By Deanna Howes Spiro, Director of Communications, AJCU
In this month’s issue of Connections, we invite you to explore the spaces at Jesuit colleges and universities where students, faculty, staff and administrators find opportunities for prayer or reflection. In addition to Catholic churches and chapels, these spaces include peace gardens, meditation rooms and retreat centers. At Jesuit institutions, our campuses are home to people of all faith traditions, as well as those who are not religious.
Many of the buildings featured in this issue are classic or Gothic structures with decades of history, but several are relatively new and represent less traditional architectural styles. The twenty-one year old Chapel of St. Ignatius at Seattle University is a celebrated example of modern architecture, and a landmark site to visit in Seattle, WA. Across the country, in Worcester, MA, the two-year old Thomas P. Joyce ’59 Contemplative Center has quickly become a popular home for students, faculty and staff at the College of the Holy Cross to participate in a variety of retreats throughout the whole academic year.
While most students at our schools are Catholic, some consider themselves spiritual, or not religious. For these students, spaces originally designed for prayer still provide them with great meaning and opportunities for reflection and introspection. Take this example from Elizabeth Drescher’s article on prayer spaces at Santa Clara University:
“A former student, who identifies as an Atheist, told me that the St. Clare Garden was a space that allowed him to find his center and be calm even in the midst of people walking around nearby. He said it was where he engaged in his prayer practice—which he described as one of engaging hope, engaging his better self, what he wants for his life and the world, and for the benefit of other people. That for him was “prayer,” and this was a space that encouraged that.”
Although we may differ in the way that we seek greater meaning in our lives, we all seek purpose and, in the Ignatian tradition, consolation through desolation. May our campuses continue to serve as sources for discernment, reflection, and prayer.