A young girl dances during the 2014 Celebrate Spring festival at Denman Estate Park. Photo by Sheena Maria Connell.

People from seven-months to 70-years-old from Afghanistan, Bhutan, Canada, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guatemala, India, Iran, Iraq, Kenya, Liberia, Nepal, Nigeria, Thailand, Ukraine, United States, and Vietnam participate in “Celebrate Spring” an annual gathering initiated by the University of the Incarnate Word community for refugee families Denman Estate Park.

“Refugee children in San Antonio don’t know why there is no school on Good Friday. You should have an Easter egg hunt for them and teach them what the holiday is all about,” said Linda Salam, who teaches English to refugees.

Help welcome our newcomers in San Antonio and celebrate our growing diversity in Denman Estate Park, 7735 Mockingbird Lane,  on Friday, March 25. San Antonians are invited to help set up at 10 a.m. and host refugee families from 10:30 am -12:30 am. Bring art supplies, stories, songs, and games based on celebrating Passover, Easter, Narouz, and Holi. Read about how we have celebrated in the past here and contact Leslie Reneau at the UIW Ettling Center for Civic Leadership via email for more information: lreneau@student.uiwtx.edu.

Families often need help since the children are not in school on that day. I had been with Iraqi refugees in Jordan at a center where children were creating art to help them find some joy in the midst of challenges. While I wanted to help children understand Easter, I had been teaching university students that the spring rebirth of creation has been celebrated universally. That led to the beginning of the annual interfaith “Celebrate Spring” in 2010. My students learned through online exchanges with students at Al-Azhar University in Cairo that ancient Egyptians used eggs in celebrations of spring.

Jews use eggs as symbols of new life in the Passover celebration. Passover is a spring holy day when Jewish people remember that God freed the Jews from slavery in Egypt. It is an invitation to work to overcome all oppression in the world today.

People celebrate Narouz which has roots in Zoroastrian traditions 3,000 years old, with colored eggs. Nowr?z “Persian New Year” ??????  (also spelled Nauroz, Nouruz, Nawroz) is not only remembered in Iran, but also in Afghanistan, Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

Steven Reyes, a UIW Music major, went to the gathering to help refugees and was to teach them about Narouz. With delight, he said that he had been learning from new Iraqi friends. They were even teaching him how to write in Arabic.

Darlene Jasso, a student shared the Christian legend of St. Mary Magdalene who encountered the risen Christ. She held an egg to try to explain to Caesar that as a chick comes out of an egg, Christ came out of the tomb.

“He could not have come out of the tomb any more than that egg could turn red,” Caesar said cynically.

Miraculously the egg turned red in her hand. Christians share colored eggs to remember this. UIW students had lots of eggs for the children to dye and for all to eat – a communion connecting people through the centuries across cultures and religions.

Holi (???? in Hindi), is a religious spring festival celebrated by Hindus. It is also known as the “Festival of Colors.” It is a time of enjoying spring’s abundant colors and saying farewell to winter.

Sister Alice Holden, CCVI, seeks to develop the part of the Denman Estate owned by the University of the Incarnate Word as an Interfaith Retreat and Conference Center. This was initiated during the U.N. designated World Interfaith Harmony Week. The San Antonio theme was “TOGETHER caring for creation” with faith based and ecological groups contributing.

UIW has been a participant in the President’s Interfaith Service Challenge which emphasizes that though we may have different beliefs, we can unite in service to humanity.

https://rivardreport.wildapricot.org

Top image: A young girl dances during the 2014 Celebrate Spring festival at Denman Estate Park. Photo by Sheena Maria Connell.

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Sr. Martha Ann Kirk

Sister Martha Ann Kirk, a professor of religious studies at UIW, teaches “Arts for Christian Worship” and is very grateful for her students who are compassionate and creative.