by Kathleen Dolan
Students, staff, and faculty gathered in Fournier Hall this week for a dedication ceremony for Chestnut Hill College’s Interfaith Prayer Room, a space where community members of all religious backgrounds can go to practice their faith.
“We always say that ministry is meeting people where they’re at,” said Cara McMahon, the College’s assistant to the president for mission and ministry. “Our institution is a ministry of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, though many of our students come from faiths different to the Catholic tradition.
“The mission of unity calls on us to meet people of other faith traditions where they’re at. This is who we are as a college and as an inclusive community.”
The dedication ceremony, held on Sept. 18, reflected the mission of the prayer room, as the entrance lobby of Fournier Hall filled with the words of a variety of religious faiths, read by students and faculty alike.
College President Carol Jean Vale, SSJ, Ph.D., spoke at the ceremony on how religions can learn something from one another. She added that, at the College, “we celebrate our unity and differences.”
“The paths we walk are many and varied,” Sister Carol said.
The idea for an interfaith prayer room, which officially opened last spring and calls Room 218 in Clement Hall its home, came about as a joint effort from Campus Ministry and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
Juliana Mosley, Ph.D., the college officer for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, offered attendees a namaste greeting, saying the word means “the divine in me recognizes the divine in you.”
McMahon acknowledged the array of faiths practiced at the College.
“I hope that students who want to pray feel comfortable praying in any corner of campus,” she said. “But the space is a way of saying, ‘We celebrate your faith and your contribution to who we are.’”
When the speakers finished, Jackie Newns, the director of Campus Ministry, led a song as each attendee filled out a prayer card with a thought of gratitude and a prayer of intention before the group processed from Fournier Hall to the prayer room. One by one, they tied their prayer cards around the branch of a tree mounted on the wall so that, when the room was quiet again, the once bare branch was left blossoming with prayers, like leaves at the beginning of fall.