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Making History at Catholic Theological Union

March 11, 2020

Catholic Theological Union has offered a program in Catholic-Muslim Studies for 20 years in order to advance justice and

(L-R) Major General Steven A. Schaick
Chaplain (U.S. Air Force) Chief of Chaplains, The Pentagon, Second Lieutenant Saleha Jabeen and Fr. Mark Francis, CSV

mutual understanding. Now, one of its students, Second Lieutenant Saleha Jabeen looks to take that mission to the U.S. military.

In December, Jabeen was was commissioned as the first woman Muslim chaplain candidate in the U.S. Air Force and the Department of Defense. Fr. Mark Francis, CSV, President of CTU, was on hand for the pinning ceremony to affirm the proud candidate, who earned her Master’s in Interfaith Dialogue in 2014 and is completing her Master’s in Divinity this spring.

Jabeen’s quest to become the first female Muslim chaplain in the Air Force was the subject of an interview this month — Women’s History Month — with reporter, Carol Marin, on NBC-5 in Chicago. In it, Jabeen described her historic journey as “humbling.”

Saleha Jabeen being interviewed at CTU by NBC reporter Carol Marin

“All I ever wanted to do was live with my heart forward and with my faith guiding my heart,” Jabeen said.

She conceded that she could face some criticism from non-Muslim troops, but she said, “People are human.”

Fr. Francis took it a step further: “We worship the same God, but because of misunderstanding, prejudice and political hatred, people don’t understand that.”

The historic chaplaincy confirms Fr. Francis’ vision for CTU which he articulated back in 2013, when he was installed as the school’s seventh president: “We no longer educate ministers to return to closed enclaves where everyone is largely the same. Instead, we are challenged to prepare ministers to engage at the crossroads of our cities and our world, where they will come into contact with many religions and cultures.”