Rev. Bradford Karelius teaches world religion at Saddleback. (Courtesy of Bill Wallace)
Every Thursday at 7 p.m., priest and instructor, Rev. Bradford Karelius gives the Saddleback College students insight into their own inner “enchantment” and “mystery” in his world religion class.
Karelius joined the faculty in 1973, teaching students the philosophies of world religions after serving as associate rector and priest St. Mary’s Parish in Laguna Beach.
Around eight years into his profession as an instructor, he started working again in the Episcopal Church of the Messiah, located in the heart of Santa Ana, where Karelius has been helping the impoverished Hispanic parishioners for 30 years.
Though the statuses he holds in the church and in school are quite different, Karielius says that these two aspects of his life coincide well.
“What I come to find as a priest is that one of the key problems in people’s lives is a sense of dissatisfaction. People feel that life has a hollowness,” Karileus said. “I work with people in my church who seek answers in their life and I see the same within my students.”
Karleus said that he never pushes his own religious beliefs onto his students. He stated that “keeping [his] boundaries” are of the utmost importance to him and that he is “not a priest at Saddleback.”
He says that his focus in class is not on religion but rather spirituality.
“I help the students see that even if you’re agnostic, even if you are not connected to a religion, we are all seeking insight and direction in our life,” Kareilus said.
As he describes his classroom’s dynamics, one can see that it’s unlike being in an English or chemistry class, what is expected in class goes beyond general academics.
Karelius says he wants his students to become comfortable in his class to find what he commonly refers to as an “enchantment” and to be curious about their own spiritual journey.
“In school, reads and rationale are important, but the work we do in this class is an inner journey,” Karelius said. “I invite the students to go to a place of mystery.”
By first educating students about teachers of spirituality such as Buddha, Mohammad, and Moses, he then can give students the tools necessary to explore themselves spiritually.
When taking a class with an instructor who is also a priest, one may get a sense that this instructor may have a bias, but Karelius points out just the opposite.
He explains that one class assignment of his is to visit a place of worship other than one a student is already familiar with.
Karelius says that this takes students out their comfort zone and helps broaden the student’s choices when finding spirituality that best suits them.
In the 38 years he has worked for the college, Karelius says that the level of curiosity to explore spirituality and the diversity of students who take his course has never been higher.
“Classes were quite Anglo-dominant then, my classes now are very multicultural,” he said comparing his classes today to those 30 years ago. “I see most of the faces of world religions in my own students now.”
Besides his work in his parish and at Saddleback, Karelius says he has a deep interest in the way of life that Native Americans have and their culture.
As for students interested in enrolling in this course, Karelius promises his curriculum is unlike many others and potential student should “prepare to encounter re-enchantment and mystery.”