Agape Latte Program Debuts at Manhattan College

The new Campus Ministry event series seeks to foster discussions about faith.

Professor Shawn Ladda at Agape LatteThe Greek word “agape,” which can be traced to the New Testament, is often translated to mean “love.” But it is a different type of love than the highly romanticized connotation of the word that we know today. The essence of the love referred to in “agape” is self-sacrifice and love that seeks nothing in return.

Putting this meaning into a practical context, Agape Latte is a new program series sponsored by Campus Ministry and Social Action (CMSA), that provides a safe, social environment for students who are seeking to learn more about how faith applies to real-life questions. The program includes trivia, coffeehouse-style music and a 30-minute reflection with questions. During the reflection, a leader from campus shares an aspect of his or her faith journey and invites students to reflect on their own life questions.

First started at Boston College, Agape Latte was brought to Manhattan College upon a suggestion from religious studies professor Kevin Ahern, Ph.D., who completed his doctorate degree there. Boston College was awarded a grant to spread the successful program to other colleges, and Manhattan College is one of the first pilot partners on the East Coast.

Conor Reidy, campus minister for CMSA, spearheaded the project, and hopes it will prompt students to think about faith.

“You have a half hour of a student’s life,” Reidy says. “Give them something that will help nourish them along their own faith journey. Give them something that will make them think more deeply about what they are doing with their life and how their faith plays a role in it.”

On Feb. 17, Manhattan College’s first Agape Latte event was held in the Jasper Hall lounge. Coffee and light refreshments were served as the curious crowd filed into the space and conversed with each other in the coffeehouse setting. Attendees were greeted by the acoustic tunes of George Schlink ’17, a chemical engineering major, who played guitar for the half hour preceding the featured speaker.

The inaugural speaker was Shawn Ladda, Ph.D., professor of kinesiology, who presented an inspiring talk entitled “Church in Your Backyard.” Born in Chicago, Ladda moved numerous times during her childhood before going to high school in Hershey, Pa., and college at Pennsylvania State University.

Her faith journey is a lot more literal than most. As a child, she visited the places of worship of many different religions with her mother. She experienced Catholic and Lutheran churches, as well as Jewish synagogues. Ladda was able to learn about these different faiths and concluded that there are universal values across all of these religions.    

The casual conversation continued with discussions about being thankful and appreciative for the many blessings in life, the power of social justice, and the importance of being involved in social action groups on and off the Manhattan College campus. Ladda described how these were all points along her faith journey that resonated with her and that she wanted to share with the Agape Latte audience.

Concluding the conversation, Ladda offered: “Spiritual wellness is ever-evolving and is a lifelong process, a true faith journey. I encourage everyone here to be reflective and to challenge your values and beliefs. Take advantage of what is offered here at Manhattan College to help you reinforce these values and beliefs.”

Agape Latte will bring an atmosphere of open conversation about faith to the Manhattan College community.

Mary Burke ’17, a communication major, says she is excited about the program and thinks it fills a need at the College.

“I believe that Agape Latte will bring an atmosphere of open conversation about faith to the Manhattan College community,” she says. “Many students are intimidated by the topic and shy away from events or programs that touch on it. Agape Latte could potentially be the bridge to understanding faith in general and also students’ own faith and beliefs.”

The next Agape Latte event will be held on April 28 at 8 p.m. in the Jasper Hall Lounge. All students and faculty members are invited to attend. 

By Julie Benns