Inter play at santa clara

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Prashant Olalekar, S.J., works at the intersection of Ignatian spirituality, …

Prashant Olalekar, S.J., works at the intersection of Ignatian spirituality,
justice, the arts and embodied cognition. He draws upon the techniques of InterPlay, which
originated with Cynthia Winton Henry and Phil Porter’s groundbreaking work in dynamic
improvisational ensembles in the Bay Area of California. InterPlay helps people develop very
basic communication skills and be comfortable in interactive silences, sounds, stillness and
movement with others in a trusting, communal environment.

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  • 1. Prashant Olalekar, S.J., JAI Guest Artist and Bannan VisitorEmbodied & Active Prayer,InterPlay Improvisational Methodsand Ignatian SpiritualityJustice & the Arts Initiative (JAI) Guest Artist SeriesSanta Clara University Fall 2011Final Report on Prashant Olalekar, S.J.’s ResidencySept 28-Oct 12, 2011Compiled by Kristin Kusanovich and Nicholas Santos, S.J.December 31, 2011
  • 2. Final Report on Prashant Olalekar, S.J.’s Residency JAI Fall 2011 SCU Table of Contents: Foreword and Project Description by Kristin Kusanovich 3-7 Biographical Background 8 Sample of Campus Publicity 9 Reflections by Faculty & Staff 10-14 Michael Zampelli, S.J. Carolyn Silberman Jack Treacy, S.J. Fr. George Aranha Philip Boo Riley Aldo Billingslea Maeve Louise Heaney Matthew Smithphotos by Chuck Barry Penelope Duckworth Student Perspectives 15-18 Conclusion 19 By Kristin Kusanovich 2
  • 3. Final Report on Prashant Olalekar, S.J.’s Residency JAI Fall 2011 SCU Foreword and Project Description by Kristin Kusanovich, Co-Director, JAI, Senior Lecturer, Department of Theatre and Dance and Liberal Studies Program at SCUPrashant Olalekar, S.J., works at the intersection of Ignatian spirituality,justice, the arts and embodied cognition. He draws upon the techniques of InterPlay, whichoriginated with Cynthia Winton Henry and Phil Porter’s groundbreaking work in dynamicimprovisational ensembles in the Bay Area of California. InterPlay helps people develop verybasic communication skills and be comfortable in interactive silences, sounds, stillness andmovement with others in a trusting, communal environment. Fr. Olalekar’s work takesInterPlay into an even more prayerful direction, and follows in the tradition of the Jesuitsusing the arts to help teach and build the faith. His work opens people to the possibility ofspiritual grounding, helps integrate a fragmented and disassociated self, and for some, offersunsought after profoundly religious experiences among supportive witnesses.Body wisdom, obvious to advanced practitioners of sport, dance, yoga, theatre, walkingmeditation, martial arts, etc., is regularly dismissed for a variety of complex reasons; often itcan be difficult to describe or share experiences in embodied spirituality with words.Interestingly enough, as a Catholic priest who represents a faith tradition that minimizes ourinherent ability to learn while moving, Fr. Olalekar’s approach to a deepening of our faithrelies on our ability, no matter what our limitations are, to mobilize our bodies in space inorder to accomplish this goal. Thus, to some, his work might be seen as revolutionary, oreven threatening. Afterall, it is based on his applications of a technique that originated in theU.S. Though already applied in India successfully, through his ministry alongside ofmarginalized groups and global peace exchanges, it might be seen as yet another shallowcultural export that is dumped on the unsuspecting global market of ideas. In fact, beinghighly interactive, his work could sound so threatening that a person might never ventureover to the sunny dance studio to see what is going on with those fifty people who have takenoff their shoes to listen, learn and move on a breezy October day at “the Jesuit University inSilicon Valley” as Santa Clara University is marketed.Fr. Olalekar did not work with wholly marginalized, disabled, impoverished or sex-trafficking populations during his residency at SCU. But the 300 people that he interactedwith during his 2.5 week residency in the Fall of 2011 learned about life in India, his 3
  • 4. Final Report on Prashant Olalekar, S.J.’s Residency JAI Fall 2011 SCUministry, his work for peace and the organized efforts to effect change by bringing hopethrough strengthened relationship and identity-building that InterPlay as he has fashioned itcreates. They saw images and heard stories, listened to music and watched videos of peoplein Mumbai India living with remarkable challenges and experiencing transformations bothsubtle and bold of nothing less than the human spirit.In his homily at the Mission Santa Clara he challenged the congregation to see the beauty indis-ability, starting with our own areas of dis-ability. At SCU, in his interactions withstudents, staff and faculty, he may have worked with people with non-visible disabilities,people who have been abused, raped, had addiction issues and witnessed violence in theirfamily or community. He certainly engaged many students who would rather interactthrough technology than face to face, let alone touch the shoulder or hand of a stranger andmeditate on a prayerful intention. And he definitely interacted with people who havesuffered family break-ups, depression, stress disorders from hard-pushing parents,discrimination, bullying and isolation. The people he worked with were not the worst off insociety by any means. They were for the most part the 1% of the world’s population that willhave a college education soon. But there was obvious and articulated healing going on ineach of the sensitively facilitated workshops he led throughout his residency. Primarily, hedid work with people who may be in positions of leadership to help solve some of the world’sgreatest social and spiritual problems in the future. SCU is educating students to be leaderswith highly developed competence, compassion and conscience, and Fr. Olalekar’s residencywas a clear indication that the university is providing its community with a means formeeting its mission to educate men and women for others.Throughout Fr. Olalekar’s residency, participants were challenged to expand theirunderstanding of how we interact with God and each other, and how we listen to and noticethe ways we are being led to grow closer to God. Participants from young adults to seniorcitizens came to understand the sophisticated notion of experiencing a specific calling withregard to the shape of one’s ministry; in the case of Fr. Olalekar, this has involved becomingan expert facilitator in InterPlay processes as a pathway to peace. By working to bring tolight the ways this technique can serve the Ignatian spirit of finding God in all things, Fr.Olalekar has become truly effective and responsive to the real needs of the populations heserves. This vocational discernment of his, so openly shared, really seemed to be appreciatedby participants who are also attempting to do that quiet activation and listening in their ownlives.Many participants were probably not aware of the potentially threatening role that anyembodied practices, whether InterPlay, dance, mimesis, choreodrama, have played to 4
  • 5. Final Report on Prashant Olalekar, S.J.’s Residency JAI Fall 2011 SCUgreater or lesser degrees depending on the century, in the Catholic Church. They wereprobably unaware that from many protectors of the Catholic faith there is the fearful sensethat since pagans, protestants and numerologists have at times included movement in theirpractices of yore or even at present, we should avoid any exploration of the possibilities of anembodied way of knowing our spiritual reality as Catholics because we could not possiblyfind something fitting or appropriate in that.Movement, like any technique or technology, can be used for good or ill. But it is notinherently problematic or immoral. Dismissing the possibility of exploring this mostaltruistic, artistic and sacred mode of learning that Fr. Olalekar and others understand to bea new creative way of ministering to their deeply diverse societies, is akin to suggesting thatsince pagans ate potatoes, priests who are called to serve soup shouldn’t allow potatoes inthe soup.It was lovely to witness the openness of the participants, unsullied by such discourse, whosimply and generously allowed for the essentially phenomenological experience to be takenfor what it was and will remain: multiple and enduring tactics for spiritual encounter andpeace-building. Nor did the Catholics among the participants feel their rites threatened. Noone was naïve enough to misinterpret what was happening, walking away with the idea that“this must be the new Catholic Church.” But plenty of participants surely said, to themselves,“This is a potentially new facet of my experience of being a Catholic” and “this allows me tosee a new way in which I as a future leader, citizen or teacher could potentially serve themost marginalized among us.”Many participants were active Catholics who experienced immediately the uniqueness of thisapproach but who also were able to consider this experience as framed by theirunderstanding of a faith life that does not stagnate. Certainly our faith relationship needs togrow through time and that openness to a deeper relationship comes from our activelyseeking it. Fr. Olalekar’s work is a way of not letting our image of God be tied to too small aset of rules, and yet it does not contradict the structure that brings Catholic practice into auniversally sharable rite.Some participants raised Catholic or other Christian traditions, but not currently active intheir faith life, after experiencing one workshop had what might be termed a “faithrecollection”: a return of sorts to the sensitivities they may have had at a younger age toprayerful intentions; the yearnings for that simple connectedness to God; the ability to“play” in a clearly structured environment; and the permission to greet, interact with and getto know strangers in an artistic and honest way. Fr. Olalekar’s work generously allows a 5
  • 6. Final Report on Prashant Olalekar, S.J.’s Residency JAI Fall 2011 SCUspace for and facilitates all of this.Students not comfortable with any language regarding God or self-defined as atheists foundways to express their appreciation for the experience and showed a graciousness toward Fr.Olalekar and respect for the faith tradition he obviously represents and embodies as anengaged Jesuit. They also benefited greatly from the experience.Residency OrganizationFr. Olalekar was on the campus of Santa Clara University from September 28-October 12,2011 courtesy of the Justice and the Arts Initiative (JAI) which is directed by KristinKusanovich and Carolyn Silberman and the Bannan Visitor program of the Ignatian Centerfor Jesuit Education directed by Mick McCarthy, S.J. His residency was managed by JAIprogram council member Nicholas Santos, S.J. and Ms. Kusanovich, who applied for andwere awarded a Bannan Visitor grant to cover Fr. Olalekar’s travel expenses. Lodging andfellowship were provided by the Jesuit community of SCU under leadership of RectorMichael Zampelli, S.J.Faculty and staff from six different departments hosted Prashant and showed an enormousamount of creativity, flexibility and desire to learn more about India through his residency.21 faculty and staff members attended lunch discussions to learn more intimately about thepractices and challenges of InterPlay India. In many cases, conversations turned to buildingbridges in the future to allow for partnerships on the part of students, staff or facultywanting to connect through Fr. Olalekar with the Jesuit mission in India.Fr. Olalekar’s residency was organized to not only provide in-depth experiences for membersof the campus community of SCU, but also to present him with multiple opportunities tointeract with a number of religious communities in the Bay Area who all work with issues ofdiversity, religious education and marginalization. Every event in the residency wasthoughtful and thought-provoking and many people attended more than one time to havemore opportunities to learn from and experience his teachings.Ms. Kusanovich and Fr. Santos produced, participated in and witnessed each portion of hismulti-faceted residency which included public lectures, workshops, academic lectures andcommunity events. Fr. Olalekar also met with leaders in the Jesuit community at SCU anddirectors of programs. All in all he had 27 key activities in his 2.5 week residency. It isestimated that he was able to interact with over 300 people during the Santa Clara leg of hisFall 2011 ministry in the U.S. Carolyn Silberman (JAI and Theatre & Dance), Philip BooRiley (Religious Studies), Michael Zampelli (Performance Studies), Patricia Plude (Music), 6
  • 7. Final Report on Prashant Olalekar, S.J.’s Residency JAI Fall 2011 SCUand Greg Schultz (Campus Ministry) all interacted extensively with Fr. Olalekar andcollaborated with him to create learning experiences through various lenses of the arts,theology, spirituality, culture and ideas, improvisation and liturgy.Off-campus offerings included a workshop for community members at the local St. Clare’sParish with 25 parishoners, school staff, students and Fr. George Aranha, and a staffdevelopment afternoon with 74 staff members of Catholic Charities of Santa Clara Countystaff led by CEO Greg Kepferle. Fr. Olalekar also presided at the INFOCUS mass, a monthlygathering of Indian families for Catholic mass from from a number of parishes in the BayArea hosted by Fr. George Aranha and now in its tenth year.Following key on-campus workshops, JAI arranged for written reflections and evaluations tobe collected as evidence of the effect of Fr. Olalekar’s teachings and workshops. This reportcontains only a sampling of faculty, staff and student perspectives culled from the responses.It also contains photos taken by SCU university photographer Chuck Barry. It is hoped thatthis report will be useful for Fr. Olalekar’s fellow Jesuits in India, the staff at the IgnatianCenter at SCU, and those interested in the way JAI is providing intellectually, spiritually andvocationally rich experiences for the entire campus community and important non-profitpartners to SCU in the Silicon Valley through its globally-minded Guest Artist Series. jai Mission & PurposeThe Justice & the Arts Initiative (JAI) at Santa Clara University is in its fifth yearas a model university program that aligns the Catholic and Jesuit Mission of SCU with richexperiences in arts-based philosophy, practices and engagement.Student artists come to Santa Clara University to grow in their own artistic disciplines andobtain a well-rounded, liberal arts education. In the process of attending SCU, students areexposed to the Jesuit tradition of intellectual inquiry, ethics and spirituality. The programsof JAI are one possible entry point for them as they seek to integrate their artistry with thegreatest needs of the world and work in creative solidarity with people from marginalizedpopulations. JAI creates an intellectual frame of reference for examining and fosteringartistic processes that are critically bound to issues of justice. 7
  • 8. Final Report on Prashant Olalekar, S.J.’s Residency JAI Fall 2011 SCU Biographical Information of Fr. Prashant Olalekar, S.J.Fr. Olalekar, a Jesuit priest of the Mumbai province in India, is a peace activist, spiritualdirector and presently, director of Jivanvikas Sadan Retreat House, Bandra, Mumbai. Hehas served as former Novice director and Coordinator of Formation of the Mumbai JesuitProvince. He completed doctoral studies (D.Min.) at the San Francisco TheologicalSeminary, California in May 2006. He is the founder of InterPlay, India. His currentresearch interests include integrating Ignatian Spirituality with Body Wisdom. Introducing InterPlayInterPlay is a form of moving meditation that helps integrate body, mind, heart and spirit.It uses forms associated with the arts—movement, storytelling, voice and stillness—toactively and creatively unlock the wisdom of the body. InterPlay India is a global socialmovement dedicated to connection, human sustainability, and play. Fr. Prashant integratesthe Ignatian spiritual exercises and InterPlay techniques through Global Peace Exchanges —opportunities to interact through structured play and improvised interrelatedness with thepoor, the differently-abled and other marginalized groups.. www.interplay.org 8
  • 9. Final Report on Prashant Olalekar, S.J.’s Residency JAI Fall 2011 SCU Sample of campus-wide publicity:JAI creates a 20-week project plan in anticipation of each of its globally-situated guest artist-activist’s visits to reach out to the university community. Local Justice & the Arts Initiativeenthusiasts, community partners, non-profits, arts educators and religious organizationsstay apprised of JAI’s activities through print, email and personal correspondence.September 4, 2011We are pleased to announce the residency of Prashant Olalekar, S.J., who will be on campusfrom Sept 28 to October 12 as a Justice and the Arts Initiative (JAI) Guest Artist and BannanVisitor. Fr. Olalekar, is the founder of InterPlay India, which organizes Global PeaceExchanges with opportunities to interact through structured play and improvisedinterrelatedness with the poor, the differently-abled and other marginalized groups. "The unique joy of interacting as playful equals is beyond words." -Fr. Prashant Olalekar, S.JPlease join us at either of these public, free events, to learn more and experience someexamples of how InterPlay is done. RSVPs for groups are appreciated.TUES, OCT. 4 at NOONA lecture & demonstration of Prashants work in the areas of embodied spirituality. It will beheld in Studio A of the Music and Dance Facility, on the corner of Franklin and LafayetteStreets. Your students are welcome to join us too. [12:00-1:15 pm]THURS, OCT. 6 at 7 pm Prashant will offer a workshop for the community in conjunctionwith St. Clares Parish just footsteps away from campus on the corner of Lafayette andLexington. [7:00-9:00 pm]If you would like to meet Fr. Olalekar or have him visit any of your classes during hisupcoming residency, please contact us at jai@scu.eduBest regards,Kristin Kusanovich and Carolyn Silberman, Co-DirectorsJAI - Justice and the Arts Initiative, Santa Clara UniversityEmail jai at scu.eduWeb www.scu.edu/cas/jai Supported in part by the Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education 9
  • 10. Final Report on Prashant Olalekar, S.J.’s Residency JAI Fall 2011 SCU Faculty & Staff Reflections on Fr. Olalekar’s Visit1. Michael Zampelli, S.J. Course: Culture & IdeasJust a little feedback on Prashant Olalekars visit and the advantages that it afforded myclass. First, Prashant was a very warm and inviting presence. Not exuding any sort of"expert" air, he provided a very accessible route for my students to engage the InterPlayactivities. They, in turn, participated fully in the exercises--getting more and more "intothem" as they spent more time together.Second, the course (essentially on "performance studies") begins by broadening the notionof performance beyond purely aesthetic performances (like dance concerts, plays or pianorecitals) to include all of those actions and behaviors that are somehow highlighted and thenpresented for an audience (even if the audience is only oneself). This takes us into the arenaof "play" quite often. Before Prashants visit, we had been discussing the ways in which therange of performances we are familiar with (performances in daily life, play, ritual, formalaesthetic pieces) function in a variety of ways--to teach, to heal, to make or fostercommunity, to deal with the sacred, etc. etc.Prashants InterPlay demonstration--AND his explanation of the work he does--proved to bea great illustration of the range of performances available to us AND the range of effect suchperformances have on real people, particularly those who are marginalized and are IN NEEDof healing, community, etc. Prashant took the conversation to a new level--from abstractionto concreteness. The students had to put this IN THEIR BODIES. AND--the studentsEXPERIENCED a fostering of community, a healing, etc. This was invaluable to me in theclass.Third, and this is quite important to me as someone committed to performing arts--theEMBODIED nature of this experience was terrific. Knowledge, spirituality, desire, etc. find ahome not only in the head, but in the BODY. Engaging the body means engaging the mind,the heart, the spirit. Im not a Platonist--so this stuff was just awesome!Thanks so much for the chance to experience Prashant and his work! Im grateful to JAI andto the Ignatian Center for making all of this possible.Cheers,MichaelMichael A. Zampelli, S.J.Rector, Santa Clara Jesuit Community Locatelli University ProfessorDepartment of Theatre and Dance500 El Camino RealSanta Clara, CA 95053 (408) 554-2175FAX: (408) 554-4795mzampelli@scu.edu 10
  • 11. Final Report on Prashant Olalekar, S.J.’s Residency JAI Fall 2011 SCU2. Carolyn Silberman Co-Director JAITime with Prashant Olalekar, S.J.It is challenging to summarize the Prashant Olalekar, S.J. experience but Id like tocontextualize the overall experience as deeply holy in the realm of what I know as "sacreddance." It was Martha Graham, one of the legendary modern dance artists of Americawho wrote that "the instrument through which the dance speaks is also the instrumentthrough which life is lived: the human body."When experiencing Fr. Prashant in action, it is truth which speaks to the reality of theexperience. Let there be no doubt that this man has discovered how movement, artfullydirected by him and responded to by those present, frees the spirit into prayerful praise.Reverence pervades the space. A quiet calming reminds us of the Psalm, "Be still andknow that I am God."In the classroom studio with my Charisma team a small group of musicians, dancers,actors who are exploring the intersection of arts and spirituality, gather and stop to listenand start to move. The session unfolds. Time, space and energy are explored thoughtthe body, mind and spirit. Integration. Reflection. Prayer. All are purposefully directedas imaginations join in community to create a time of praise through a different way ofknowing.For me, personally it was a time of discovery. Safely, in the quiet meditative moment ofthe movement experience, there was mystery. It was mystical. I experienced a very deepconnection to the person of Christ, a deep connection to His suffering. It was as real asmy experience of poverty in El Salvador combined in bittersweet contrast with the deepjoy of community. Difficult to describe. Transcendent in nature.I am deeply grateful for both my students and for myself, for having experiencedPrashant Olalekar, S.J.As the year of 2011 winds down, I review this experience as one of grace made manifest.Carolyn SilbermanFaculty Theater and Dance DepartmentCo-Director of the Justice and the Arts Initiative 11
  • 12. Final Report on Prashant Olalekar, S.J.’s Residency JAI Fall 2011 SCU3. Jack Treacy, S.J. Director of Campus MinistryThank you for inviting me to join you and Prashant for the session in the dance studio.As one who was initially hesitant when I heard the word "interactive," I was surprised byhow much I enjoyed the experience.The benefits for me came from two sources. I quickly became at ease with the suggestedmovements, and found that by the end of the session I felt refreshed, lighter, lessconcerned about my mental "to do" list. It was a helpful reminder of the need to movemy body! I also appreciated Prashants talk about his work with those most in need ofhealing and a realization of their dignity. I suspect it offered many of our students a newway to view spirituality.I am grateful to you for your continued exploration of this theme of justice in the arts.And I look forward to more interactive sessions with you!WarmlyJack Treacy, S.J.Director of Campus MinistrySanta Clara University500 El Camino RealSanta Clara, CA 950534. Fr. George Aranha. Pastor, St. Clare Parish, Santa Clara CAIt was a unique experience to have Fr Prashant lead us in Interplay both at the monthlyIndian Family Mass (also known as INFOCUS) and at St Clare Parish in Santa Clara. Ireceived very positive feedback from several young and not so young participants. Therewas a sense of playfulness, joy and the expansion of spirit. I was happy to participate inboth the events and I am personally grateful for this unique, playful experience.Fr George AranhaPastorSt. Clare Parish, Santa Clara, CA 12
  • 13. Final Report on Prashant Olalekar, S.J.’s Residency JAI Fall 2011 SCU5. Philip Boo Riley Religious StudiesPer the request of JAI I am sharing the observations and discussion points from myReligious Studies class that had as its guest, Prashant Olalekar, S.J.One of my interests was that the workshop, readings and post-workshop reflection wouldoffer the students a perspective on what solidarity means in the context of InterPlay. Myinterest was met, and then some!Key points: • An embodied solidarity that we can ‘feel’ instead of just ‘talk’ about - the energy of the body, “the body never lies.” -Spirituality and Body: Embodied…has roots in both the Indian Hindu tradition and the Western Christian tradition, particularly in terms of the Incarnation. -“God who shits” equivalence with Jesuit maxim, “finding God in all things.” • Stand with marginal populations as equals -Fr. Olalekar gave plenty of wonderful examples, sharing with us how his initial misfgivings fell away as he interacted with individuals through InterPlay. • Silicon Valley “epiphany”: Hafiz “Come Dance with me.” • Jesuit Superior/Congregations and the UN Millenium Goals regarding poverty -Not possible to rely on merely sharing wealth- rather, through establishing global partnerships we bring about equality, justice and peace through addressing issues of poverty.So in addition to the physical experience that made up most of the workshop, studentswere also given in a short period of time a very rich framework within which to reflect ontheir experience.Thanks so much to JAI for making this rich opportunity available to my students andme.Sincerely,Philip Boo RileyReligious Studies6. Aldo Billingslea Dept. of Theatre & Dance, ActingI really appreciated the time I spent with Fr. Prashant. It was curricular and spiritualdevelopment. Refreshing to hear of his journey into this study and recognize the pointswhere the practice parallels what I’m teaching and where it offers additional clarity.Aldo BillingsleaDept. of Theatre & Dance 13
  • 14. Final Report on Prashant Olalekar, S.J.’s Residency JAI Fall 2011 SCU7. Maeve Heaney Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education 2011-2012 Bannan Fellow JSTU / SCUI participated in two sessions with Fr. Prashant, and found it very significant that asBanaan presences in Santa Clara, there is so much overlap in our approach Although myarea is music, the underlying theology is very much about an integrated anthropologyand epistemology which allow us to understand and welcome the particular way inwhich music (and God though music) works in us. In Western culture, we have analienated relationship with our bodies, which have their wisdom, and through which lifeand God have something to say to us (Ignatian spiritualitys "finding god in all things"also applies to our embodied existence!!!).I found the workshops profound, creative, inspiring. I found Fr. Prashants presencehumble, charitable, fun, intelligent and spiritual. Meeting him and participating in theworkshops was profoundly edifying for me, so I thank both of you for enabling it tohappen!Blessings,Maeve Louise Heaney , Bannan Fellow in Theology, Spirituality and Music8. Matt Smith JAI Program Council and Director of Outreach / Engagement, Campus MinistryI came to Prashants workshop stressed by the workload that was facing me uponreturning to my office. As we began I felt insecure in my body, but that quicklydissipated as our group transformed into an adult playground. My heart rate rose and Ibegan to sweat. We all took risks. The exercises gave me access to joyful childhoodmemories and put me in touch with my heart, and not just because it was working hard!I left feeling connected. I observed that throughout the rest of the week I was muchmore positive than I had been in previous weeks. In fact, there was a bubbliness aboutme that I had not felt in quite some time. This experience was both deeply consoling andprofoundly transformative. Thank you for the opportunity!Peace,Matt Smith , Director of Outreach / Engagement, Campus Ministry9. Penelope Duckworth Religious StudiesThank you for the lovely lunch and workshop with Prashant. I hope to attend onMonday at 1 as well. I urged my class to go to the workshop at St. Clares. I thought itwas wonderful to experience Prashants teaching and try to imagine how it feels for thepoor and handicapped. I thought of the sex workers perhaps experiencing the freedomof their bodies for the first time. He has a gentle way of releasing inhibitions andbringing about a quiet healing. He is a bridge person in many senses; the one that Inoticed was his ease in what is often seen as the feminine world of body and nurture towhich he brings his Jesuit training and theological expertise.Thanks again,Penelope Duckworth, Religious Studies 14
  • 15. Final Report on Prashant Olalekar, S.J.’s Residency JAI Fall 2011 SCU Student REFLECTIONS!Eight Santa Clara University undergraduate courses encountered Fr. Olalekar’swork through lectures and workshops in the dance studio or in otherperformance spaces and classrooms. The following courses participated as groupsranging in number from 14 to 33 students: Ways of Understanding Religion Cultures and Ideas I Charisma: Intersections of Art & Spirituality Writing and Sustainability Beginning Modern Dance Dance Composition Improvisation Acting Participants were then given the opportunity to reflect in writing on theirexperience of learning through movement, play, improvisation and prayerfulness.Included in this section of the report are a sampling of the key concepts and ideas that were found in the post-workshop reflections. In some cases responses were edited for brevity, clarity and spelling, aggregated if overlapping and all were made anonymous by removing any identifying details. 15
  • 16. Final Report on Prashant Olalekar, S.J.’s Residency JAI Fall 2011 SCU STUDENT TESTIMONIES + Although improvisation’s qualities as a healing and spiritually enriching art formare well known, I have not experienced these qualities so intensely, genuinely andprofoundly until this past class with guest Father Prashant Olalekar, S.J. Theclass was spiritually enlightening and meditative in terms of bodily and physicalawareness. And every activity, regardless of its familiarity, was modified toinvolve momentary inward evaluation…the experience was a true testament to“living in the moment” and “experiencing the present.”I realized how wonderfully flexible the immense range of our emotions andexpressions as human beings is. On a spiritual level, each moment for meditationand reflection made me exceedingly aware of the individual’s interconnectednesswith his or her physical surroundings, especially the organic world and otherhuman beings, and called to mind sacramentality - the idea of seeing andrediscovering the divine within all of creation.Prashant’s ‘Sound/Story’ presentation of “looking for Christ in ten thousandplaces” and “seeing Christ in ten thousand faces” was an inspiring, evocative andpowerful application of improvisation as a means for social justice and peacethrough artistry. …I could not help but feel drawn to the greater purposefulmessage of a call for social agency. For along with Fr. Prashant’s presentation,learning about the Playing for Peace program with InterPlay India and their all-inclusive message for all people to be ambassadors for peace through art stronglyresonated with me. It helped me realize how improvisation can be used as an artform and a tool to inspire communal expression and communication, and changeand transform hearts to recover a deeper sense of what it means to be human.As the class came to a close, I found our group dynamic to be more focused,cohesive and sensitive to others’ actions than it was before. We were unified.The experience will help me to connect and understand everyone around me on amore fundamentally empathetic and intrinsically human level. …I am confidentthat this has allowed me to see the potential for artists, musicians and performersto find social agency, charitable purpose and a possible future in social justice intheir work. + When I would close my eyes after dancing around I would feel like a weight was lifted. I had a free spirit. The exercises brought out both inner and outer peace, making it easier to connect with others in the environment. + The most engaging moment was when we chose a concern and decided to “handit’ to God. Somehow I truly felt my problems lifted to God; and then I felt a sense of pure relaxation and peace. 16
  • 17. Final Report on Prashant Olalekar, S.J.’s Residency JAI Fall 2011 SCU +When we were lying still and having a conversation with God I relaxed and got toreflect on my life in this interesting transition period. I really enjoyed myconversation with God. I felt more comfortable than I have in a long time; I feltmomentarily free of stress and burdens. I felt relaxed, and felt a sense ofbelonging. + Growing up without a religious affiliation, the workshop was a different experience for me. I was invited to connect the events of the week to God, for however brief the moment, to have that faith in Him in order to do that, and I wasn’t sure I could suddenly do this. But I found a surprising sense of release init, even if I only succeeded momentarily. I learned that sometimes having faith in a superior being can be a form of trust and release. Later, in sharing a burden with a person at the workshop I realized there was mutual and immediate trust. This lifted this weight off my back almost instantly. It helped me to experience this day with happiness, relief, strength and confidence. +I thought the most engaging moment was the partner “prayer.” Watching themovement of the two volunteers making such simple shapes in the space andhaving that moment of introspection was a rare shared moment amidst ourindividual busy lives. These experiences bring different people together so easilyand make interaction in the world seem a lot simpler. +The exercise that stood out to me the most was when we offered up our ownworries and grievances to God. We watched two individuals in the centertranslate our emotions into movement and be the vessel through which ourthoughts were sent to God. I was completely surprised by how much themovement seemed to relate exactly to what I was feeling. I found myself gettingemotional because I felt so connected to the two in the middle; I felt my worriesleave my body, run through the individuals’ bodies in the center of the circle, andthen rise up to God. This exercise made me aware of my emotions that I havebeen trying to suppress. I did not expect this experience to reach this sort of deeppersonal level. + Fr. Prashant’s lectures on India and the experience of the workshop itself will help us realize the importance and benefits of forming partnerships with people in need and nourishing our own solidarity and compassion. The InterPlay demonstration was a very transporting experience. + During Fr. Prashant’s presentation, my eyes were opened to the despair and 17
  • 18. Final Report on Prashant Olalekar, S.J.’s Residency JAI Fall 2011 SCU poverty of people. I always thought of movement as expressive, but I did not realize that it could have such a dramatic effect on the lives of people who were not previously exposed to it, or who had not made some intentional choice to seek movement out. But when the experience came to them, they so fully embraced and benefited from it! When I learned that his work can be for the benefit of abused women, the disabled, sex workers and marginalized groups, I began to see how healing this InterPlay could be. + It is touching to think that Fr. Prashant has dedicated his time to helping, forexample, the disabled rediscover movement in their bodies. It makes me happy to know that there are wonderful people like him selflessly devoting their time to helping and improving the lives of others around the world. One person can’t change everything on their own, but Fr. Prashant and others like him are getting off to a good start. + Solidarity can be as simple, and as complex, as standing next to someone. + The work made us realize how connected we are. When we show compassion toward others, we are greeted with compassion. You see it and feel it and understand it totally when you are being guided like this. +Through understanding one another beyond ‘speech’ we developed an energeticconnection that was really awesome. The experience was something of a bondingactivity for our group. It is really easy to imagine how people who are in differentsocietal groups do grow closer to each other through this experience. Certainlystripping down all judgement and prejudice allows solidarity to shine through. + In this atmosphere free of judgement, you begin to refrain from judging other people and put all of your attention towards compassion instead. +It was an unexpected experience, but I am so very glad to have gotten a chance toparticipate and experience this JAI program with Fr. Olalekar. It was such ajoyous and opening experience. + I loved the honesty of it. I cannot explain my gratitude for the activities – they were very helpful for everyone. In the future I plan to travel, and would like to participate in InterPlay India someday. Prashant’s teachings are priceless, and I will value his lessons for a long time to come. 18
  • 19. Final Report on Prashant Olalekar, S.J.’s Residency JAI Fall 2011 SCUConclusion “Wherever in the Church, even in the most difficult and exposed fields, in the crossroads of ideologies, in the social trenches, there has been or is confrontation between the burning exigencies of humanity and the perennial message of the Gospel, there have been and are the Jesuits.” -Pope Paul VIWhile at SCU, Fr. Olalekar impressed us with his generous sharing of self, graciousfacilitation of workshops and lectures that were mindful of different disciplinaryframeworks, and co-celebration of various Masses and liturgies. All were impressed byhis ability to connect disparate communities that others might find difficult to reach inmeaningful ways. One could also say he works with communities of people that manyfind easy to ignore. That the arts might be the medium in which this dialogue andinteraction takes root is no surprise to the affiliates of the Justice and the Arts Initiativeat Santa Clara University.This report is written from the standpoint of how visionary the work that we witnessedduring Fr. Olalekar’s residency at Santa Clara University could be for the creative spiritof the Catholic Church and for Catholic and Jesuit institutions globally in the 21stcentury. If further research could be conducted in order to shed more light on thebenefits of Fr. Olalekar’s approach to making ministry more expansive, inclusive andwelcoming through workshops in embodied spirituality developed out of processes likeInterPlay, then his work might eventually be iterated in thoughtful and meaningful wayswithin the context of the Catholic church’s many pastoral concerns. In the case of Fr.Olalekar’s specific ministry which has inspired so many strong collaborations and relieson the entirety of the human spirit to accomplish, we see no limits to the benefits itmight have for people of any faith commitment, socio-economic background, ability levelor caste.Pope Benedict XVI, in his address to the delegates at the thirty-fifth general congregationof the Society of Jesus, stresses the pressing issues of diversity, globalization,marginalization, and all of the changes that “call us to the frontiers of culture and ofreligion.” [n. 2] The delegates responded to the Pope’s address by confirming the need tostrengthen and support those Jesuits and collaborators actively involved in the fourfolddialogue recommended by the Church, to listen carefully to all, and to build bridgeslinking individuals and communities of good will. (GC 35, D. 3, 22) It is hoped that thisreport helps initiate the kind of dialogue envisaged by the general congregation; one thatsupports the work of Jesuits who make the holiness of the poor and marginalizedapparent to all. Through the simple but profound actions of moving, thinking, feelingand praying together as groups of diversely formed individuals, we rediscover somethingin our connection to God, to the humanity in the other, and to our own propensity forfaith, hope and trust, and the imagination in its flourishing state, without which, nosocial or spiritual gains can be made. Kristin Kusanovich Co-Director Justice & the Arts Initiative Senior Lecturer, Dept. of Theatre & Dance Santa Clara University Dec. 31, 2011 19