Sr. Gloria's Story
Former Executive Chair, Interfaith Center Board of Directors
“Board Member Spotlight” by Interfaith Center Intern Jessica Baer, November 2009
As December arrives, the leaves have dropped from the trees and the vibrant colors of autumn are remembered. Sister Gloria Coleman approaches this sacred season with optimism and hope, just as she has approached her lifelong commitment to interfaith dialogue and education. “The falling of the leaves is not the finality of death – it’s just a pruning time, when things go underground to take stock for stronger growth,” she says.
Sister Gloria, a founding Board member, enters this sacred season as Board Chair, giving the Interfaith Center a fresh opportunity for growth and development. She has been an active member of the Board and the Quest Book group for the past five years. Yet her work in interfaith engagement and education goes back much further than the 2004 founding of the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia.
In 1973, Sister Gloria was asked to be the ecumenical officer for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, where she continued for fifteen years as an administrator and educator. She took many educational trips to Israel and traveled to the Soviet Union to advocate for the freedom of Soviet Jews. She also helped to develop the first Jewish-Christian Dialogue curriculum in Philadelphia’s five-county area. She says, “In the 1970’s, when we were beginning to get to know each other, we went to synagogues and brought the message of reconciliation and the idea of dialogue.”
Sister Gloria served for many years as a leader of the Philadelphia Coordinating Council on the Holocaust, which offered workshops, conferences, and training to teachers who provide Holocaust education. “I wanted to know so much more about Jews and Judaism. History was written and so much was distorted and hidden away, and so much of that came out with the tragic events of the Holocaust,” says Sister Gloria. “This was powerful for me because those are my roots, and I wanted to move forward so Christians could understand their wealth in history, and how we were sprung from the tree of Abraham.”
While Sister Gloria has spent much of her career developing relations between Catholics and Jews, she enjoys the Interfaith Center’s focus on many faith communities and the consequent broadening of the dialogue.
When asked what she looks forward to in her term as Chair of the Board, Sister Gloria pointed to the continuing growth and development of our exciting work with youth and adults. What she likes most about the Interfaith Center is its ability to build understanding across faith lines without violence and clashing.
“If we can help youth have a new script for what is going to happen in the world and help to see what is possible for them, I think we can make a difference,” she says. We thank Sr. Gloria for her dedication to advancing good in the Philadelphia region through the Interfaith Center.