New Prayer and Reflection Room offers students of all faiths place of spiritual peace

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Saint Vincent College is a Catholic institution, but its decision to open a non-denominational Prayer and Reflection Room represents “a sign of support and respect through physical accommodation” for students that practice other faiths, according to Rabia Uddin, a senior who helped to make the room a reality when she was the Executive Secretary of the Student Government Association.

The room, which is now open on the first floor of the Carey Center, has been in the works for the past two years. A fellow Muslim student mentioned to Uddin that a designated prayer room would allow Muslims to perform their daily prayers without having to walk back to their dorm room. According to Uddin, the idea finally materialized during this past summer of 2015.

After receiving word that there were more Muslim students enrolling as incoming freshmen at SVC, Uddin worked with the Office of Student Affairs and the Facilities Management Office (FMO) to make plans for the room.

A number of different places on campus were considered as potential locations for the prayer room, according to Uddin, who was satisfied with the final location because she felt that the room, which was once a storage closet for the Pittsburgh Steelers, was adequately sized and appropriate for the cause.

According to Uddin, it was successfully renovated, and it is located in a good place for people to pray without being disturbed. “It’s tucked away in a low-traffic area, but it’s still accessible,” said Uddin.

Uddin stated that once the location of the room was finalized, the Office of Student Affairs as well as FMO and Public Safety helped her to get the room ready for the 2016 spring semester. Uddin heard that a number of Protestant, Jewish and Muslim students already on campus were excited about the plans for the room. “Students are now able to fulfill their religious or spiritual obligations regardless of their beliefs,” said Uddin.

The room contains minimal furniture, but Uddin stated that this is not a major concern because the room can be rearranged and updated as more people provide feedback about the room.

There is support for the Prayer and Reflection Room among Catholic students that are involved in Campus Ministry as well.“Students [who are not Catholic] can feel more accepted and comfortable with this place to pray,” said Grace Alverson, a freshman altar server for the student chapel. The room is evidence that the school is reaching out to more students and thereby “following the Benedictine tradition correctly,” according to Alverson.

Kathleen O’Reilly, a freshman who serves as a cantor, lector and Eucharistic minister in the student chapel, said that the non-denominational prayer room is “a really neat and refreshing idea” and that it allows for a place “where one can learn and reflect with others, despite difference[s] in religion.” O’Reilly continued, “The new prayer room has the potential to bring different yet alike people together.”

When asked if they felt that the non-denominational room takes away from the school’s Catholic atmosphere, Alverson and O’Reilly both responded by stating that the room does not interfere with Benedictine tradition. “I feel as though this new prayer room will not bring conflict but a comforting approach to prayer and reflection for all students, no matter what their faith may be,” O’Reilly stated.

Alverson said that having the room demonstrates the compassionate embrace of others, which is encouraged in the Rule of Saint Benedict. “It just seems like we are welcoming people with open arms,” said Alverson.

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