When organizers sat down to talk over the idea of an interfaith prayer breakfast, Nashua seemed like one of the most natural places to hold the event.
“Nashua has a very diverse community, and that’s something to celebrate,” said Cathy Chesley, immigration director for Catholic Charities.
Chesley and staff from Welcoming New Hampshire, Work Ready NH and Rivier University decided to call the celebration “A Place at the Table for Everyone,” an event that will spotlight Nashua’s long history of welcoming people of different cultures through the city’s churches and various faith organizations.
Rivier will host the event on Friday, June 13, from 7:30 to 9 a.m. at the university’s Dion Center. Sister Paula Marie Burley, president of Rivier, will open the breakfast with a morning blessing, and Nashua Mayor Donnalee Lozeau will extend the city’s official welcome. Chesley said a Hindu priest will lead a prayer, a Jewish cantor will offer a song, and leaders and members of other congregations will have an opportunity to share some of their faith traditions. The inspiration for the breakfast came from Concord, which holds a similar interfaith prayer breakfast every year. While many individual congregations in Nashua hold services and cultural events that showcase the contributions that immigrant communities have made to the city, the goal of the breakfast is to get everyone together under one roof. Once people of different faith communities sit down together, organizers figure, they will find that they share similar priorities and a lot of common ground.
Chesley said the hope is that the prayer breakfast will generate some positive energy that will make a difference.
“Mill towns like Manchester and Nashua were built on the backs of immigrants, but we feel that sometimes the message around immigration is negative,” she said. “We want to present Nashua as a welcoming community.”
According to Chesley, Nashua’s diverse faith community is in a particularly good position to welcome new groups of people to the city because many immigrants build new lives on a foundation of work, family and faith.
“Our hope is that anyone who wants to come will join us,” said Chesley.And while organizers are focused on the immediate goal of getting the word out about the breakfast, they also are keeping an eye out for future opportunities that may develop from the event.“We said, ‘Let’s try this idea, and if it works, we’ll beat it,’” laughed Chesley. Tickets for the breakfast are $12. Those interested in attending should email Nancy Provencher at nprovencher@NH-cc.org to reserve a seat.