Rev. Dirk Ficca, 1955-2021

“A great soul serves everyone all the time / A great soul never dies / It brings us together again and again.”  
– Maya Angelou

Dirk Ficca died on December 21, 2021 at age 66. He was the executive director of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA), and moderator of Chicago Presbytery’s Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations.

As Executive Director of the Parliament of the World’s Religions from 1995 – 2012, he led the organization through three Parliament convenings: Cape Town (1999), Barcelona (2004) and Melbourne(2009). He was most recently the Executive Director of the Twin Cities’ Social Cohesion Initiative in Minnesota, and the Senior Advisor to the World of Neighbors Initiative, based in Malmo, Sweden. Dirk Ficca was committed to peaceful and fruitful coexistence between people of all walks of life and worked for many years in interfaith dialogue and practice both in the US and internationally. He worked to promote the trust, harmony and universal responsibility sorely needed in today’s divided and troubled world. A long-term resident of Oak Park, Illinois, Dirk leaves behind his wife Lynda, and two sons, Dillon and Connor.

Some words from Dirk Ficca:
“The paradox is that I’m a more deeply committed Christian because of my interaction with people of other traditions, and this is the paradox of the interreligious movement. Interreligious dialogue does not blur, or make fuzzy or lukewarm one’s own religious identity. While giving a person a greater appreciation of other traditions, it also sharpens and deepens one’s own sense of one’s own religious commitment.

Interreligious gatherings have very different flavors. I have been to many in recent years and each evokes vivid yet very different memories. But all have some special, common qualities. The united presence of people from all corners of the earth, many wearing visible symbols of their faith and cultures, makes a poignant tapestry of the diversity of humanity. It is history come alive, but also today’s plural reality in living color. A side product is a sea of cameras seeking to capture the color, life and diversity. Another is a vibrant feel of diversity at such meetings are particularly tough to organize as participants come with very different habits, not to speak of dietary needs, daily rhythms, and expectations. ‘Herding cats’ is a common analogy.

Speaking of the urgent need for dialogue. when receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, the Dalai Lama said, ’Because we all share this small planet earth, we have to learn to live in harmony and peace with each other and with nature. This is not just a dream, but a necessity. We are dependent on each other in so many ways that we can no longer live in isolated communities and ignore what is happening outside these communities … As interdependent, therefore, we have no other choice than to develop what I call a sense of universal responsibility. Today, we are truly a global family.’”

It is with heartfelt gratitude that I remember and honor Rev. Dirk Ficca, an enthusiastic, joyful and articulate presence among those of us committed to interreligious dialogue and relationships. His encouragement as well as the mandates of the Second Vatican Council and General Chapters of the Dominican Order were driving forces in founding the Shem Center for Interfaith Spirituality. He rests with the ancestors now, having helped to clarify our vision to serve the world with sacred purpose. 

— Br. Joseph Kilikevice, OP

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