On January 2, 2009, in a New York City coffee shop, three interfaith ministers came together to brainstorm about the possibility of creating a unified, ecclesiastical organization that would provide professional credentials and support for interfaith clergy. Rev. Tim, Rev. Jean Leone and Rev. Thomas Downes, all graduates of The New Seminary with backgrounds in chaplaincy, originally envisioned a “universal chaplain” model. Those who felt called to serve the world across the entire spectrum of faith and spirituality could apply for “CO-ordination” after receiving the appropriate education and training. The name chosen was the Order of Universal Interfaith, abbreviated OUnI which cleverly is pronounced “Oh, You and I.” Consecration of the first spiritual community took place in 2010.
Since its founding, the universal chaplain model has greatly expanded and today OUnI members not only serve as chaplains but also lead multi-faith congregations, perform weddings and services of remembrance, guide students on college campuses, act as spiritual directors and serve people of all faiths and no faith in a myriad of ways. We have over 600 credentialed clergy and lay Pledgers and hold annual ordination and co-ordination ceremonies. In 2010, OUnI consecrated its first spiritual community and since then, eight others have come under the OUnI umbrella.
Founders of OUnI
Rev. Jean A. Leone RN MS OUnI, is licensed as a Certified Assisted Living Administrator through the New York Department of Health and Senior Services. She is presently the Executive Director and Administrator for Holy Name Medical Center, Hospice and Palliative Services, Home Health-Telehealth, and Adult Medical Day Away in New York. Her passion is for the implementation of a unified model of “interfaith pastoral care” training. She became the first Secretary General of OUnI and served from the founding until December 2011. She now holds the title of Secretary Emeritus of The Order.
Rev. Dr. Thomas Downes OUnI, was a law-enforcement chaplain and a member of the United Nation’s NGO for Spirituality and Values. He was a Franciscan monastic and a founder of Interspiritual Dialogue’nAction (ISDnA). He became the first Vice Secretary of The Order. The OUnI community mourned Rev. Downes’ passing in October of 2013.