Syracuse University’s Hendricks Chapel appoints first Pagan chaplain

Syracuse University’s Hendricks Chapel has established its first Pagan chaplaincy in the chapel’s 80-year history.
Mary Hudson, a 2007 SU graduate, began her role as the University’s Pagan chaplain on Feb. 1. She will minister to the University’s Pagan student population and be a member of Hendricks’ Chaplains’ Council. Hudson’s appointment brings the number of chaplaincies based at Hendricks to 11.

“The appointment of a Pagan chaplain enables Hendricks Chapel to demonstrate our true interfaith nature and add depth to our perspective on religious life and spirituality,” says Hendricks Chapel Interim Dean Kelly Sprinkle. “Having a Pagan chaplain clearly places Hendricks Chapel and Syracuse University as one of the leaders on the national scene among university and college chapels in recognizing and embodying the importance of religious pluralism on campus.”

Paganism is an umbrella term for earth-based religions that are usually polytheistic, recognizing both the masculine and feminine aspects of deity. The most widely known tradition or path is Wicca; however, Paganism includes several different types of Wicca as well as traditions such as Asatru, Stregheria, Druids, Santeria and many others. Generally Pagans perform their religious rituals outdoors, reinforcing their connection with the earth.

“Religious diversity and interfaith work is broadened by clearly recognizing those traditions that are often overlooked or not heard,” says Sprinkle. “By recognizing the appointment of Mary as SU’s first Pagan chaplain, we bear witness to Hendricks Chapel’s commitment of being a home for all faith and place for a people.”

Hudson was ordained in 2003 as Third-Degree High Priestess and member of the clergy of the Church of the Greenwood. She was instrumental in working with students in establishing the Student Pagan Information Relations and Learning (S.P.I.R.A.L.) group nearly a decade ago at Hendricks. The group meets on Monday nights and observes rituals appropriate to its tradition.

“Mary is an amazing mentor for her students. She is a kind and thoughtful educator for students and the larger community regarding the practices, rituals and understandings related to Paganism,” says Sprinkle. “She embodies the gifts of a chaplain-care, empathy, compassion, understanding, educating and all clearly rooted in her faith traditions and spiritual practices.”

Hendricks Chapel is a diverse religious, spiritual and cultural learning environment seeking to generate a welcoming and caring community within Syracuse University. The chapel creatively promotes interfaith understanding and cooperation through program and example.