Center for Interfaith Relations
What is Center for Interfaith Relations?
The Center for Interfaith Relations (CIR) was established in 1985 by a group of civic leaders representing several faith groups to promote interfaith understanding. It was initially known as the Cathedral Heritage Foundation and was based in the Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Assumption. Over the years CIR has gained a broad reputation for excellence in interfaith work and has served as a model for other communities in the United States and around the world.
Today, one of the primary ways CIR achieves its mission is through its yearly Festival of Faiths. This is a multi-day celebration centering on a theme and created by and for all faith groups in our city. It has grown dramatically over the years and now reaches thousands in Kentucky and around the world. Recent speakers have included the Archbishop of Canterbury, Deepak Chopra, Robert F. Kennedy, Diana Eck, Huston Smith, Eboo Patel, Jean Houston and Arun Gandhi.
Timeline of Center for Interfaith Relations
1985 – Cathedral Heritage Foundation founded and established first Board of Directors with Archbishop Thomas Kelly, O.P. as Chairman and Fr. Ron Knott as President for the purpose of restoring, revitalizing and sustaining Louisville’s historic Cathedral of the Assumption
December 1986 – Historic Structures report completed, noting the architectural and historical significance of the Cathedral with recommendations for restoration and preservation efforts.
February 1989 – Board approves design concept for restoration of the Cathedral
October 1989 – Mrs. Helen Edwards Abell pledges $1 million for Cathedral Chapel
Fall 1990 – CHF’s first strategic plan inaugurated; facilitated by Baylor Landrum III
June 1991 – Cathedral Undercroft restored and in use for the first time in over 100 years
October 1991 – Free Downtown Arts & Music series begins. Over its history, the series included over 600 artistic and cultural performances, attended by more 33,000 people.
November 1991 – First annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Prayer Service held in the Cathedral
Summer 1992 – Brown-Forman Corporation pledges $1 million to create outdoor garden
July 1992 – The Lilly Endowment awards major grant of $350,000 to explore the possibility of a Museum of Faiths calling CHF and its revitalization efforts “one of the most exciting community building projects in the country”
February 1993 – Interior Restoration of the Cathedral begins
September 1993 – Inspirations gift shop & Spiritual Art Gallery opens. The Gallery hosted over 60 exhibits in its 9-year history
January 1994 – Spiritual Life Lecture Series begins. Over its history, the series included over 65 programs on topics of spirituality.
April 1994 – His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet visits Louisville’s Cathedral of the Assumption
May 1994 – Archbishop Kelly moves into the Residence becoming the first bishop to reside downtown in over 120 years
October 1994 – Brown & Williamson Corporation pledges $1 million for the Dining Hall for the Homeless
November 1994 – the first Night of 1000 Stars Gala celebrates the grand reopening of the Cathedral of the Assumption
November 1996 – First Festival of Faiths held celebrating the region’s rich religious heritage. It involved exhibits from houses of worship and religious organizations that had continually existed since the dedication 0f the Cathedral in 1852, showing the religious organization’s contribution to the community.
November 1997 – Institute Festival of Faiths mission statement “To celebrate the diversity of our faiths, be grateful for our unity and strengthen the role of religion in society.” This Festival’s theme was Expressions of Faith and focused upon many aspects and expressions of faith in the Louisville community with tours, exhibits, numerous workshops and breakout sessions.
January 1998 – The Schneider family pledge $2 million to restore steeple in honor of Mrs. Thelma Schneider
October 1998 – United States Senate passes a resolution recognizing CHF’s Festival of Faiths as a model of interfaith activity
November 1998 – Festival of Faiths: Song and Celebration focusing on sacred music with special appearance by Rabbi Marc Gellman and Monsignor Thomas Hartman known as The God Squad. The Foundation initiates the Lifetime Achievement Award presenting it to Lord Robert Runcie, 102nd Archbishop of Cantebury, Melvin & Margaret Dickinson, Senator Wendell Ford and Mayor Jerry Abramson
November 1999 – Festival of Faiths Celebrating Art, Architecture and Stewardship of the Land with special presentations by noted architects Robert Stern, Samuel Mockbee, Michael Rotondi and Witold Rybczynski. Night of 1000 Start features the Vienna Choir Boys. The Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award presented to Muhammad Ali, Martin Marty, Wanda Ferragamo and Gregory Peck
December 1999 – Cathedral Heritage Foundation is honored by the Parliament of the World’s Religions as a model for interfaith activity
December 1999 – “Beyond the Boundaries,” a documentary about the Festival of Faiths and CHF’s trip to Africa, is released by KET
Spring 2000 – Professor Ellie Wiesel receives the Cathedral Heritage Foundation’s Spirit Award
November 2000 – Celebrate “Festival of Faiths 2000: Healing Mind, Body & Soul.” Special guests include Dr. Bernie Siegel, Dr. Dale Matthews, and Dr. Anne Weeks. Lifetime Achievement Awards were presented to Huston Smith, Dr. Joel Elkes and Mrs. Jane Owen. CHF presents first “Faith Award” to Margaret Oates.
April 2001- The Cathedral Heritage Foundation approves an updated Strategic Plan and revised mission statement that declares: “The Cathedral Heritage Foundation is an inter-religious organization. Our mission is to promote inter-religious understanding and the civic role of the historic Cathedral of the Assumption.”
April 2001- Historic renegotiation of lease and new agreement among CHF, Cathedral Parish and Archdiocese which retires the debt accrued during Cathedra restoration, transfers title of the School Building to the Cathedral Parish, transfers title of Marian & St. Joseph’s Halls to CHF, replenishes funding for the George Garvin Brown Garden and adds funds to allow for construction of the Dining Hall for the Homeless, the Chapel and the Court of Benevolence
November 2001 – Marian Hall is transformed into “Beyond Belief: A First Experience for a Museum of Faiths.” The museum opens to rave reviews
November 2001 – CHF completes construction of several projects including the Abell Chapel, Sandefur Dining Center & Kitchen, St. Louis Hall and the Chapel of the Bishops
November 2001 – Festival of Faiths celebrates “Faith & Families” with special guests Rabbi Harold Kushner, Thomas Moore, Michael Medved, Rev. Holly Whitcomb and Dr. Paul Wilkes. CHF premieres “Pilgrimage for Peace,” a walk through downtown starting at Fort Nelson (one of the first sites of inter-denominational worship in the city) and ends at historic Cathedral of the Assumption. The Festival received its highest attendance to date. Lifetime Achievement Awards were presented to Dr. James Parks Morton and Dr. Sayyid Sayeed and Louisville Mayor David Armstrong. CHF presents “Faith Awards” to Dr. Ketih Eiken and Marsha Hertzman. CHF also unveils “Harmony Awards.” Recipents include Faith19 , Family History Center, Church Women United, Bahai’s of Greater Louisville and the Wayne Oates Institute
March 2002 – CHF makes last installment on line of credit (a total of 27 million dollars of private funds were raised), officially retiring all debt.
April 2002 – CHF (in partnership with Actors Theatre Humana New Play Festival) explores the Islamic faith with “Jihad for Knowledge: The Struggle to Find the Commonality of Our Faiths.” Over 170 people attend. Event is filmed for broadcast by KET
August through October 2002 – CHF co-hosts 150th Anniversary Celebration of the Historic Cathedral of the Assumption with Cathedral Parish and the Archdiocese of Louisville. Liturgies, concerts, lectures, picnics mark the anniversary. CHF hosts Interfaith Prayer Service on October 3, actual date of dedication of the Cathedral. Rev. Clyde Crews, homilist. Rev. Crews writes “Hallowed Ground: Louisville’s Historic Cathedral of the Assumption commemorating the anniversary.
November 2002 – Courtyard of Benevolence completed between Cathedral and the Residence.
November 2002 – Seventh Annual Festival of Faiths: Faith & Sacred Texts as theme. Speakers included Dr. Deepak Chopra, Coleman Barks, Dr. Donald Perry, Dr. Patrick Allitt, Rev. Martin Marty, Dr. Ali Asani and Rev. Rosita Mathews. Lifetime Achievement Awards were presented to The Very Rev. James Moore, Rev. Jude Weisenbeck, and Dr. Ewert Cousins. Harmony Awards were presented to The Moral Side of theNews, and Sr. Julie Driscoll.
November 2003 – Eighth annual Festival of Faiths: Faith & Justice as theme. Speakers included: Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Arun Gandhi, Rev. Chestina Archibald, Ron Sider, Mayor Jerry Abramson, Police Chief Robert White, John Dear, S.J., and Noah Feldman. A Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Wendell Berry. A Faith Award was presented to Bill & Mitzi Friedlander.
November 2004 – Ninth Festival of Faiths: Faith and Cooperation as theme. Speakers included Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald (Vatican) Diana Eck (Harvard university), Karen Armstrong (in partnership with the Kentucky Author Forum), Dr. Gus Speth (Yale University). A highlight was the Making Harmony Tour: a choir of young Palestinian and Israeli teen musicians brought to Louisville by a local group of Jewish-Americans and Palestinian-Americans for the Festival of Faiths to make music together as a concrete demonstration of the potential for peaceful coexistence based on mutual respect, acceptance and understanding. Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald and Rabbi David Rosen were recipients of the CHF Lifetime Achievement Award.
May 2005 – Ground Opening for the George Garvin Brown Garden (Louisville’s Interfaith Gathering Place)
November 2005 – Tenth Festival of Faiths: Faces of Faith and Cooperation as theme. Speakers included: Colman McCarthy, Geshe Gelek Chodak, Dr. Martin Marty, Former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, Ambassador Thomas Graham, Daniel Poneman, Dr. Robert Edgar, Zade Dirani, Rev. Michael Dowd, Sr. Paula Gonzales, Dr. William Vendley.
Events included: an Interfaith Youth Core Day of Service, Exhibit of the art of David Mussleman, a sand mandala construction and deconstruction by the Sera Jhe Monks, the Children of Abraham Dinner and Service, Louisville premier showing of the film “Acting on Faith: Women’s New Religious Activism in America,” recognition of Dr. William Vendley (General Secretary of the World Conference of Religions for Peace) as recipient of the CHF Lifetime Achievement Award.
November 2005 – Opening of the George Garvin Brown Garden as Louisville’s only outdoor Interreligious Gathering Place.
September 2006 – Public unveiling of new name (Center for Interfaith Relations) and new mission.