WSU welcomes chaplain Savage to Amelia Ferst Interfaith Center
WESTFIELD – The Albert and Amelia Ferst Interfaith Center at Westfield State University (WSU) welcomed a new chaplain to help expand the center’s outreach and influence on the campus and throughout the community.
Father Warren Savage officially started at the Interfaith Center in August after the Diocese of Springfield selected him for the position. He joined Rev. Kim Murphy and Rabbi Joyce Galaski, the university’s Protestant and Jewish chaplains, respectively. WSU also plans to add an Imam for Muslim students.
“It [the Interfaith Center] is the heart of the community and I intend to unclog its arteries,” Savage said. “I see myself helping all students. The past chaplain did an outstanding job.”
Savage explained that his predecessor, Father John Dean, had to limit his availability in recent months due to health issues, but had effectively served the center for more than 30 years.
Savage completed his theological studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University in and at North American College in Rome, Italy. He has worked as an international speaker, lecturer and mission preacher.
He currently lectures in the Religious Studies Department of Our Lady of the Elms College in Chicopee. He also leads Diocese Permanent Diaconate Training and serves as the Catholic Chaplain at Amherst College, Amherst.
“I’m a very mission-focused person,” he said, adding that he intends to keep in line with the center’s mission and goals.
Savage, now 61, entered the priesthood at age 22. He is currently in his 36th year as a priest. “The kids keep me young. They can’t keep up with me,” he said.
Elizabeth Preston, president of WSU, said, “Meeting Father Savage is an experience. He is energetic and enthusiastic about living his faith and in caring for others no matter their background. Most importantly, his commitment to interfaith dialog and service aligns with WSU’s focus on increased community engagement and we are very much looking forward to having him be a part of our campus community.”
Savage commented that he had a “fantastic conversation” with Preston on his very first day at WSU. He said Preston is “committed to interfaith dialogue.” Savage described her as “humble.”
His goal for the Interfaith Center is to “promote an interfaith understanding.” In his role as chaplain, Savage will preside over Mass, provide community services opportunities for students, assist with student projects and provide faith support.
When asked what the biggest issue of today’s culture is, Savage responded, “The inability to dialogue together in a culture of respect and reason. We can’t see people as threats. [People of different religious backgrounds] must seek common ground [without compromising their beliefs]. We need to communicate rationally, not fanatically.”
In regards to the actions of the Islamic State group against those who disagree with its beliefs, he said, “This situation should awaken us to have more awareness. The response to these stories has to be a compassionate culture on campus.”
Savage has already established the Catholic Newman Club in his short time at WSU. The student group will host a weekly Bible study on Wednesdays from 7 to 8:30 p.m. beginning Oct. 8. It also has a weekly music ministry and has planned an Advent retreat program during the upcoming holiday season.
Preston recently endorsed WSU’s involvement in the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge.
“It’s an attempt to create more interfaith dialogue and community service [on campus]. Her response was faster than any bishop I’ve known in 36 years. There’s a lot of good people that care on campus,” Savage said.
He continued, “If you have no compassion and no love for anybody, what good is your degree? It’s absolutely useless.”
To learn more about the Interfaith Center, visit www.westfield.ma.edu/offices/albert-and-amelia-ferst-interfaith-center.