Catholic University Georgetown is First U.S. College with a Hindu Chaplain

Catholic University Georgetown is First U.S. College with a Hindu Chaplain

Catholic University Georgetown is First U.S. College with a Hindu Chaplain
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Brahmachari Vrajvihari Sharan is the first Hindu Priest appointed as Chaplain by an American university.

With the appointment of Brahmachari Vrajvihari Sharan as the first Chaplain in a Catholic institution in the United States, Georgetown University has placed itself at the forefront of the mind of every Catholic Church member in the country. This is due to the fact that Georgetown University is a Jesuit Institution with strong Catholic roots and ties.

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Br. Sharan will be the first director of Hindu Life on campus. He is also the first Hindu Priest to serve as Chaplain across the country. He is from the University of Edinburgh, where he had been serving as the Honorary Hindu Chaplain since 2010. Br. Sharan was initiated as a monk in 2003 at Shri Golok Dham Ashram (Vrindavan and New Delhi). He was able to finish his training and become a fully-fledged Hindu Priest at Vishwanath Sannyas Ashram in both Varanasi and Delhi. Br. Sharan has achieved the rare title of Acharya, which means that he is a trainer of Hindu Priests. He has more than 20 temples in his orbit, where he mentors and nurtures young, up and coming Hindu Priests.

The new Hindu Chaplain at Georgetown has also topped off his impressive resume with a PhD in Sanskrit at the University of Edinburgh in 2015. Georgetown has gotten a lot of criticism for the move, although University officials claim that it is necessary to cater to all students who may not subscribe to the Catholic faith but still remain an integral part of the University.

Rev. Greg Schenden, a Catholic Chaplain remarked, “Part of our mission and our ethos is our desire to form the whole person.” The university would like all its students to experience Spiritual growth, Catholic or not. This is why there is a rabbi and an imam serving on the staff as Chaplains as well. The fact that the campus has about three hundred Hindu Students made the appointment of a Hindu Chaplain necessary. “It wasn’t just to say, “Oh, we got one here,’ it was, ‘oh, we need one here,’” Schenden said.

On his first service on Sunday, Sharan appeared to have a firm grasp of the audience he was speaking to, as he started by asking his congregation to clear their minds, “Close all the tabs that are open, just as you would do to a Firefox window.” This clear reference to modern technology in a religious setting quickly showed the students how attuned their first Hindu Chaplain was to current trends and to their social settings.

A senior Hindu student at the university, Neharika Khandavalli remarked, “It couldn’t have gone better. All of us students, we’re religious and Hindu, but we wouldn’t have been able to do what Brahmachari-ji did.”


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