosnian Muslim or Serbian Orthodox, was the enemy. Her decision to try to understand her neighbors, instead, prompted her to study theology in Sarajevo, and then to pursue a Master’s in Religion, specializing in Islam, at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University. While a student in Rome, she lived at the Lay Centre at Foyer Unitas, with a Bosnian Imam and a Serbian Orthodox student as housemates. Two years of a genuine dialogue of life together lead to deep friendships and the planning of a series of conferences around Italy. Marija hopes to return home to Bosnia after completing her studies to work for interreligious and intercultural understanding, peace-building, and dialogue.

Educational Background includes: Master of Arts (MA) in Religions specialized in Islamic Theology (M.A.), Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, 2013; Certificate of Islamic Studies, Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies, Rome, 2012; Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Theology, Catholic Theological Faculty of Sarajevo, 2013

Mr. Peter Joseph Dziedzic


Peter’s interest in interreligious dialogue led him to major in religious studies, found and lead an interfaith organization on his university’s campus, and to volunteer with several organizations, including the Interfaith Youth Core (Chicago) and the United Religions Initiative (San Francisco). He has studied Arabic and Sufism in Amman, Jordan, and Tibetan and Buddhism in Dharamasala, India, where he has also worked as a researcher for the Central Tibetan Administration. He is particularly interested in interreligious social action and advocacy, and cross-contemplative dialogue. Peter hopes to pursue a doctorate in Christian and Muslim mysticism, and continue his advocacy of interreligious dialogue through social activism and advocacy.

Educational Background includes: Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Religious Studies, DePaul University, Chicago, IL, USA. 2013

Mr. Derek Clinton Farmer


Derek has been a Naval intelligence officer, field director for a successful mayoral campaign, and recently finished the seminary formation program to become a lay ecclesial minister. His interest in promoting Catholic Christian engagement in interreligious dialogue comes from his experience in the culturally and religiously diverse environment of the Pacific Northwest, dominated as it is by the ‘spiritual but not religious’ demographic. His interests were developed especially through a year-long pilgrimage around Europe and the Middle East. He hopes to promote dialogue and the new evangelization, especially with the spiritually seeking but ecclesially and religiously unaffiliated, after completing his certificate.

Educational Background includes: Master of Arts (MA) in Pastoral Studies, Seattle University, Seattle, WA,2013; Bachelor of Arts (BA) in European Studies and Economics, 2001

Ms. Sarah Katherine Farnes


Sarah’s interest in interreligious studies grew from her experiences of intercultural dialogue with international students at her university. During her recent master’s studies, she developed a curriculum in interreligious studies for use at the university’s School of Divinity, and has volunteered as a cultural liaison for the local, mostly Muslim, international immigrant community. She worked as the graduate assistant for the University’s Christian-Muslim Dialogue Center. She has recently completed an internship with the Holy See’s permanent observer mission to the United Nations. In recognition of her commitment to intercultural and interpersonal relationships, her university awarded her its Global Citizenship Award at the end of her master’s studies. She plans to work in international peace education and dialogue, with a particular interest in its interreligious aspects.

Educational Background includes: Master of Arts (MA) in Theology in Muslim-Christian relations, University of St. Thomas, Minneapolis, MN, USA, 2012; Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Political Science and Sociology, University of St. Thomas, Minneapolis, MN, USA, 2009

Ms. Elena Kariofylidou


Elena is an Orthodox lay woman, a theologian and a canonist. Her research has specialized in the question of apostasy in Orthodoxy, and the interpretation of scripture in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim texts and the need for interreligious dialogue to provide more than a model of tolerance and moving beyond misunderstanding. Her motivating question is how to be true to the faith of the other, without being false to her own. She is conversant in Greek, German, English, French, Arabic and Sign Language.

Educational Background includes: Master of Arts (MA) in Ecclesiastical and Canon Law, Aristotle University, Thessaloniki, Greece, 2012; Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Theology, Aristotle University, Thessaloniki, Greece, 2008

Ms. Allyson Marie Zacharoff


Allyson’s interest in interreligious dialogue began in her home life, the daughter of a Catholic Christian mother and Jewish father. As a Jewish student at a predominantly Christian university, the College of William and Mary, she has had the opportunity to engage in a dialogue of life for the last four years. Through New York University, she participated in the Collegiate Leadership Internship Program and served as an intern at the new interfaith Center for Spiritual Life. She received a grant to study contemporary Spanish antisemitism, and served as an intern for the Welsh National Assembly in Cardiff. Her article on antisemitism in Spain was published by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, and she maintains a personal interfaith blog entitled Of Christmas and Kreplach. She is considering rabbinical school, and hopes to deepen her knowledge of Christianity and Islam while continuing her studies.

Educational Background includes: Bachelor of Arts (BA) in English and European Studies, College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA, US, 2013

Cohort VII

Ms. Anna Marie Bninski


The first time Anna saw the marvelous potential of interreligious dialogue was when she witnessed a call to action at a public rally organized by IMPACT; a coalition of congregations which includes Unitarian, Muslim, Protestant, Jewish and Catholic members and works to identify issues affecting the marginalized members of her hometown in Virginia. This experience remained the most beautiful aspect of interreligious understanding that she has encountered. For two years of her college career she hosted tea parties on Friday afternoons, where conversation topics covered ethics of their lives and the guiding principles of their religious traditions. Here they welcomed the chance to explain their beliefs and to ask questions without calling names or converting. As a Jesuit Volunteer from 2013 at the Josephinum Academy in Chicago, Illinois, Anna served as a full-time volunteer at a Catholic high school for disadvantaged young women. She co-taught religion class surveying American religious diversity with an emphasis on social justice and she practiced the Jesuit Volunteer Corps’ values of social justice, simple living, community, and spirituality.

Educational Background includes: Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies and English Literature, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, US, 2013

Ms. Elena Dini


Elena completed an MA in Near and Middle Eastern Studies in London and earned two Graduate Certificates in Interfaith Dialogue (from Hartford Seminary, CT, USA) and in Interreligious Studies (from the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Rome, Italy, as a Russell Berrie Fellow, cohort VII). She is currently working to have a degree in Missiology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Her working field is communications related to faith communities. She worked as the managing editor of a news website targeting Muslim communities in Italy for some years and currently works in the communications department of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre. She regularly writes journalistic articles on interfaith issues and she is called by academic institutions to give seminars on this topic. She is active in the field of refugees integration in Rome where she also runs a series of interfaith meetings for young Italians and refugees.

Fr. Caetano Joaquim Fernandes


Caetano Fernandes lives in a society where there is a need of mutual acceptance of others, Goa being a state in India with 26% of Catholics and India being a country which comprises of less than 3% of Christians. He lives in a land dominated by other religions, such as Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, and Buddhism; therefore, a healthy interaction with people of different religions came naturally from an early age. Later on the Archbishop of Goa and Daman appointed him as a member of the Committee for the Apostolate of Inter-religious Dialogue in 2008 and then as the Convenor of the same Committee in 2013. As the Convenor, Caetano worked to sow seeds of harmony, peace and justice by organizing inter-religious meetings at the diocesan level and celebrating various festivals such as Christmas, Eid and Diwali. In addition, he is also the Chaplain of St. Francis Chapel Duler.

Educational Background includes: Post Graduate Diploma in Guidance and Counselling, Goa University, Taleigao Plateau, Goa, India, 2009; Bachelor in Theology, Patriarchal Seminary of Rachol, Goa, India, 2000; Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Psychology, Goa University, Taleigao Plateau, Goa, India, 1996; Preparatory Course in Orientation to Priesthood, Seminary of Our Lady Saligao-Pilerne, Goa, India, 1991

Fr. Nigel Joseph Karam


Nigel’s interest in ecumenism and inter-religious studies began during his seminarian studies. His professor taught the subject with dedication and passion, and to Nigel, this subject resonated with a value that he holds dear: the value of unity. Nigel comes from the island of Dominica which can be found in the Caribbean archipelago, where although races, religions and rhythms mix, they are also able to exist side by side in harmony. It is this harmony and unity that Nigel would like to understand, share and grow for the greater development and integration of the people in the Caribbean. His direct involvement in the field of ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue has been through teaching in the permanent diaconate program within his own diocese. This short experience together with his seminary class helped Nigel see the importance of theology in helping to foster unity and harmony, mutual respect and tolerance.

Educational Background includes: STL in Ecumenical Theology & Inter-religious Dialogue, Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, (Angelicum), Rome, Italy, 2014; BA in Theology, University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus, St. Augustine , Trinidad and Tobago, 2008; BA in Theology, Regional Seminary: St. John Vianney & Uganda Martyrs, Tunapuna, Trinidad and Tobago, 2008

Fr. Koumakpai Noukpo Moise


Koumakpai Moise’s interest in Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue has two different aspects; an internal and an external. As for the internal, Koumakpai believes that it was a message addressed specifically to him by God that he was sent as a missionary priest to Tunisia, a Muslim-majority country. Due to the coexistence of his own Christian faith and the religion of Islam, with the agreement of his Bishop, he decided to study Arabic and Islam in order to promote the dialogue between Christians in his country with their Muslim Brothers. During his time in Tunisia, Koumakpai restructured “JCAT”, which stands for African Christian Youth in Tunisia and was designed to help African students integrate into Tunisian society. The external aspect is connected to the fact that Koumakpai is from the Beninese nation, where the religion of the population varies, for there are Christians, Muslim, believers of Vodun and “No-Creed people”. To be effective in the dialogue between Christians and Muslims, Koumakpai believes that he needs to deepen his knowledge of his own Christian faith and also to complete training in Islamic studies.

Educational Background includes: License in Arabic and Islamic Studies, Pontificial Institute of Islamic Studies, Rome, Italy, 2013; Master degree in Ecumenism, Churches, Religion, Pontificial University Regina Apostolorum, Rome, Italy, 2013; Diploma in Islamic Studies, Dar Comboni, Cairo, Egypt, 2011

Fr. Vinh Hoang Nguyen


Vinh Nguyen first heard about the notion of “interreligious dialogue” when he was a child; however, the concept at that time did not yet have meaning to him. His interest started to grow in interreligious studies after he joined the Dominican Order, completed a course about Vatican II and took part in the Common Study Program for Dominicans of the Asia Pacific Region. In this program, Vinh had the chance to learn about Judaism, Islam and Buddhism; which is also a wide-spread religion in Vietnam. He also took part in a trip to Tuyen Lam pagodas, in DaLat, Vietnam, to study and understand the ways of Buddhist meditation, praying and their doctrine. In the future, Vinh plans to teach and he hopes to become a member of the interreligious committee of his diocese for further research and cooperation in interreligious dialogue.

Educational Background includes: Bachelor degree in Sacred Theology, Dominican Center of Studies, Hochiminh City, Vietnam, 2013;Bachelor of Art in English, Hochiminh City University of Foreign Languages and Information Technologies, Hochiminh City, Vietnam, 2001

Mr. Nazar Sloboda


Nazar Sloboda’s interest in interreligious dialogue came into fruition when he began his formal interreligious academic formation at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) in Rome. His studies in Western Europe together with working in the USA enriched Nazar with a refined understanding of the task of interreligious dialogue as being multidimensional and complex and it also helped him to become more realistic regarding the expectations in the field of interreligious studies. During his work in St. Nicholas Eparchy, Nazar was involved in various interreligious initiatives, conducted under the patronage of the Archdiocese of Chicago and leading academic Christian institutions in the Chicago metropolitan area. He also speaks Russian, which enables him to draw close parallels between the usually more reserved vision of the Eastern Orthodox Church and that of the Roman Catholic Church, which therefore provides him a balanced view of major Christian denominations in the field of interreligious affairs.

Educational Background includes: Licentiate of Sacred Theology, Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum), Rome, Italy (2014); Bachelor of Sacred Theology, Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum), Rome, Italy, 2013; Master of Arts in Theology, Christ the King Seminary, East Aurora, NY, USA, 2006; Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, St. Basil Ukrainian Catholic College – Seminary, Stamford, CT, USA, 1999; Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Physics, Lviv State University, Lviv, Ukraine, 1997

Ms. Elena Tadiello


Elena Tadiello is primarily interested in Interreligious Studies due to the fact that she lives in an area in Italy which has the highest percentage of immigrants. She works for the local government at the tax office, so she is in contact with the immigrants on a daily basis, and thus has the opportunity to get to know more about their cultures and habits and occasionally, their faiths. Elena belongs to a community called Comunita Abramo, which promotes evangelization. For instance, every month she spends time together with the members of her community in Vicenza Prison. They talk to the prisoners, listen to their problems, and share each other’s thoughts about God and faith. Elena also takes part each year in the organization of the Missionary-Interreligious Vigil of the Diocese of Vicenza and in supporting Bishop Andrew Francis of the Diocese of Multan (Pakistan) in his humanitarian project of dialogue with Islam in Pakistan. In 2012, she led a youth ecumenical experience in Belfast, organized by the Abramo Community in partnership with the Auxiliar Bishop of Belfast, Donal Mckeown (now Bishop of Derry), and a group of Catholic and Protestant pastors of Ulster.

Educational Background includes: Baccalaureate in Religious Sciences, ISSR Mater Ecclesiae (Angelicum), Rome, Italy, 2012; Baccalaureate in Religious Sciences, ISSR (Superior Institute of Religious Sciences) of Verona, Italy, 2011; Baccalaureate in Religious Sciences, ISSR (Superior Institute of Religious Sciences) of Padova, Italy, 2011

Cohort VIII

Ms. Berliana Ali


Berliana Ali began her studies at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in 2011. During the propaedeutic year there, she would stay additional hours after her studies to help her classmates who were struggling with the challenges that such a year offers. Later on she was nominated as the student representative for Asia at the institute. Berliana has furthermore been invited to work in a diocese where interreligious dialogue is much needed; therefore, she is deeply motivated to broaden her knowledge at the Angelicum. In the future she would also like to be engaged in teaching and biblical ministry; through this mission she would like to raise awareness especially among Christians to the importance of interreligious dialogue by empowering them with essential knowledge and helping them build the right mentality.

Educational Background includes: Licence in Sacred Scriptures, Pontifical Biblical Institute, Rome, Italy, 2015; Bachelor Degree in Theology, Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, Italy, 2011; MBA in Accountancy, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, 2000; Bachelor Degree in Business Administration, University of Mount Union, Alliance, OH, USA, 1991

Ms. Anna Balint


From 2013 autumn Anna Balint began the organization of a new tradition-creating program for the students and professors of their faculty. She advised to prepare a “Human Library” day for this event. This idea came to her mind from a previous experience where people with difficult backgrounds told their own stories and thus became “Books” in this Library. Their aim is to fight prejudices and to learn not to judge by the “cover”. She strongly believes that in order to help those who do not believe, she first has to live the fraternal love in her own denomination, then in ecumenism and then in the interreligious dialogue. She believes that at this point she has arrived to this last step. After the completion of her studies at the Angelicum, she hopes to take a volunteer job at the Hungarian Reformed Church’s Mission Centre.

Educational Background includes: Undivided Degree in Theology, Károli Gáspár University of the Reformed Church in Hungary, Budapest, Hungary, 2019

Fr. Herbert Banda


Herbert Banda has worked as a parish priest from 2002-2012. As a pastor he undertook hospital ministry in which he dedicated himself to the spiritual needs of patients Catholics and other Christians alike. In the first four years he was the spiritual director of the Catholic Charismatic renewal in the Archdiocese of Bulawayo and in the last four years he was the spiritual director of the catholic men’s association in the Diocese of Gokwe. Inspired by the social and civil challenges faced by his country, he worked with local pastors of other Christian denominations in conflict resolution and peace building workshops. Upon completing the course at the Angelicum, Herbert wishes to shift his attention to interreligious and ecumenical initiatives and become a pioneer in his country.

Educational Background includes: Licence in Theology in Bibilical Theology, Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, (Angelicum), Rome, Italy, 2015; Bachelor degree in Theology, Salvatorian Institute of Philosophy and Theology, Morogoro, Tanzania, 2002; Diploma in Philosophy, St. Bonaventure College, St Bonaventure, NY, USA, 1997

Ms. Lidiia Batig


Lidiia Batig works as a journalist at the press office at the “Spiritual greatness of Lviv” website and also cooperates with Lviv City Council. Partly due to her own religion, family history and the current situation in Ukraine made religious journalism her calling. She understands that in the difficult circumstances of the time and society in which we now live we should not oppose each other’s differences but we should seek ways to find compromise. After completing her studies in Italy, Lidiia started to write a book about experience of interreligious dialogue in Rome and in and Jerusalem. She also actively works with Libertas, which is a Center for inter-confessional and interreligious dialogue, and organizes various Christian-Judeo-Muslim round tables.

Educational Background includes: MA in Religious Journalism, Ukrainian Catholic University, Lviv, Ukraine; MA in Journalism, Ivan Franko Lviv National University, Lviv, Ukraine, 2012; Diploma in Interreligious Studies, St. Thomas Aquinas University, Rome, Italy, 2016.

Ms. Elyse Brazel


Elyse Brazel’s interest in inter-religious studies stems from her experience as a settlement worker at Romero House, an organization that provides transitional housing and settlement services to refugee claimants from around the world. There she learned more about different cultures and religious traditions from the people she met which sparked her interest in inter-religious engagement. In 2009 she was a member of the Faiths Act Fellowship. She was chosen as one of 30 young adults from around the world to spend 10 months nurturing a sense of community between people of different faiths and leading young adults in common service projects for the common good. Since 2014 she has been a member of the Community of Living Traditions, an interfaith intentional community that runs the Stony Point Retreat and Conference Center In New York. Upon completion of her studies at the Angelicum she plans to return to North America and use the knowledge and insights she has gained to improve the interfaith work she currently does and to nurture inter-religious cooperation efforts that strive for reconciliation and justice.

Educational Background includes: MAIIS in Indigenous and Inter-religious Studies (In process), Vancouver School of Theology, Vancouver, BC, Canada; MAPPL in Public and Pastoral Leadership, Vancouver School of Theology, Vancouver, BC, Canada, 2014

Sr. Purobi Chiran


As a member of the Congregation of Religious of Notre Dame of the Missions, Purobi Chiran began her missionary journey by teaching at Miriam Shishu Bidhaloy, school Natore in Bangladesh. The school is situated in a town where mostly Muslims and Hindus live and there is not one Christian family. She soon became head mistress and after facing many challenges she was able to create harmony in the school among the teachers and the parents of the students. Her constant interaction with Muslims and Hindus made her realize that while she was practicing a “dialogue of life” it also became a “dialogue of service”. After completing her studies at the Angelicum she wishes to share the knowledge gained about the values of Interreligious Dialogue in the major seminary Banani, Dhaka, where seminarians are preparing themselves to become future priests to serve humanity. In addition, she would also like to give seminars on Interreligious Dialogue to the young women entering their congregation.

Educational Background includes: Diploma in Arabic Language, Islamic Studies and Interreligious Dialogue, Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies, (PISAI), Rome, Italy, 2014 and Dar Comboni, Cairo, Egypt, 2013, Graduated in Sacred Theology Focus on Mission, Tangaza College, Nairobi, Kenya, 2012; Diploma in Philosophy and Theology, Holy Spirit Major Seminary, Dhaka, Bangladesh, 2005

Mr. Matthew Doeing


Matthew Doeing has had a strong interest in interreligious studies from an early age. After completing various related courses in college he eventually declared a major in religious studies shortly after his enrollment at Elizabethtown College. He became familiar with world religions and also with Judaism while at the same time he continued to develop himself as a Catholic through the sacraments and service in his college’s campus ministry. After completing the courses at the Angelicum, Matthew would like to finish his M.A. in Theology thesis at Providence College, where he is currently enrolled at. He would then consider working directly in a position pertaining to ecumenical and interreligious affairs.

Educational Background includes: MA in Theology, Providence College, Providence, RI, USA, 2016; BA in Religious Studies (Primary Major) and Biology (Secondary Major), Elizabethtown College, Elizabethtown, PA, USA, 2013

Ms. Courtney Hartmann


Courtney Hartmann always remembers having an interest in both Judeo-Christian and interfaith relations. During her Masters program she traveled to Yad Vashem in Israel for a conference entitled, “Teaching the Shoah: Fighting Racism and Prejudice”. Through working in Higher Education Administration, Courtney was also able to attend a Peace Seminar in Hiroshima, Japan. Courtney has felt very much at home working for a college with a diverse student body of many different faith traditions and cultures, assisting international, freshman and transfer students to obtain their degrees and pursue their academic and career goals. Most recently, Courtney has enjoyed teaching Social Justice, Catholic Social Teaching and Human Rights to college freshman students, where she incorporates Jewish themes into the curriculum. She has studied with prominent Professors such as Peter Kreeft and Jerome Murphy O’Connor and looks forward to the knowledge she will gain this year in Judeo-Christian Relations, Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue. Courtney plans to use her diploma from the Angelicum in this emerging field to facilitate interfaith and intercultural dialogue as well as peace efforts.

Educational Background includes: Master of Arts in Theology, College of Saint Elizabeth and a Bachelor of Arts in English, Boston College

Fr. Joseph Origbo


For Joseph Origbo, it was after a few years of his ordination as a Catholic Priest that he had the opportunity of working as the Diocesan Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies, where he came in direct contact with the reality of interreligious dialogue. During his contact with the National Secretariat he learned about the necessity of interreligious dialogue in Nigeria especially in the area of missionary activities in the Catholic Church. Within the first two years after the completion of the course at the Angelicum, Joseph would like to return to his country and with his Bishop’s support, open the Diocesan office of Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue. He would also like to collaborate with the State arm of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), to establish a state committee on Interreligious Dialogue not particularly with the Catholic Church but within the entire Christendom under CAN.

Educational Background Includes: Bachelors in Theology at St. Joseph Major Seminary, Ikot Ekpene, Nigeria, 2001; Bachelors in Philosophy at St. Joseph Major Seminary, Ikot Ekpene, Nigeria, 1996; Bachelors in Arts, University of Uyo, Uyo, Nigeria, 1996

Fr. Ranndolph Romero


According to Ranndolph Romero, the greatest privilege and challenge in his entire seminary formation was when he reached third year in theology. He was elected for the office of General Beadle in the second semester of the year 2010-11, which position means to be the head of all seminarians. Ranndolph strongly believes that knowledge is not meant to be kept, but is meant for sharing. Therefore, if the Theology seminary allows him to teach, he would like to share what he has learned through his studies at the Angelicum. He would like to inculcate in his future students that dialogue is also possible with other religions like Islam, not only with the different Christian denominations.

Educational Background includes: Bachelor in Sacred Theology, Immaculate Conception School of Theology, City of Vigan, Philippines, 2013; Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, Mary Help of Christians College Seminary, San Fabian, Pangasinan, Philippines, 2007

Cohort IX

Mr. Ali Abdallah Chamseddine


Ali finished his STB in theology at the Angelicum and will begin his STL studies in ecumenism and interreligious dialogue. Ali’s involvement in ecumenism and interreligious dialogue is a natural result of his being raised in Lebanon and having a religiously diverse family. His parents, one Muslim and one Catholic, divorced when Ali was young as a result of the pressure they faced from a society that did not accept mixed marriages. Ali finds that his background affords him the opportunity to connect with and build bridges of understanding between diverse communities. Ali is preparing to be a married priest that will serve the Maronite community in the United States. He is excited to emphasize ecumenical and interreligious relations in his ministry.

Educational background includes: Bachelor of Arts in Theology, Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, (Angelicum), Rome, Italy, 2016; Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, Pontifical University of the Holy Spirit, Kaslik, Lebanon, 2013

Sr. Anie Deepa Nedumkall


Sr. Anie Deepa is a member of the Franciscan Clarist Congregation (FCC) and worked as a teacher at different schools in India. She gained experience of leadership while being a missionary in one of the remotest villages of Gujarat, India. Most of the people she met there were non-Christians and also victims of poverty, persecution and discrimination. By giving classes to mostly women, she was able to reinforce a sense of dignity and to encourage ways by which these people can help themselves later on. She wishes to deepen her knowledge in interreligious studies so that upon returning to India she can continue to help people to accept differences by overcoming them through relationships converging toward harmony in a multi-religious and cultural country.

Educational background includes: Licentiate in Biblical Theology, Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum), Rome, Italy, 2015; Master of Arts in English Language and Literature, Calicut University, Kerala, India 2012; Baccalaureate in Theology, Kristu Jyoti College, Bangalore, India, 2008; Baccalaureate in Philosophy, Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram Pontifical Athenaeum, Bangalore, India, 2002

Mr. Christos Kalaitzidis


Christos became acquainted with interreligious dialogue through education. Trained in the Continental and Analytic traditions of philosophy, he has written his thesis on the Christian philosophers Abelard and Kierkegaard. His primary interest in religious studies is of a comparative nature between East and West and has also written on interreligious communication, particularly on Muslim-Christian relation. After finishing his university studies, Christos plans to become a professor teaching philosophy and religion in order to foster understanding between different faiths.

Educational background includes: Master of Arts in Philosophy, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary, 2016; Bachelor of Arts in General Humanities with Religious Studies, Karoli Gaspar Reformed University, Budapest, Hungary, 2014

Ms. Christine Cheng Kim Lim


Growing up in Malaysia, a multi-religious, multi-cultural, multi-racial, and multi-ethnic society ruled by a predominately Muslim-controlled government, Christine is convinced that interreligious dialogue is of utmost importance to live together in peace and harmony. Religious tolerance of one’s neighbour who professes a different faith requires effort to understand that faith and belief, which is the underlying reason for their way of life, their thoughts and attitudes in any given situation, their actions and reactions in different circumstances. Christine is conscious that dialogue thrives on friendship and we need to continue to pave the way to promote understanding among each other, for we do not live alone in this world. God has created each of us out of His infinite love and blessed us with His gifts. These gifts given to us are to be used in the service of all humanity.

Educational background includes: Diploma in Spirituality, Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, (Angelicum), Rome, Italy, 2016; Bachelor of Arts in International Business Administration, University of Northumbria, Newcastle, UK, 2003; Advanced Diploma in Administrative Management, Institute of Administrative Management, London, UK, 1995

Ms. Samantha Anne Lin


Samantha has been dedicated to interreligious dialogue since her time at Georgetown University where she was a Catholic member of the Muslim Interest Living Community, the Muslim Student Association and a coordinator of “Faith-In-Conversation”, a bi-weekly dialogue program. She also worked with Seeds of Peace, an international peacebuilding and leadership camp for teenagers from the Middle East and South Asia for the last three years. At Seeds she both facilitated and witnessed the power of interreligious dialogue in building community and friendship. Additionally, Samantha served as a Jesuit Volunteer in Chicago, working with the Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement Program with a mainly Muslim population. After completing her certificate at the Angelicum she hopes to apply what she has learned to building a community based on interreligious understanding in Jerusalem.

Educational background includes: Bachelor of Science in Foreign Services, Regional and Comparative Studies: Religion and Politics in Latin America and the Middle East, Georgetown University, Washington, DC, USA, 2014

Ms. Lynda Kay Middleton


After many years of service in the United Methodist Church, Lynda converted to Roman Catholicism. Initially, she managed a homeless shelter for men, women and families from all sorts of situations, many of them she now counts as friends. She currently serves as a Catholic Chaplain in a sectarian not-for-profit hospital, which involves working with people of many faiths or no faith at all. Upon finishing her year at the Angelicum, Lynda would like to return to chaplaincy while researching and writing about interreligious concerns in the pastoral care of patients and their families. She would also like to offer medical workers an interfaith support group based on various traditions’ spirituality of work. She is particularly interested in opening dialogue in the interfaith community on mental illness.

Educational background includes: Studies on Art History, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH, USA, 1995; Master of Divinity in Theology, United Theological Seminary, Dayton, OH, USA, 1984; Bachelor of Science in Biology, Wilmington College, Wilmington, OH, USA, 1980

Mr. Rafiqur Rahman


Rafiqur was born into a marginalized community within South Asia where, per Hindu socioreligious norms, one’s caste status at birth irrevocably determines one’s social location, societal worth, and individual ‘place of honour’ at the community table. The sizeable cultural, religious, and societal biases encountered during his childhood in South Asia and then later in America left an indelible psychological impression – inculcating within him a lifelong passion to advocate for religious freedom, interreligious harmony, peace, social justice, and the preservation of human dignity for all people. Upon completion of the Russell Berrie Fellowship and as a future Afro-Catholic professor and theologian, Rafiqur would like to assist his undergraduate students to comprehend how St. Aquinas can still figuratively function as a current day beacon for ethical leadership.

Educational background includes: PhD in Theology: Religion and Culture, Catholic University of America, Washington, DC, USA

Mr. William John Stainsby


William is a lecturer, writer/author and Director of the Centre for Faith & Culture in the Republic of Ireland. He has worked periodically with several Pontifical Councils in the Vatican and participated in the Synod on Europe in 1999. His publications reflect his vision and wide experience including Creating a Climate of Confidence in the Media; The Living Tradition (on the Rule of St Benedict); Christ, the Source of a New Culture for Europe (with the collaboration of Cardinal Poupard, President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Culture in the Vatican) and Forget Not Hope which sets out his vision for Faith and Culture in Europe for the new Millennium. Looking to the future, William sees Interreligious dialogue as the hermeneutical key to unlocking the unfathomable treasures of Faith & Reason which will enrich and enhance humanity.

Educational background includes: STD in Moral Theology, Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, (Angelicum), Rome, Italy, 2008; Higher Diploma in Teacher Training, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland, 1994; STL in Theology/Philosophy/Anthropology, John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family/Lateran University, Rome, Italy, 1992; Baccalaureate in Theology and Arts, St. Patrick’s College Maynooth/National University of Ireland, Maynooth, Ireland

Ms. Shu Chin Gabrielle Yang


The need for interreligious dialogue in Malaysia stems from the desire to better understand one another and in respecting and appreciating others’ faiths and beliefs. For Gabrielle, embarking on interreligious studies means to be equipped with a more comprehensive understanding so that she is able to dedicate her life to continue to share and witness what it is to be fully alive and fully human. She views everyone as part of a family where bridges of trust, love and friendship continues to be strengthened, as nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in her heart. After completing her year at the Angelicum, Gabrielle hopes to work with young children in order to help them build a solid and moral foundation in their lives.

Educational background includes: Diploma in Spirituality, Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum), Rome, Italy, 2016; Fellow, The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), London, UK, 1987; Associate, The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), London, UK, 1982

Cohort X

Mr. Baltazar JR. Mahilum Acebedo


Being a former seminarian for ten years, Baltazar became familiar with Islam, Buddhism, different Christian denominations and other religions through participation in apostolate programs and school conferences. After obtaining degrees in Theology and Philosophy, he served as an Instructor of Moral Theology and Social Philosophy at the University of Santo Tomas, Manila. During this time, he held interesting colloquies with students from different religious backgrounds as the country’s government considered controversial issues such as the death penalty, same-sex marriage, divorce, along with a wide range of social issues like contraception and surrogacy. By learning more about interreligious dialogue through the Russell Berrie Fellowship, he would like to aim for a more effective approach in teaching morality among diverse religious perspectives to guard young minds against the political relativism, secularism and the devaluation of the concept of peace.

Educational background includes: Bachelor of Arts in Sacred Theology, University of Santo Tomas, Manila, Philippines, 2015; Bachelor of Arts in Classical Philosophy, University of Santo Tomas, Manila, Philippines, 2013; Bachelor of Arts in Ecclesiastical Philosophy, University of Santo Tomas, Manila, Philippines, 2011

Ms. Emily Kathleen David


Emily realized her passion for theology when she studied abroad in Rome. During her time at the University of Notre Dame, she worked with the Office of Campus Ministry where she helped lead four pilgrimages, two of which were in Rome. This Interreligious Studies experience will help form her work in youth and young adult ministry, as interfaith relations are becoming more vital for young emerging leaders. Secondly, she is interested in exploring how different religious beliefs affect attitudes toward immigration, while learning more about the spiritualty of refugees and migrants in Italy. In Rome she plans to assess, through service and research, how different faith-based institutions are addressing the refugee crisis in Europe. Finally, she hopes to sharpen her understanding of holistic health, knowing that spirituality and faith are key components in one’s wellbeing. She is particularly eager to learn more about Eastern religions. In the future she aspires to practice health counseling with pastoral care, through which she will educate communities about the integration of physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing.

Educational background includes: Bachelor of Arts in Economics with minors in Theology and Italian, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana, USA, 2017

Sr. Lucy Joseph


Having lived in several areas in India all characterized by various religious beliefs, Sr. Lucy has been exposed to the need of interreligious dialogue early on. She later became a Franciscan Missionary working in the remotest villages of Jharkhand and taught students coming from difficult backgrounds. During this time she worked towards raising their self-esteem and breaking down the cultural barriers and social factors militating against them. In the past seven years she was also actively involved in the Formation of her Religious Congregation where she helped members develop various skills through counseling. Upon completing the Fellowship, Sr. Lucy hopes to equip today’s youth with a wider perspective towards religion and culture and to make interreligious dialogue a living reality.

Educational background includes: Baccalaureate in Theology, St. Albert’s College, Ranchi, Jharkhand, India, 2010; Baccalaureate in Arts, Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, Kerala, India, 2006

Dr. Sr. Vimal Jyothy Joseph


Dr. Sr. Vimal Jyothy is a family physician, social activist, councilor, professor and preacher. At the start of her healing ministry, she was enlightened by the sympathy shared among patients, relatives and staff in the hospital ward. As she was also working among Muslims and Hindus this has helped her better understand different customs and cultures. All of these experiences inspired her to work towards the comprehensive holistic growth and development of people regardless of caste, creed, color, race or religion. This passion was further strengthened by her time spent in Mumbai, where she worked with people suffering from HIV/AIDS, as well as with marginalized children and vulnerable women. She is also the director of ISHOMS Trust, which is an institute offering support for underprivileged people from all backgrounds. With the help of the Russell Berrie Fellowship, she hopes to deepen her knowledge and understanding of different religions for the promotion and continuation of peace, harmony and unity.

Educational background includes: FCGP in Medicine, IMA College of General Practitioners, Delhi, India, 2002; FCAMS in Family Medicine, Christian Academy of Medical Science (CMC), Vellore, India, 2001; MBBS in Medicine, St. John’s Medical College, Bengaluru, India, 1989; BSC in Science, Hislop College, Nagpur, India, 1979

Fr. Jan James Nowotnik


Fr. Jan was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Birmingham in 1998 and spent many years of his ministry in parishes and school chaplaincies in the diocese. His desire to work in the field of interreligious dialogue began a few years ago on an ecumenical study trip to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. Although the main purpose of this was to learn more about the horrors of the Holocaust, it also gave him the opportunity to reflect on the nature of dialogue in the holy city and further afield. This eventually led to his bishop asking him to do a licence in Ecumenical Studies and Interreligious dialogue at the Angelicum, which he has just completed. As he begins his doctoral studies he would like to learn more about the tension between Evangelization and the need for dialogue. Upon returning to the UK, he hopes to put into practice all that he has learned in this field.

Educational background includes: STL in Ecumenical Theology, Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum), Rome, Italy, 2017; STB in Theology, Pontifical University of Comillas, Madrid, Spain, 1998

Ms. Annamaria Szalma


Anna first encountered interreligious dialogue as a child in her own Catholic and Protestant family. As a student of theology, she became interested in Hasidic philosophy which inspired her to study Jesus’ relationship with the Torah. As a social educator, she has worked 9 years in the Hungarian Reformed Church’s Bethesda Children’s Hospital, where she drew immense strength and inspiration from the genuine community of faith among the Catholic and Protestant co-workers. She went on to research Turkish sufi communities as well as homegrown terrorism’s connection with social marginalization and racism. Anna hopes that the course on interreligious studies at the Angelicum will give her a deeper understanding of how difference is constructed and how connection between differences can become experience.

Educational background includes: Master of Arts in Social and Cultural Anthropology, Catholic University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium, 2017; Bachelor of Arts in Social Education and Theology, Apor Vilmos Catholic College, Vac, Hungary, 2004

Rev. Rafal Maciej Szweda


Deacon Rafal was born into a Catholic family in Poland but since early childhood he was very much aware of his partial Jewish roots. Throughout his life, he was always very keen to deepen his knowledge of Jewish religion and culture especially in the field of the history of the Jews in Poland. On his arrival to Scotland in 2004 he found himself in a multicultural city where people of different nations and creeds blend together in one society. This experience prompted him to engage in various events promoting ecumenical dialogue within Christian community. As a result, Deacon Rafal started to understand his vocation to Catholic Priesthood and in 2011 he began his formation in The Pontifical Scots College in Rome. By studying Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue, he hopes to obtain knowledge and skills necessary for ministry in a country where Catholics are a minority and where there is a growing Muslim population. Rafal’s Orientation to Priesthood is planned for July 2018.

Educational Background includes: STB in Theology, Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum), Rome, Italy, 2016; Studies in Philosophy, Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum), Rome, Italy, 2013

Fr. Ladislav Varga


As a seminarian Fr. Ladislav was involved in prayer meetings of the Ecumenical community in Kosice, which also includes representatives from the local Jewish community. As a priest associate from 2010 through 2015 he worked as a teacher of religious education and later as a secretary for the Ecumenical community in Kosice. In the last two years he studied Ecumenism and Interreligious dialogue at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum). Fr. Ladislav believes that contextual understanding of the various issues between different religions as well as understanding one’s own identity has an important place in interreligious dialogue. In the future, he would like to be a pioneer of interreligious dialogue in Slovakia and also hopes to improve ecumenical relationships there.

Educational Background includes: STL in Sacred Theology, Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum), Rome, Italy, 2017; Master’s degree in Sacred Theology, Catholic University in Ruzomberok, Ruzomberok, Slovakia, 2010

Ms. Roksolana Zarytska


Throughout her life, Roksolana has always believed that it is possible for a person to make a difference in the world. Living in a uniform society she often came across national and religious stereotyping. To bring about positive change she has been part of the Ecumenical Social Week for the past five years, which is dedicated to various topics in society, such as education, immigration and social responsibility and brings together representatives of various religions. She also worked on projects related to corruption, injustice and intolerance at the International Institute for Ethics and Contemporary Issues (UCU). She is currently a member of the School of Interreligious Dialogue, organized by Lidiia Batig, an Alumna of the Russell Berrie Fellowship. Upon completing the Fellowship herself, she plans to return to Ukraine and hopes to continue working in the field of interreligious dialogue by establishing a fruitful cooperation with the Libertas Center for Interreligious and Interconfessional Understanding and also with the student youth organization of the Ukrainian Catholic University.

Educational Background includes: Master of Arts in Religious Journalism, Ukrainian Catholic University, Lviv, Ukraine; Master of Arts in Psychology, Ivan Franko Lviv National University, Lviv, Ukraine, 2010; Master of Arts in Finance, Ivan Franko Lviv National University, Lviv, Ukraine, 2009

Cohort XI

Fr. Mak Caesar Abagna


Having grown up with a positive experience of a multi-religious environment, Fr. Abagna has made it his personal quest to move the world beyond the confines of religious conflicts to a land flowing with peace and harmony by means of interfaith dialogue. This very idea inspired him to initiate a program of formation for the youth of his parish, which attracted over three hundred young adults with various religious and cultural backgrounds and has now become an annual program. Besides his service as Parish Youth Chaplain for the St Theresa Parish in Tongo, Ghana, Fr. Abagna has also worked as Associate Pastor in the same parish as well as Deanery Youth Chaplain for the Bolgatanga Deanery of Navrongo-bolgatanga Diocese. Upon completion of his second year at the Angelicum, Fr. Abagna wishes to return to his diocese and cooperate with religious leaders as well as groups of other faith in order to promote interreligious dialogue and ecumenical relations in and beyond Ghana with the aim of working towards the common good.

Educational background includes: Post-Diploma in Arabic and Islamic Studies, Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies, Rome, Italy; STB in Theology, Pontifical University of Urbaniana, Rome, Italy; BA in Religious Studies, University of Ghana, Accra, Ghana.

Rev. Nozipho Princess S. Dlodlo


Nozipho has been working as a Theological Assistant and Community Pastor for the KwaZulu-Natal Council of Churches in South Africa since the end of 2016, where she encounters people from various faith communities such as Christian, Muslim or Hindu on a daily basis and helps them resolve interreligious conflicts in order to live in harmony together. Her background includes a university education in the various fields of religious studies including religion philosophy, gender and biblical studies and religion sociology, but she has also held positions such as student lecturer, hospital chaplain, community worker and translator for the Paratext Software created by the Canada Bible Society. She believes that interfaith dialogue helps individuals and thereby communities accept the “non-universality” of their faith and allows more meaningful and constructive engagements for people from different faith groups. After completing her year at the Angelicum, Nozipho hopes she will be better equipped to respond to the different conflicts in her community and thus to change the world that she works in.

Educational background includes: Master of Arts in Sociology of Religion, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa, 2017; Masters in Inter-contextual Theology, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway, 2015; Honors in Theology Major, Gender Studies, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa, 2013; Bachelor in Theology, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa, 2012

Fr. Richard Emmanuel Gokum


Being surrounded by the ever-present tension between Nigerian Christians and Muslims all his life, facilitating interreligious cooperation lies at the very heart of Fr. Gokum’s activity as a Catholic priest in the northwest of Nigeria. Since his priestly ordination in 2012, he has worked as parish priest of St John’s Gidan Kurma as well as St Joseph’s Jibiya, both in the Sokoto Catholic diocese which is a challenging place for pastoral work not only because of the long-standing conflict between Muslims and Christians, but also because of the extreme poverty and deprivation of the Christian settlements. His initiatives to promote peaceful co-existence between the Christian and Muslim communities include, among others: a cooperation to provide financial aid for the old and the vulnerable; the scheme of building a nursery and primary school for the use of both religious communities; and a successful peace meeting for Christian and Muslim leaders for prevention of violence in the 2015 elections. Currently, Fr. Gokum is pursuing his PhD degree at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum).

Educational background includes: Licenciate in Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue from the Angelicum, Diploma in Arabic and Islamic Studies from the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies, Bachelor in Theology from St Augustine’ Major Seminary, Jos, Nigeria, an affiliate of Urban University Rome, a Bachelor Degree in Philosophy from St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary, Makurdi, Nigeria

Ms. Emily Lauren Judd


Coming from a Christian background, Emily discovered her passion for interreligious dialogue during a journey to Jerusalem, Israel where she learned about the histories of Judaism and Islam in a short course at the Hebrew University, participated in traditional Jewish Sabbath celebrations, visited the sacred spaces of the three major monotheistic religions and worshipped alongside people of the Jewish and Islamic faiths. These personal experiences motivated her to focus on interfaith in her studies at Yale Divinity School and to go beyond studying interfaith dialogue to promoting it: she proposed a joint Catholic-Muslim pilgrimage, organized a university-wide interfaith event, and hosts a monthly podcast that covers interfaith relationships at YDS. Emily would like to gain a deeper understanding of Judaism, Islam, and relationships between the main Abrahamic religions at the Angelicum, and upon completion of the degree she hopes to work in communications for the Catholic Church to foster religious understanding between people of the Catholic, Jewish and Islam faith in the United States and Israel.

Educational background includes: Master of Arts in Journalism, Georgetown University, Washington, DC, USA, 2016; Bachelor of Arts in Communications and Political Science, Furman University, Greenville, SC, USA, 2014

Fr. Kevin Que Medilo


Growing up in a city of Christian majority, Fr. Medilo was introduced to the teachings of Catholic Church at an early age, and it was during his primary school and later his university studies in Cotabato, Philippines that he learned more about other religions by encountering classmates, friends and neighbours of different faith. After his Priestly Ordination in 2003, he worked as Assistant Parish Priest as well as Chaplain in various religious communities throughout the Philippines before taking up lead position in the Ranong Mission in Thailand, 2006. The aim of the mission has been to respond effectively to the needs of the predominantly Buddhist Burmese migrants suffering from poverty, discrimination and exploitation by focusing on their education and health needs, especially HIV-AIDS. In 2010, Fr. Medilo and Marist community initiated the Australian Catholic University Online Diploma Programme in Ranong, thanks to which many migrant students have been able to fulfil their dreams of taking part in tertiary education. After completing his studies at the Angelicum, he will either return to the Ranong Mission in Thailand or join the Marist Parish Mission in Mindanao, Philippines. In any case, he believes his studies in Rome will help him and his organization to develop their interfaith programs, and to deepen their engagement as a Society of Mary to interreligious dialogue in Asia.

Educational background includes: Master of Arts in Pastoral Ministry, St. Francis Xavier Regional Major Seminary of Mindanao, Davao City, Philippines, 2003; Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, Notre Dame University, Cotabato City, Philippines, 1997

Rev. Mr. James Morrison


Interreligious studies seem to reflect Deacon James’s experience of Catholicism as his life has been a journey with Catholics, Protestants and people of other religions for as long as he can remember. He entered the seminary at age 18, immediately after graduation from high school and during the summers he would gain experience through seminary internships and other temporary assignments to local Catholic parishes. Deacon James believes that our relationships of trust and love are the foundation of many conversations about God, faith, and religion and he hopes to enter into this dialogue more fully through the Russell Berrie Fellowship and the John Paul II Center for Interreligious Dialogue. Upon the completion of his degree at the Angelicum, Deacon James would like to return to the Archdiocese of Washington, DC to begin ministry as a Catholic priest where he hopes to contribute his voice to the dialogue between the Catholic Church and the people of other religions.

Educational background includes: Bachelor of Philosophy, The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC, USA, 2015

Rev. Mr. Ryan A. Muldoon


Deacon Ryan is a seminarian of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York (USA), preparing for priestly ordination in 2019. Having grown up in a suburb of New York City, religious diversity has always been a part of his experience. It was during Deacon Ryan’s years as an undergraduate at Georgetown University that he first experienced the Catholic Church engaged in constructive dialogue with other Christians and those of other faith traditions. It was during that time, too, that he made his first visit to the Holy Land on a religious pilgrimage. In view of the important ecumenical and interreligious work already underway in New York, Deacon Ryan’s archbishop has asked him to pursue a licentiate in Ecumenical and Interreligious Theology. Upon return to the United States as a parish priest, Deacon Ryan hopes to contribute in new ways to these ongoing dialogues, with a particular focus on Catholic-Jewish dialogue.

Educational Background includes: STB in Theology, Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, Italy, 2018; Master of Arts in Catholic Philosophical Studies, Saint Joseph’s Seminary, New York, USA, 2015; Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, Georgetown University, Washington, DC, USA, 2013.

Ms. Nadiia Sybira


Nadiia’s interest in interfaith studies is deeply rooted in her childhood when her family moved from the Orthodox Volyn region in Northern Ukraine to the predominantly Greek-Catholic Lviv region which experience made her to attain a great level of comfort with different religious traditions. Her thirst for theological knowledge was so strong that after the faculty of foreign languages she went to the Ukrainian Catholic University and eventually went on to follow her vocation by volunteering in a mission and studying at the Jeunesse Lumiere in France where she discovered a wholly new way of spirituality through her encounters with the Muslim culture. Later on she learned about Judaism during her work as tour guide in Lviv, Ukraine, and also became acquainted with Buddhism and Hinduism during her volunteering in Sri Lanka where she taught English and French. After her interfaith studies at the Angelicum, Nadiia hopes to continue her work by bridging interreligious gaps, promoting dialogue and building mutual understanding, whether on a local level in Lviv or on a global level abroad.

Educational background includes: Master of Arts in Religious Studies, Ukrainian Catholic University, Lviv, Ukraine, 2011; Master of Arts in English and French Studies, Lviv National University of Ivan Franko, Lviv, Ukraine, 2009

Cohort XII

Fr. Manoj Rasanjana Angodage Don, O.P.

Sri Lanka

Born in a multi-religious and multi-ethnic country, Fr. Manoj’s worldview was heavily influenced by the need for interreligious dialogue. As a Dominican brother in formation up to becoming a priest, he was assigned to parishes that were predominantly non-Christian, during which he learned how to preach the Gospel “interreligiously”. This experience became the foundation for his STL (Licence in Sacred Theology) research work, in which after 30 years of civil war, he proposed interreligious dialogue as a way forward by which prejudice and misunderstanding could be sensitively handled and eventually eradicated. After defending his thesis, Fr. Manoj was invited as a guest speaker to the Vade Praedica (Go Preach), Regional Colloquium on Dominican Preaching in Asia and the Pacific where his presentation topic was “Dominican Preaching in a Buddhist Context”. This was published in Colloquia Manilana, The Interdisciplinary Journal of the institute of Preaching, Vol. 26, 2018.

Fr. Manoj teaches theology and interreligious dialogue at the Joseph Vaz Theological Institution, which is affiliated to the Pontifical Urban University, Rome and at the Aquinas College of Higher Studies. He is also a member of the committee of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) of the Conference of Major Religious Superiors of Sri Lanka and of the Dominican Province of the Philippines, where he oversees the peace clubs formed by the students trained in the “Young Promoters of Peace” program.

Upon completion of his Fellowship, he would like to continue with his research topic in the form of a doctoral dissertation, as well as actively take part in two programs he has already been invited to: The District Interreligious Committee at the National Peace Council of Sri Lanka and the United Religions Initiative (URI).

Educational background includes: STL in Sacred Theology at the University of Santo Tomas, Manila, Philippines, 2016; Bachelor in Theology, National Seminary of Our Lady of Lanka (affiliated to Pontifical Urban University, Rome), Kandy, Sri Lanka, 2010; Bachelor in Philosophy, National Seminary of Our Lady of Lanka (affiliated to Pontifical Urban University, Rome), Kandy, Sri Lanka, 2004

Fr. Naqash Azam Masih


Arriving in Rome from a country facing a number of challenges, such as extremism, ethnic and religious conflicts and political instability, Fr. Naqash made it his responsibility as a church leader to work for peace. His desire is to use education as a tool for both teachers and students to address these challenges, therefore he has already arranged for specific training programs in schools. This training program is focused on educating teachers on peace building and equipping them with experience that they can use to exercise peace education not only during school activities, but also in their daily lives. This way teachers can function as channels of peace through promoting tranquility and harmony and can develop values such as tolerance, social justice and equality in the pluralistic society of Pakistan.

Fr. Naqash is currently a board member of the National Commission for Inter-religious Dialogue and Ecumenism (NCIDE) which was established by Pakistan’s Catholic Bishops, and Diocesan Director of the Archdiocese of Lahore. He participates regularly in the programs organized by the Commission to promote peace and interreligious dialogue. Examples of these activities include prayer services, peace-building workshops, peace walks and cricket tournaments for peace.

Once completing the Fellowship Program, Fr. Naqash would like to return to his home country to work as a Diocesan Director with the national directors from all the dioceses in Pakistan for the promotion of peace and interreligious harmony. He would also like to introduce a syllabus for Interreligious studies in schools.

Educational background includes: Diploma in Theological Studies, National Institute of Theology, Karachi, Pakistan, 2016; Bachelor in Philosophy, Pontifical Urban University, Rome, Italy, 2012

Ms. McKenzie Fergus


McKenzie Fergus is on both an academic and pastoral vocational course. Upon completion of a degree at the Angelicum Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, she plans to promote a mutual exchange between religion and public healthcare in prayer camp research in Ghana, Africa. By receiving her doctorate and working as a professor teaching on topics relevant to interfaith dialogue and publishing works, she hopes to inform future prayer camp researchers and governmental authorities of the nature behind the religious ideologies influencing biomedical health care faith-healing practices. Her career will center on a theological and interreligious approach that will pave the way to a future where both biomedical mental healthcare and faith-based healing can conclusively and harmoniously intersect. She is also a Diaconal Ordination Candidate in the United Methodist Church, and is especially eager to work in overseas outreach ministry.

At Divinity School amid training for half- and full-marathons (such as the Boston Marathon), McKenzie worked at non-profit organizations and churches designing and implementing programs investigating the under-researched intersection of religious studies and biomedical healthcare. Throughout McKenzie’s career, she has served as a leader on multiple academic panels and organizations.

Educational background includes: Master of Divinity, Yale Divinity School, New Haven, Connecticut, 2019; Bachelor of Arts in Religion, McMurry University, Abilene, Texas, 2015

Seminarian Floyd Kanongi Gatana

Papua New Guinea

Seminarian Floyd Gatana joined the Marist Fathers formation in 2012. During the 7 years he spent in the formation has given him the experience that helped him carry out his responsibilities in a diverse community and has taught him how he can engage with people with different cultural backgrounds. He actively participates in youth programs organized in his diocese and he also taught English to Buddhist students in Thailand, as well as Islam to secondary school Catholic students in Rome.

In 2015 he travelled to the Philippines where he was exposed to various religions. For instance, it was his first experience engaging with Muslims, which has broadened his interest to learn more about their faith. He was also moved by the fact of how peacefully Muslims and Christians were living together.
Currently he is pursuing his Licence degree at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum). With his previous experience with people of different faiths and the knowledge he gains through the Fellowship Program, he hopes to return to his community and teach ecumenism and interreligious dialogue.

Educational background includes: Advance Diploma in Philosophy, Catholic Theological Institute, Bomana, Papua New Guinea, 2014; Certificate in Community Studies, University of Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, 2009

Ms. Bernadette Mary McGonigle


Bernadette studied law and worked in Dublin and London before deciding to take two years off to travel. She spent several months during that time in Burma (now Myanmar), in a Buddhist monastery practicing meditation and learning the principles of Buddhism. She was also exposed to other religions during her journeys, such as Islam, which sparked a very deep interest in Bernadette to learn about the ‘other’.
Upon returning to Ireland, she completed a Masters in Philosophy (Peace Studies) in the Irish School of Ecumenics in Dublin, while also attending interreligious dialogue courses. During her studies she undertook a research project on behalf of the “Espaces” Association in Brussels on interreligious dialogue in Ireland as part of a study called “Giving a Soul to Europe”. Once completing her thesis, she was offered an internship through Trocaire with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in Mindanao, the Philippines, in Peace and Reconciliation. Part of this program involved organizing meetings between the Ulama and Bishops, which she also attended. She launched the first Imam-Priest interreligious forum, as well as a Peace Festival in Zamboanga. She was part of a Quick Response Team that attended at areas of recent incidents in interreligious conflict.

Bernadette is also a member of the Rapid Response Corps which is part of a humanitarian unit of the Department of Foreign Affairs in Ireland. In 2008 she went to Syria to work on an emergency basis with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) where her work involved assessing applications by Iraqis who had fled their homeland, in order to determine if they qualified for resettlement elsewhere. Her main areas of expertise are in refugee law, family and childcare law. She also provides services in the area of mental health law. She has worked as a volunteer for several years with a local homeless agency and was also actively involved with an international human rights organization.

During her studies at the Angelicum, Bernadette hopes to further develop her skills and to be of more benefit in the much-needed dialogue between those of different faiths and cultures to alleviate some of the tensions in the world today.

Educational background includes: Bachelor of Arts in Theology, Priory Institute, Dublin, Ireland- due to be conferred in 2019; Certificate in Mediation and Conflict Resolution, Institute of Technology Tallaght, Dublin, Ireland, 2018; Masters in Philosophy (Peace Studies), Irish School of Ecumenics, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland, 1998; Bachelor of Common Law, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland, 1985

Rev. James Eroni Miriago


Rev. James is an ordained minister in the Pentecostal Church in Nairobi, Kenya. Once completing the Seminary, he served as an advisor to the student representative council for two years. He regularly mentors students and has been nominated on several occasions to speak at various gatherings of leaders and youth groups both in South Africa and East Africa. At the age of 22 he became a pastor which helped him respect people no matter their background.

As Kenya is experiencing continuous religious conflict and discrimination in the job market and community gatherings, Rev. James has set his mind to help make a difference. He has worked with the pastors of Mombasa, Kenya where interreligious dialogue is becoming an increasingly important and urgent topic. He believes that interreligious dialogue can be an effective tool in bridging the barriers, as most faith communities can accept the “non-universality” of their faith, which allows room for meaningful and constructive discussions.

Rev. James received several scholarships in the past few years, including a scholarship at the Bossey Ecumenical Institute of the World Council of Churches in 2017, and at the Lutheran Church of Sweden in 2013. Upon completion of his Fellowship, he plans to return to his home country to develop an academy which would provide a platform for learning and discussion for all ministers and lay ministers on the importance of interreligious dialogue.

Educational background includes: Master’s in Gender and Religion, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa, 2014; Master’s in Practical Theology, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa, 2013; Bachelor in Theology, Evangelical Seminary of Southern Africa, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, 2011

Fr. Celestine Chukwubunna Muonwe


Fr. Celestine’s interest in interreligious dialogue sparked during his seminary days when during his six-week apostolic work, he visited the homes of Catholics, Protestants, and members of the indigenous African Traditional Religion. He continued with this practice after his ordination in 2011 and in 2013 he was sent by his Bishop as Fidei Donum to Mali. It was during these three years that he first encountered Muslims. In order to learn more about the religion, he enrolled for a one-year program at the Institut de Formation Islamo-Chrétienne (IFIC), which is a center for formation in Christian and Muslim dialogue in Bamako, Mali.

Before the end of the year he was offered a scholarship by the Institute to continue his studies at the Pontifical Institute for Islamic and Arabic Studies (PISAI) in Rome. Here he had the opportunity to complete a research project he began in Bamako on Boko Haram, resulting in a publication entitled Islam Beyond Extremism: A Perspective, which has since generated interest in Nigeria and has sold over 1,000 copies.

Though he will be completing his licentiate studies this year, he considers his knowledge in interreligious dialogue incomplete without learning more about the Jewish faith and Christian-Jewish dialogue and ecumenism. For this reason, he will be pursuing his doctoral degree at the Angelicum while participating in the Russell Berrie Fellowship Program.

Educational background includes: STL in Arabic and Islamic Studies, Pontifical Institute for Islamic and Arabic Studies, Rome, Italy, 2019; Bachelor in Theology, Pontifical Urban University, Rome, Italy, 2017; Bachelor in Philosophy, Pontifical Urban University, Rome, Italy, 2016

Ms. Nataliia Pavlyk


Since 2013, Nataliia is the head of the NGO “The Oriental Studies Circle”. The main focus of its activity is academic research in intercultural and interreligious dialogue. It promotes tolerance to Oriental traditions (Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, etc.), as well as understanding between West and East. She has completed her Master’s degree in Philosophy and the certificate program in Religious Studies at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, Ukraine.

As a Young European Ambassador, she is actively engaged in various volunteering activities in human rights, anti-discrimination, and peace-building, and has participated in a number of projects in Europe, Asia, and America. She was a member of the International Working Group on Preventing Violent Extremism of Youth in Brussels, Belgium. Due to her interest in Asian studies, she was invited by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan to take part in the MIRAI Program in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Hiroshima. Nataliia has also collaborated with Russell Berrie Alumni Taras Dzyubanskyy and Lidiia Batig taking part in the training course: “Faith to Divide, Faith to Unite” in Armenia. In 2017, she was conducting research for her Master’s thesis on Jainism in India, and in 2019, she participated in the academic workshop at the University of Toronto, Canada.

Once returning to Ukraine, she hopes to continue her PhD studies and to become a professor of Oriental philosophies and religions.

Educational background includes: Master of Arts in Philosophy, National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, Ukraine / University of Warsaw, Poland, 2018; Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, Ukraine, 2016

Fr. Nay Myo Swe


Fr. Nay’s interest in interreligious dialogue stems from the issues his own country is facing, such as the Rohingya crisis, Islamophobia, and the general oppression of minority religious groups in Myanmar (Burma). Witnessing these problems led him to focus his attention on how we can incite peaceful co-existence among people of different faith and create an interreligious environment at the grassroot level.

Fr. Nay has been assigned to a parish in the Mandalay Archdiocese in Myanmar consisting of Catholic as well as Baptist groups beside the Buddhist majority, where he has faced interreligious tensions first-hand. He decided to try and alleviate these difficulties on the local level, by arranging friendly competitions between people of different faiths; paying visits to and exchanging religious views with Buddhist monks; inviting Baptist as well as Buddhist leaders to group meals; and facilitating healthcare programs for people of all faiths free of charge, among others. In all his efforts, Fr. Nay strives to create an atmosphere in the local community where individuals, regardless of religion, are able to experience an interreligious point of view.

Upon completion of his studies at the Angelicum, Fr. Nay would like to use his newly acquired interreligious skills to develop friendships beyond the “business” of dialogue, and, by gaining a deeper understanding of other religions, to collaborate with other religious leaders in order to promote peace and justice in their local communities.

Educational background includes: Bachelor in Theology, Pontifical Urban University, Rome, Italy, 2013; Diploma in Philosophy, St. Joseph’s Catholic Major Seminary, Pyin Co Lwin, Myanmar 2008

Cohort XIII

Fr. Emmanuel Aguiyi


Fr. Emmanuel Aguiyi is a Nigerian born priest ordained for the Catholic Diocese of Umuahia. Some years after his ordination, he was appointed a Parish Priest of a parish in a town where Catholics were the minority. In the parish, Fr. Emmanuel had to learn how to collaborate with ministers and lay faithful of other Churches—the experience which was vital in subsequent dialogues with members of the traditional African (Igbo) religion. At the end of his tenure in the parish, Fr. Emmanuel had to bring his newly acquired sense of interreligious dialogue into his next task as Rector of his diocesan seminary in the Abia State of Nigeria, where he established and promoted respectful openness to members of other denominations and religions.

At his Bishop’s request, Fr. Emmanuel accepted an invitation for a ministry from the Archdiocese of Brisbane, Australia. There, he spent nearly a decade working as Seminary Formator, Parish Priest and Dean. The years he spent in service in Australia opened his eyes to a significantly different form of interreligious encounter from the one he had experienced in Nigeria. It was another enriching experience and it inspired his book ‘A Contemporary Missionary: Reflections of a Nigerian Priest Working in a Suburban Australian Church’.

Fr. Emmanuel is a Doctorate student at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas – Angelicum. Upon his graduation, he hopes to compliment his pastoral work with teaching, inspiring others to embrace the spirit of interreligious dialogue and peaceful coexistence.

Educational background includes: STL in Dogmatic and Fundamental Theology, Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, Italy, 2020; MTS in Systematic Theology, Australian Catholic University, Australia, 2013; PGDE (Education), Abia State University, Nigeria, 2008; Bachelor in Theology (BTh), Pontifical Urban University, Rome, 1998.

Mr. Christopher Akongnwi


Christopher Akongnwi’s idea of interreligious dialogue stems from his early childhood stories about other religions such as Islam, Buddhism and Judaism that he kept hearing within his religious community in Cameroon. When he joined the seminary, it was for the first time that Christopher lived in a multicultural community and went to school with people of different denominations who come from various ethnic and national backgrounds. His thirst to carry out research in the field of interreligious dialogue began during his missionary activities which brought him to South East Asia. In the Philippines and Thailand, he encountered the Buddhist culture, taught English and Civic Education to the Buddhist Burmese migrants in both countries, and closely worked with some Muslim populations. Upon graduating from the Higher Teachers Training College in Cameroon, Christopher started to teach in colleges with mixed faiths where he saw an urgent need for interreligious dialogue which is not taught in seminaries in Cameroon, whereas there exist mistrust and tensions between the Christian and Muslim communities.

Upon completion of his Fellowship and the S.T.L. program at the Angelicum, Christopher will continue with his studies pursuing a Doctorate degree and hopes to return and teach interreligious dialogue in seminaries in Cameroon. In the future, he hopes to launch a campaign to call the attention of Cameroonians on the importance of living together in peace and tolerance.

Educational background includes: MS in Education, Higher Teachers Training College, University of Yaoundé, Cameroon, 2019; BTh, Catholic University of Central Africa (and Pontifical Gregorian University in 2015-2017), Cameroon/Italy, 2018; BPhil, Catholic University of Central Africa, Cameroon, 2015; BPhil, Institute of Philosophy Saint Joseph Mukasa Yaoundé (affiliated with the Pontifical University Salesiano), Cameroon, 2012.

Fr. Baiju Julian


Born in the land of multi-religions, castes and creeds, Fr. Baiju Julian is naturally drawn to the field of religions, history, and culture. He has seen the impact of false interpretation of religious ideas causing violence and hatred in the hearts of thousands of people. Fr. Baiju believes that the efforts of interreligious dialogue must be strengthened to spread the light of truth and peace in the Indian society. Focused on this lifelong goal, he developed his knowledge on Hindu religions during his study of philosophy. In his doctoral thesis published by the Pontifical Institute of Theology and Philosophy in 2005, Fr. Baiju was able to interpret the thought of Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, a modern religious philosopher of India. Fr. Baiju also writes articles for the leading journals such as Vidyajothi, and the Journal of Dharma.

Fr. Baiju has taught moral theology for thirteen years at the Pontifical Institute of Theology and Philosophy in Kerala, India. After assuming the office of the Coordinator of Pastoral Ministries in the Diocese of Quilon, he conducted various interreligious seminars for the diocese. Fr. Baiju is convinced that interreligious studies promote the integral development of a person and it shows one of the ways how to establish dialogue with poor people and liberate the poor from the chains of deprivation. Fr. Baiju believes that interreligious dialogue provides opportunities for social transformation of the less privileged and there is a tremendous need for interfaith dialogue and social awareness initiatives among the common people in India.

As a Russell Berrie Fellow at the Angelicum, Fr. Baiju hopes to learn more about Judaism. By acquiring a comprehensive knowledge of the monotheistic religions like Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Fr. Baiju hopes to enrich and bring the field of interreligious dialogue to his future ministry and his academic contributions.

Educational background includes: STD in Moral Theology, Alphonsian Academy, Lateran University, Italy, 2001; Licentiate and Bachelor in Theology, Pontifical Urban University, Italy, 1998; Master in Bioethics, KU Leuven, Belgium, 2007; Master of Philosophy of Religion, Kamaraj University, India.

Sr. Jisha Jacob Olikkara


Sr. Jisha Jacob is a religious sister of the Franciscan Clarist Congregation in India. Growing up in a multireligious region where Christians are in minority (Christians comprise 0.5% of the population in the state of Gujarat), she has been encountering neighbors and friends of different faiths from her childhood onwards. As an active social worker in the remote villages, Sr. Jisha realized the need to cross the barriers of narrow interpretations of religions. Under the Diocese of Rajkot, she works for the upliftment of women, children and elderly and spreads the Gospel messages through her dedicated service. Sr. Jisha works towards the community mission that is to respond effectively to the needs of the villagers (predominantly Hindus) suffering from poverty, discrimination, and exploitation. She is involved in various interreligious initiatives, among which are child education programs, value education for the youth, parents and teachers trainings, and coaching for students who dropout of school. Sr. Jisha’s congregation also promotes and organizes self-help groups for women; and they offer support and guidance for these groups to start Income Generation Program (IGP) aimed at providing job opportunities and financial stability.

During her studies at the Angelicum, Sr. Jisha hopes to gain a deeper understanding of interreligious dialogue that will equip her with the necessary skills and knowledge to provide better service in her social work. Her future mission will address the fundamental human issues of dignity and respect; and she looks forward to teaching junior sisters of her religious community about interfaith issues and organizing more initiatives to promote peace and interreligious understanding.

Educational background includes: Master of Social Work, Sourastra University in Gujarat, India, 2018; Diploma in Spiritual Theology, FCC Institute of Spirituality in Kerala, India, 2011; Bachelor of Social Work, Sourastra University in Gujarat, India, 2010.

Sr. Mary Ogeyi Odey


Sr. Mary Ogeyi is a member of the Congregation of Sisters of Jesus the Good Shepherd of the Diocese of Abakaliki in Nigeria. Before her theology studies, Sr. Mary assisted with the Initial Formation Programme for young sisters in her congregation and worked at the communications department at the congregation.

As a growing young child, Sr. Mary experienced several intra- and inter-religious tensions between Christians and Muslims. The tensions were especially high in the northern part of her country, and in the Eastern part of Nigeria there were conflicts even between Christians of different denominations as well as traditionalists. This has raised serious concerns and a desire in Sr. Mary to work towards peaceful coexistence among these different religious communities as to these days these tensions keep increasing.

Sr. Mary developed interest for interreligious dialogue as she studied Ecumenism and Dialogue and also from her experience with the Ecumenical Movement in her home state in Nigeria. During her fellowship year at the Angelicum, Sr. Mary hopes to deepen her knowledge of interreligious dialogue and acquire a better understanding of other religions and skills to create a peaceful ground for dialogue and collaboration among different religions at the level of a diocese and a state at large.

Educational background includes: Higher Diploma in Theology (BTh), Spiritan International School of Theology, Nigeria, 2018; Diploma in Computer Appreciation, Nigeria, 2014.

Gianluca Avanzato


Upon leaving his small town in Upstate New York and beginning his education at Union College, Gianluca Avanzato immediately delved into interreligious study and interfaith work. In an academic setting with a diverse array of resources, students, and faculty, his worldview expanded as he connected and communicated with people of other faith and non-faith backgrounds. Much of his interest and study of religion has been self-initiated: from attending Buddhist meditations and local Baháʼí meetings to reading the sacred texts of prominent world religions and discussing them with friends and mentors.

As an active member and two-term president of Union College’s chapter of ‘Interfaith Youth Core: Better Together’, Gianluca focused on both expanding interfaith literacy and encouraging spiritual reflection among his fellow students. Another priority for Gianluca has been the promotion of solidarity and harmony among overlapping—and sometimes discordant—communities. He continually strove to build bridges between Union College and the Schenectady community, such as through the creation of Writing Our Communities (WOC), a writing enrichment program he co-created after winning a Davis Projects for Peace grant. Gianluca has attended two rounds of Interfaith Youth Core’s Interfaith Leadership Institute and actively facilitated interfaith dialogue and events during his time at Union College.

After graduating in 2018, Gianluca spent a year in Berlin, Germany as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. Since then, Gianluca has taken time to further explore himself and the United States, including living in both Tucson, Arizona and his hometown of Oneonta, New York. In pursuing a diploma in interreligious studies at the Angelicum as a Russell Berrie Fellow, Gianluca intends to more formally and academically engage his deep interest in religion and interfaith work as he considers what professional path to choose in moving toward a meaningful and fulfilling vocation.

Educational background includes: BA in Political Science, Minors in German Studies and Classical Languages, Union College, US, 2018.

Gloria Guisbert


Gloria Guisbert was born in La Paz, Bolivia and came to the United States at a young age. She was a witness to different struggles between poverty, racial tension and political regimes in Bolivia and the United States. Being a witness to these struggles, she developed a strong desire to serve the poverty-stricken, marginalized, and socially oppressed communities. Gloria has served in various parts of the United States through promoting and illustrating the importance of education for the young. While at the university studying theology, she learned about Salvadoran Archbishop St. Oscar Romero and read works by Peruvian Theologian Gustavo Gutierrez, OP on the Preferential Option. She became inspired about interreligious dialogue and built a local community where they could discuss beliefs of the Abrahamic religions in an open environment. As part of her Interfaith Fellowship from the Center for Catholic Jewish Studies at Saint Leo University, she regularly organized reading and discussion groups and was a member of the Interfaith Youth Core.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, she has delivered care and food packages to the most underserved communities that have been neglected the necessary help during these troubling times. Upon completion of her Russell Berrie Fellowship program at the Angelicum, Gloria would like to continue her studies as she aspires to be a professor and become a theologian who will create positive impact in different communities and work in the field of social justice.

Education Background includes: BA in Religious Studies and Global Studies, Minor in Spanish, Saint Leo University, US, 2020

Sophie Palopoli


At Providence College, Sophie realized her passion for the human person through her friendships and relational work as a Resident Assistant, My Brother’s Keeper volunteer, Friars Club member, and RCIA Student Minister. These and other roles, her desire to be a medical doctor, as well as a semester in Austria with Franciscan University led her to Zambia on a Fr. Smith Fellowship, where she lived with Dominican Sisters. There, she enjoyed shadowing at the hospital, making beds, doing dishes, and visiting with the midwives in rural villages with Mother Child Help. In Austria, St. John Paul II’s idea of the “srodowisko” or “accompaniment” captured her. In Zambia, she lived that, not going to serve the “other” but to simply be with people. Sophie believes accompaniment is radical hospitality: a powerful way of life in which relationship and loving action meet individuals where they are at and say: “it is good that you exist.” Though constantly making mistakes, she realizes learning to love well is a life’s work.

After college, JVC Northwest and her interest in rural healthcare led her to live in Hays, Montana on the Ft. Belknap Reservation alongside the Aaniiih Nakoda people as an academic assistant to the greatest 5th graders! Resilient and generous people in the community helped her experience the intertwining of spirituality, tradition, culture, medicine, and well-being. Sophie’s cultural and religious milieu convinced her that inter-faith dialogue is essential to equitable healthcare. She hopes to collaborate with healthcare schools in America to design a course training workers in ethical, inclusive, whole-person focused inter-faith dialogue aimed at increasing higher patient outcomes and affirming the dignity of the human person through genuine intimacy, accompaniment, and radical hospitably. In returning to the US, Sophie plans to attend medical school and become a rural doctor.

Educational background includes: BA in English, Minor in Theology, Providence College, US, 2019

Dr. Ana Petrache


Dr. Ana Petrache is a philosopher, who earned her PhD in Philosophy from École Pratique des Hautes Etudes and University of Bucharest. Ana has been a postdoctoral fellow at the Foundation for Interreligious and Intercultural Research and Dialogue, University of Geneva and Accademia di Romania in Rome. Her work focuses on the relationship between religion and politics in the 20th century Western Europe. The research interests include political theology, interreligious and ecumenical dialogue, political philosophy, and philosophy of history. Ana’s research has a special focus on eschatology and on the political consequences of some religious concepts such as eschatology, the kingdom of God or the sovereignty of God, firstly in the Christian tradition and by comparison in Judaism and Islam.

Born and raised in the Orthodox culture and due to her research expertise in political theology, Ana’s intellectual formation is deeply oriented by Catholic and Protestant theology. Thus, she is in an excellent position to pursue ecumenical dialogue. During her PhD and postdoctoral studies, she was part of several research projects at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, the University of Bucharest and Institut Catholique de la Méditeranée, Marseille. In 2017, she published a book entitled ‘Gaston Fessard, un chrétien de rite dialectique’.

In addition, Ana has been working as an advisor to the Secretary of State for Religious Affairs in Romania, a governmental agency focusing on promoting religious freedom and strengthening the relationship between different religious denominations and the Romanian government. In her capacity as Adviser to the Secretary of State, she helped shape public policy concerning religious issues and ensure a fair treatment for groups of all religious denominations in Romania. During this period, she engaged in promoting freedom of religion and belief through promoting religious literacy. As a Russell Berrie Fellow at the Angelicum, Ana will continue to deepen her knowledge in the field of interreligious dialogue and pursue her career in promoting interreligious understanding.

Educational background includes: PhD in Philosophy and MA in Political Theory, École Pratique des Hautes Etudes, University of Bucharest, 2014 and 2010.

Ms. Ruki Salgado

Sri Lanka

Ruki Salgado’s commitment to interreligious dialogue was shaped and influenced by the experience of growing up in the exotic and pluralistic island of Sri Lanka. Being an academician by profession, she is passionate about teaching, research, and publications. Her education and teaching have involved both secular and religious contexts.

Ruki was the first female faculty member in residence, teaching full time at the Theological College of Lanka. She taught a diverse student community on the topics of religion, culture, and ethnicity. At the Theological College of Lanka, she was an advocate and a mentor for a few women seminarians in residence and was fostering their spiritual formation as many of them were constantly facing cultural pressure and societal barriers to being active in the ministry.

Ruki is interested in developing interreligious harmony, tolerance, and dialogue in society, especially focusing on women and university undergraduate students. Driven by these interests, she will pursue a Diploma in Interreligious Studies at the Angelicum.

Educational background includes: MA in Christian Education, Dallas Theological Seminary, US, 2000; MA in International Relations, International University of Japan, 1995; BA in English, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, 1992