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Dec. 2, 2004 • Volume 13 Number 7

Boston College graduate student Rev. Scott Steinkerchner, OP, with his Nissan Pathfinder, which is festooned with a Robert Frost quotation and the word "WOW!," among other things. "What I wonder is," says the Dominican friar, "why don't more people paint their cars?" (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)

A Friar Who Is 'Meant to Travel'

Stetson hat, unique car, big mustache and a very creative outlook on life

By Mark Sullivan
Staff Writer

You can't miss the car belonging to Boston College graduate student Rev. Scott Steinkerchner, OP. It's the green, yellow, orange, red and blue one with the Robert Frost quote, the tulips and the mermaid on the sides, and the tycoon steer-horns on the roof. The inscription on the driver's door reads, "WOW."

"Why drive a boring car?" said Fr. Steinkerchner, a doctoral candidate in systematic theology and Internet developer. "What I wonder is, why don't more people paint their cars?"

The eye-catching Nissan Pathfinder, decorated by his nephews and nieces at a painting party in his brother's Ohio garage last Christmas, reflects the Dominican friar's creative approach to life.

His white habit and sandals are complemented by a rosary strung from children's colored beads, with a cross his nephew fashioned from wristwatch bands. The ever-present cowboy Stetson has been his hat of choice since he got it some years back in Tucson, Arizona. The full mustache he says lends him the look of a "19th-century immigrant steelworker" was grown as a diversion during comprehensive exams.

Encouraging others "to see the world a little bit differently" is central to his vocation, says Fr. Steinkerchner, who gave up a career as a computer engineer for the vows of a Dominican traveling preacher.

Instead of monks who lead cloistered lives in monasteries, the Dominican Order, or Order of Preachers, has friars who are called to serve outside the walls of a monastic house. "Our monastery is the world," Fr. Steinkerchner said. "We are meant to travel."

And travel he does, in distinctive style. His '94 Pathfinder is a rolling mural, featuring a dragon, an apple tree, smiley faces, a fish, a sun, and snowflakes, in a seasonal motif. Inscribed on the passenger side is a Robert Frost quote: "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference." The driver side features a quote of his own: "The world beckoned, and so I went, but people captured my heart, and so I travel on."

What kind of reaction does the car get? "Usually smiles," he said. "They say, 'That's so fun.'

"But when I suggest they do it to theirs," he added with a laugh, "they look at me as if I have three heads."

The Pathfinder with 128,000 miles on it suits his needs: "I need something I can sleep in," said Fr. Steinkerchner. "When I have free time, I like to take the car and drive to the Grand Canyon. I've done it about a half-dozen times."

Fr. Steinkerchner lives in Barat House on the BC Newton Campus and is finishing a dissertation on interreligious dialogue. He manages Web sites for Franciscans International and Dominicans for Justice and Peace, and travels twice a year to Geneva to work for those non-governmental organizations at the United Nations Office for Human Rights.

He has taught computer skills to Dominican groups in Angola and Peru, and the steer horns atop his car he got last Easter while serving at a Navajo reservation in New Mexico. Photo travelogs from the United States, South America, Europe and Africa share space with theological papers at his Web site:www.op.org/steinkerchner/.

His aim, in computers as in interreligious dialogue, is "getting people together, fostering discussions, and getting people open to re-thinking," said Fr. Steinkerchner. "I try to open up the opportunity for people to talk with people who are a little bit different from them. I want to teach Africans to use the Web, to allow them to tell their own stories - to set up a conversation."

His brightly painted car can be seen as another of his conversation-starters.

"The world needs to change," he said. "We need some creative thinking in the world."

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