The university’s first Hindu chaplain, Pratima Dharm, announced her imminent resignation from her position Jan. 22, citing personal reasons.
Dharm, 43, who began working at Georgetown in October, will leave the university Jan. 31 and said she will retire from the U.S. military, where she served as the Army’s first Hindu chaplain for eight years before taking her position at the university.
Dharm declined to elaborate on the reasons for her resignation.
In an email sent Jan. 23, Vice President for Mission and Ministry Fr. Kevin O’Brien, S.J., informed the Hindu community of Dharm’s decision and commended her for her work at Georgetown.
“We respect her decision to leave for personal reasons,” O’Brien wrote.“We appreciate that she did not make this decision lightly, as she enjoyed her ministry here, especially working with our students. We will miss her presence among us, and wish her the very best.”
Dharm, who spent only three months at Georgetown, expressed appreciation for the relationships she formed with students and administrators.
“I’m sad that it was short, but it’s just been an awesome experience,” Dharm said. “The leadership, staff and campus ministry have been so wonderful. My overall experience has been very positive.”
Dharm, who served as a spiritual leader for the Hindu Student Association, emphasized the importance of developing more programs to meet the needs of the Hindu community at Georgetown, which totals in around 400 students and faculty members.
“They’re just wonderful, wonderful students,” Dharm said. “They’re from different parts of the world and it’s a dream to be at Georgetown. I’ve had very good experiences with them and I wish them all the best. They definitely deserve to have their needs met, especially the spiritual and emotional needs.”
Dharm said she plans to continue to worship God.
“The future is big, and I see God’s presence,” Dharm said. “In the future, I want to take my time to continue to worship God and seek his guidance in my future. I truly wish to worship Him and spend time with Him after my retirement from the military. I wish the Georgetown community and staff all the best in the future.”
Dharm said she hopes that the university community will continue to value the Hindu tradition in her absence.
“I have truly enjoyed the opportunity to support and be part of this important community,” Dharm wrote in an email to the Hindu community. “I pray as I prepare to leave you that you will continue to live out the very pluralistic principles of Sanatan Dharma [an alternative name for Hinduism] at Georgetown.”
Hindu Students Association President Smiti Mohan (MSB ’15) said that Dharm had a strong presence and breadth of knowledge.
“She was a role model and a mentor for a lot of students and they really just liked having someone older that they could talk to about their faith and about other issues,” Mohan said. “She had so much knowledge and experience to share that they really enjoyed and liked.”
According to Mohan, Dharm spent a significant amount of time conversing with students and acting as a religious and intellectual mentor.
“The opportunity to just speak with her was really important to most members because she was so knowledgeable and has had so much experience,” Mohan said. “Every time they had a conversation with her, she would share so much that they would feel very enlightened and feel like they got a lot out of each conversation with her.”
Mohan said that the Hindu community will greatly miss Dharm and all she has done for Hindu students during her chaplaincy.
“We just want her to know that we are still supporting her and we are sending her our best wishes her way, and we hope that everything is okay, but we were all very sad,” Mohan said.
O’Brien ensured the Hindu community that the university would continue to develop the Hindu chaplaincy and confirmed that the university will soon begin a new search process for its next chaplain in the coming months. O’Brien did not comment on the potential for interim resources for the Hindu community during this time period.
The university hired Dharm in October in order to provide Hindu community members with a way to address their spiritual and emotional needs. While serving as chaplain, Dharm provided counseling, Hindu worship services and blessings to her constituents.
“We will soon begin a new search process to identify a worthy successor,” O’Brien wrote. “As before, we will rely on the input and support of our students and alumni to identify and select candidates. It is unlikely that we will be able to complete this process before the end of the academic year, as such professional searches take time.”
O’Brien also recognized the value and importance of the Hindu community at Georgetown in his email.
“I join my colleagues in Campus Ministry in thanking you for your faith-filled presence and service on campus and beyond,” O’Brien wrote. “The Hindu community is a vital part of the interreligious ministry in which we take great pride at Georgetown.”
Hoya Staff Writer Katherine Richardson contributed reporting.