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The Aquilian

    The non-Catholic experience at Gonzaga

    Wyatt Croog (left) and Zachary Taylor (right) lead the new Jewish Appreciation Club. Photo by Daniel Colucci

    The presence of other religions at Gonzaga besides Catholicism is no new occurrence. Gonzaga’s local reputation allows it to constantly draw from a pool of non-Catholic families seeking the strong academics and athletics that Gonzaga has to offer. According to Headmaster Mr. Tom Every, 77.6% of Gonzaga’s 2021-22 student body was Catholic and 20% was Christian and non-Catholic. These statistics demonstrate a distinguishable majority and minority at Gonzaga when it comes to religion.

    Feisal Beidas and Zachary Taylor are among two of the non-Catholic students at Gonzaga. As seniors, they have had four years on Eye Street to develop an honest, insightful view on life as non-Catholics in a Catholic environment. Feisal, a devout Muslim, and Zachary, who comes from a half Christian and half Jewish family, both came to Gonzaga not knowing what to expect when it came to religion. The fear of being pressured to conform to Catholicism often occupied their minds as freshmen.

    “The first week or two I was worried I was going to be converted to Catholicism. When I was doing homework, I told myself I had to learn just as much about Islam as I’m learning about Catholicism or else I would become Catholic,” Beidas said. 

    Certain aspects of day to day life at Gonzaga originally made it difficult to comfortably acclimate in the classroom.

    “I felt pressured at Gonzaga as a freshman having to pray at the beginning of class. I felt like it was something I had to do,” Taylor said.

    However, both Beidas and Taylor were adamant that any initial worries they had regarding their religion and how the administration handled it quickly subsided. They agreed that four years of Catholic religion classes actually strengthened both their faiths, completely contrary to their initial expectations.

    “Although I’m learning about Catholicism everyday, I’m still very passionately a Muslim. I honestly do feel that I have grown in Islam because of going to a Catholic school,” Beidas said. 

    Taylor had similar thoughts.

    “Not only would I learn about Catholicism here, but in Judaism the Torah is the first five books in the Bible, so I learned a good amount about Judaism, as well,” Taylor said.

    Overall, Beidas and Taylor spoke incredibly highly of how Gonzaga accepts its non-Catholic students. They expressed how they truly haven’t felt any form of pressure from administrators or teachers throughout their four years at Gonzaga. If anything, Gonzaga has strengthened their own faiths.

    “This year at Gonzaga Wyatt Croog and I started the Jewish Appreciation Club. It has been encouraging to see that Mr. Every, Mr. Leary and the administration have been super on board,” Taylor said. 

    Beidas had similar praise to offer. 

    “Mr. Pugliese does a great job of teaching Islam in that freshman year [World Cultures] curriculum. I think that is so important because it eliminates a lot of the ignorance,” Beidas said, jokingly adding how “he taught it so well that my parents thought he was Muslim.”

    However, despite immense satisfaction with the administrative side of Gonzaga, Beidas and Taylor have both faced their fair share of ignorance from students at Gonzaga. Specifically, freshmen are usually the ones to cause problems.

    “The only ignorance I have seen at Gonzaga is from the students, especially freshmen. The first week of school a kid was berating with my questions, arguing Islam is a religion that promotes violence because ISIS is so deeply rooted in Islam. Since then, I have realized I just have to be really representative of my religion,” Beidas said. 

    Taylor recounted a similar experience, which outlines the obvious problem: not the administration, but Gonzaga’s young, ignorant students.

    “The times that there has been anything negative when it comes to Judaism at Gonzaga is kids not knowing. My freshman year a kid asked me ‘but didn’t the Jewish people kill Jesus?’ I don’t think that kid hates Jewish people. I just think if you go to Catholic school your whole life, then that might be something you hold as a belief,” Taylor said.


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      Carol CorganFeb 9, 2023 at 12:48 pm

      Great article, Daniel!