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.
By Cynthia Littlefield, Vice President for Federal Relations, AJCU
Student Aid Scores on FY18 Appropriations
The recent passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of FY18 (Omnibus bill) was a welcome relief for the higher education community. The Omnibus bill passed just before the third Continuing Resolution (CR) was set to expire on March 23, thus avoiding a government shutdown. President Trump expressed his opposition to the bill, due to its lack of border wall funding; nevertheless, he signed it into passage.
The bill saw increases to Federal student and campus-based aid programs that drew funding from discretionary and mandatory funds. The Pell grant maximum award was increased by $175, bringing the total Pell maximum amount to $6,095.
We were concerned that campus-based aid programs currently under threat of elimination, such as the Supplemental Education Opportunity (SEOG) Grant and Federal Work Study (FWS) program, might not receive funding. But members on the House and Senate Appropriations committees appeared to understand the importance of these need-based aid programs and increased the SEOG program by $107 million, bringing the total amount of SEOG funding to $840 million. The FWS program increased by $140 million, bringing its total to $1.13 billion.
Two programs geared toward first-generation students received increases in funding: the TRIO program received an increase of $60 million, and GEAR-UP received an increase of $10 million.
An additional $50 million was added to the Public Loan Forgiveness program. This was a welcome relief after it was proposed to be eliminated through the PROSPER Act (Promoting Real Opportunity, Success and Prosperity through Education Reform).
Programs that support international education were level-funded at $65.1 million. In addition, the Fulbright-Hays program was level-funded at $72 million. These important programs help us with foreign relations, and serve to bridge differences between countries.
The Teach Grant program, which many in Congress wanted to eliminate, stayed level funded at $42 million. A healthy increase of $3 billion was added to the National Institutes for Health (NIH) and $150 million was added to the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The NIH increase reflects a remarkable investment in disease research.
Now that the budget agreement has been reached, the FY19 Appropriations bill will be considered throughout the spring and summer. Appropriators are now planning hearings on FY19 and accepting funding requests. The Student Aid Alliance (SAA) sent a letter to the Chairs of the Labor, Health & Human Services, Education and Appropriations Subcommittees asking for reasonable increases in FY19. AJCU remains grateful for the FY18 increases to student and campus-based aid programs. We hope to secure healthy levels again for FY19.
Students who are already registered in the DACA program are encouraged to renew their applications. It is our understanding that the Department of Homeland Security is still processing these applications. For more information, please click here.
By John J. Hurley ’78, President, Canisius University
Exterior of Christ the King Chapel (photo courtesy of Canisius University)
Interior of Christ the King Chapel (photo courtesy of Canisius University)
Exterior of Christ the King Chapel (photo courtesy of Canisius University)
Walkway toward Christ the King Chapel (photo courtesy of Canisius University)
A student sings during Mass at Christ the King Chapel (photo courtesy of Canisius University)
Exterior of Christ the King Chapel (photo courtesy of Canisius University)
Close-up of stained-glass windows at Christ the King Chapel (photo courtesy of Canisius University)
In 1947, Rev. Raymond Schouten, S.J. became the 19th president of Canisius University. At that time, Canisius (located in Buffalo, NY) consisted of just three buildings. With Loyola Hall, the on-campus residence hall of the Jesuit priests, completed shortly before Christmas of 1949, Father Schouten (a 1927 graduate of the College) turned his attention to the spiritual needs of the Canisius community.
He visited Catholic colleges in the Northeast, Midwest and West Coast and pronounced the chapel facilities at the College as very poor. He surveyed 25 Catholic colleges and learned that 24 had a suitable college chapel and the 25th was preparing to build one. He resolved to build a chapel for Canisius. “The spiritual needs of the student body should be the main purpose and consideration of a Catholic college,” Fr. Schouten told The Griffin, the College’s student newspaper, in February 1951.
In 1949, the College retained the prominent Buffalo architect Duane Lyman to design a chapel in the Romanesque style. Ground was broken in March 1950 at the north end of the campus. “The physical location of the chapel on the campus symbolizes its importance,” Fr. Schouten explained in the Canisius Alumni News in July 1950. “The chapel will be the focal point of campus life.”
He boldly predicted that the completion of the chapel would be “one of the most wholesome things that has happened in the history of Canisius.” Work proceeded rapidly and the cornerstone of the building was laid in October 1950 on the feast of Christ the King. The Canisius Senior Class President, Edward Fox, reflected on the deeply religious nature of the student body whose memory of the recently-ended war was still painfully fresh. He told the guests:
“Today in a world filled with moral decay, atheistic principles and so-called institutions of learning whose sole aim is to cast God out of our lives and replace Him with materialistic ideas, we find it in our power to give Him a new resting place, a new place where He can be honored.”
The Chapel was completed in the summer of 1951 and was dedicated on July 31: the feast of St. Ignatius Loyola. The total cost was $439,992. The Chapel, which seats 492, is constructed of granite with lighter trim of Indiana limestone. The archetypal pattern and the overmastering symbol of the Chapel is a cross formed by the intersection of the nave and the transept. The stone cross above the entrance is the ancient Celtic cross, the Cross of Iona, dating back to the earliest days of Christianity in Ireland and Britain.
In his essay, “Chapel for Collegians: An Explanation of the Meaning of the Chapel and Its Symbols,” longtime Canisius English professor, Charles A. Brady, Ph.D., described the five rose windows in the Chapel. The West Rose has at its center, Christ the King crowned. The 12 petals radiating outward glow with symbols of the 12 Apostles. The two smaller rose windows in the north and south walls contain symbols of the Passion and of four Old Testament prophets: David, Ezekiel, Isaiah and Jeremiah. In the center of the great rose window in the north transept is the Nativity, under which are stained glass panels of the Joyful Mysteries. The petals of this rose are inscribed with symbols of the Litany of the Blessed Virgin.
Finally, in the south transept are the Glorious Mysteries in four stained glass panels underneath the rose window. The center of that window depicts the Pentecostal descent of the Holy Spirit upon His Apostles, and the petals of the rose contain symbols for the seven Sacraments and the three theological virtues (Faith, Hope and Charity; for the Church; for Prayer; and for Good Works). In the stained glass windows on the left hand side of the altar are the Joyful Mysteries, while the Glorious Mysteries are on the right. The Sorrowful Mysteries are nowhere to be seen in the chapel but are suggested implicitly by the fourteen simple unadorned crosses, which serve as stations of the cross.
The Chapel is home to many happy occasions for Canisius alumni each year, among them weddings and baptisms. The Chapel has also hosted sorrowful occasions, when beloved members of the Canisius family have passed away. Former Canisius President Rev. James M. Demske, S.J., was waked in the Chapel in 1994, and a memorial Mass for former President, Rev. Vincent M. Cooke, S.J., was held there in August 2016.
The Chapel has long been a wonderful addition to the Canisius campus. Dr. Brady captured its significance when he wrote:
“A college chapel is a college room transfigured, as a Christmas tree, a wedding, a birthday party…an everyday room..There is a peculiar bouquet, an individual cachet, a personal quality about hearing Christ’s Mass in one’s own chapel within the familiar precincts of one’s own college. It is like entertaining the King in one’s own house, not attending his levee in one of His official throne rooms.”
For more than 65 years, Christ the King Chapel has provided Canisius students, faculty, staff, alumni and Jesuits with a familiar place to celebrate their Catholic faith through the Sacraments and through private prayer and reflection.
By Rev. Donal Godfrey, S.J., Associate Director of University Ministry, University of San Francisco
St. Ignatius Church – Exterior (photo courtesy of University of San Francisco)
St. Ignatius Church – Interior Detail (photo courtesy of University of San Francisco)
St. Ignatius Church – Bell Tower (photo courtesy of University of San Francisco)
Lone Mountain Stairs (photo courtesy of University of San Francisco)
Multi-Cultural Meditation Room (photo courtesy of University of San Francisco)
Romero Room (photo courtesy of University of San Francisco)
St. Ignatius Church – Bell Tower (photo courtesy of University of San Francisco)
‘Portale’ Labyrinth Art Installation (photo courtesy of University of San Francisco)
Lone Mountain crosses dedicated in memory of martyrs in El Salvador (photo courtesy of University of San Francisco)
A few times each semester, I collaborate with my colleagues in Human Resources at the University of San Francisco (USF) to take a small group of faculty and staff on a tour through our campuses. As we walk familiar paths, past the buildings in which we work and teach every day, we talk about where we can find the sacred on our main campus, in the heart of San Francisco.
Our campus is stunningly situated between the Golden Gate Bridge and Golden Gate Park. The lower campus is dominated by St. Ignatius Church, a vibrant urban parish and the scene of convocations and graduations. The upper campus sits high on Lone Mountain, with views of downtown’s financial district, the Bay, and the Marin headlands.
As our group walks, catching our breath at the top of hills and taking in the beauty all around us, I remind them that the sacred is personal, and that God is in all things: in the crowded, complex city over there; in the carefully tended garden over here. You may find the sacred in the quiet of the library or the peal of bells from St. Ignatius Church. Your colleagues and friends may have found the sacred in a science lab or on the soccer field; in a history lecture or at a hip hop dance class.
I encourage my walking companions to cultivate their own sacred spaces – be it the view from a bench at the top of the Lone Mountain steps or regular time visiting the University’s art gallery. I also remind them that the campus is constantly changing, with art installations, Holy Day celebrations, memorials and more. Taking full advantage of these special moments can be transformative.
Earlier this year, in the atrium and rooftop of Kalmanovitz Hall (the University’s humanities building), artist Paz de la Calzada invited visitors to explore the meaning of passage and transformation with a site-specific installation called “Portale.” Inspired by a common ornamental pattern used in churches of Northern Italy, de la Calzada intricately pieced together reclaimed carpet (from hotels and casinos!) to form a path that linked a Romanesque monument inside of the building with the atrium space. This colorful path led visitors upstairs to walk a permanent “Nomadic Labyrinth” located on the rooftop. Used throughout history and in spiritual practices around the world, labyrinths serve as paths for contemplation, meditation and reflection. In creating the carpet path, the artist evoked with irony the relationship between the sacred and the profane, and encouraged the viewer to be open to what a change in perspective can mean.
My walking tour conversations have reminded me, too, of the sacred moments that emerge in dialogue. The Óscar Romero Room in the offices that house USF’s department of University Ministry is a constant venue for such dialogue – conversations among student groups; meetings to plan gatherings, events and liturgies; preparation for immersion trips or retreats; and discussions on difficult issues and topics on campus. Romero, the fourth archbishop of San Salvador, El Salvador, who actively worked and spoke out against poverty, social injustice, assassination and torture, was himself murdered in 1980 while offering Mass. A portrait of Romero dominates the room and is a dramatic presence that reminds students, faculty and staff who gather and talk here, that we are all seeking understanding; that together we can create a brave space where we can learn from each other.
Each November, USF marks the 1989 assassinations of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter in El Salvador. Their lives and their work for justice for the people of San Salvador are remembered with a temporary installation in a heavily trafficked location at the top of the Lone Mountain stairs. Staked in the garden are eight simple white crosses, each baring the name of one of the dead, including Rev. Ignacio Martín-Baró, S.J., for whom the garden is named. A psychologist and vice rector of the University of Central America, Fr. Martín-Baro is also the namesake of a signature first-year living-learning community at USF. The Martín-Baró Scholars engage in a rigorous academic curriculum and work alongside our community partners to bring about concrete and lasting change.
Our magnificent St. Ignatius Church is the legacy of a dynamic and continuous Jesuit presence in San Francisco from the city’s earliest days. The first St. Ignatius Church was a simple, wooden structure on then-remote Market Street. It was dedicated in July 1855, only six years after the first Jesuits arrived in San Francisco from Italy.
The first church grew to accommodate the needs of the growing city. A three-story, brick school building was built adjacent to it in 1862, into which the St. Ignatius Church worshiping community moved its services. The next iteration of St. Ignatius Church was built at Hayes Street and Van Ness Avenue. It was dedicated in 1880 and stood on the site now occupied by Symphony Hall. After its destruction by fire following the 1906 earthquake, the Jesuits moved to the western edge of the City near Golden Gate Park, where a small, stucco building served as their church. The Jesuits then acquired the piece of land atop the hill at the corner of Parker Avenue and Fulton Street with a vision to construct a building “with towering outlines visible from all parts of the City” and “stately towers piercing the air above the breakers.”* Built between 1910 and 1914, and dedicated on August 2, 1914, the fifth St. Ignatius Church is, indeed, a San Francisco landmark.
Often referred to as “Jesuit Baroque,” the architectural style of St. Ignatius Church is eclectic, drawing inspiration from the Italian and Spanish Baroque, the works of Sir Christopher Wren, and Greek and Roman classical principles. Sculptural ornamentation, typical of the classical style, adorns the exterior, including the statue of St. Ignatius on the upper story above the Fulton Street entrance portico.
While St. Ignatius Church is an icon for the University, the opportunities for quiet prayer within are available to all. The Church’s mission complements the University’s, with community outreach, ministry programs, and a student-centered Mass every Sunday during the school year.
The Multi-Faith Meditation Room, located in the same building that houses University Ministry, provides a sanctuary where people of all faiths and religious traditions may retreat for prayer, meditation and spiritual activities. The space features several design elements or symbols that are represented in all of the world’s major religions, including Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Islam, Baha’i, Judaism, Taoism, Confucianism and Christianity.
Bells have long been used as a call to prayer, to worship, and to mark the passing of the day. Bells call us to pay attention and be mindful of the ways in which we encounter the sacred or divine in everyday life. The bells featured in the Meditation Room are handmade by Rev. Arturo Araujo, S.J., an assistant professor in the Department of Art and Architecture.
The tree of life is the main decorative motif of the room. It is a symbol that can be found across cultures and speaks deeply about life, tradition, relationships and spiritual growth. Inside the room is a contemporary, non-denominational prayer rug, inspired by many Turkoman prayer rugs. The Mandala symbol on the rug is a spiritual and ritual symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism, representing the universe. Mandalas often demonstrate radial balance.
Perhaps the newest physical space on campus to be considered sacred, or intended for prayer, is the Peace Garden. The Peace Garden was inaugurated a year ago this month during Earth Week celebrations, soon after the campus went smoke- and tobacco-free. Working with administrative offices responsible for Student Life, Facilities, Marketing and Communications, students mapped out a plan to officially change the name of an area formerly designated for smoking. After obtaining approval, they organized a dedication ceremony, and arranged for the addition of a peace pole, formerly housed in University Ministry. Located in a quiet corner in the heart of lower campus, the Peace Garden gives one a chance to pause between classes, catch up on reading, or have a quiet chat with friends.
The USF Peace Garden is yet another living example of how the sacred is personal. With the multitude of opportunities for prayer, meditation, contemplation and reflection on our busy campuses, we can nurture ways to enrich and restore our lives here in the heart of the city of St. Francis.
*Quotes attributed to church engineers
Article contributed by the Office of Marketing Communications at Seattle University
Exterior of the Chapel of St. Ignatius (photo courtesy of Seattle University)
Outside reflection of the Chapel of St. Ignatius (photo courtesy of Seattle University)
Students gather outside of the Chapel of St. Ignatius (photo courtesy of Seattle University)
Bell tower at the Chapel of St. Ignatius (photo courtesy of Seattle University)
Students gather inside of the Chapel of St. Ignatius for Mass (photo courtesy of Seattle University)
Light shining through the interior of the Chapel of St. Ignatius (photo courtesy of Seattle University)
Exterior of the Chapel of St. Ignatius (photo courtesy of Seattle University)
Gratia Plena sculpture inside of the Chapel of St. Ignatius (photo courtesy of Seattle University)
Exterior of the Chapel of St. Ignatius (photo courtesy of Seattle University)
Twenty-one years ago, Seattle University’s Chapel of St. Ignatius opened its doors on Palm Sunday, providing a gathering place for prayer and liturgy. Since then, it has blossomed into an extraordinary place of worship—and developed into something much more, as the spiritual center of campus.
The small gem, with its beacon-like colored lights glowing in the darkness at night, has grown into a magnetic symbol of Seattle U (SU). A part of the University’s core identity, the Chapel is an award-winning, world-recognized architectural landmark. It is the hub of a vibrant spiritual community with weekly Masses for students and the larger SU community set in an openhearted, meditative space.
In 1991, then-president Rev. William Sullivan, S.J. announced his plans for a chapel on campus dedicated to the founder of the Society of Jesus, St. Ignatius of Loyola. The University hired Steven Holl, a Bremerton, WA-born, internationally acclaimed architect, to lead the project.
Holl was captivated by Ignatian philosophy and challenged by the notion of how to translate light and darkness into a sacred space. Holl based his design on a concept of “seven bottles of light in a stone box,” referring to the tilt-up method of construction, in which light passes through each of the bottles to bathe the walls in different hues. The concept reflected the Ignatian idea of “discernment,” the sorting through of internal light and darkness—St. Ignatius termed them “consolations and desolations”—to achieve clear purpose in decision-making.
This is how Holl describes it in a “project text” he wrote in the mid-1990s:
“In the Jesuits’ Spiritual Exercises, no single method is prescribed—different methods helped different people…Here a unity of differences is gathered into one. The light is sculpted by a number of different volumes emerging from the roof. Each of these irregularities aims at different qualities of light. East facing, South facing, West and North facing, all gather together for one united ceremony.”
More than a physical landmark, the Chapel embodies the University’s Jesuit mission, reaching out to the non-Catholic community with interdenominational services and events. Living up to Holl’s vision of a “gathering of lights,” the Chapel is open to people of all faiths.
Over the past two decades, the Chapel has evolved into a vibrant gathering space for a community that spans SU and its surroundings. With more than 40,000 annual visitors, its reach is evident in the standing-room-only Sunday liturgies, the number of students who attend morning services, and the tourists who make the Chapel a destination on their trips to the Emerald City.
Students experience the Chapel in different ways. Often, they will stop in for a few moments on their trek across campus to class or their dorms. And, many tell each other that it’s the only place on campus where they won’t have access to Wi-Fi.
In 2017, Seattle University’s office of campus ministry marked the 20th anniversary of the Chapel by celebrating all those baptized and received into the Church during the Easter Vigil. Later in the spring (and in partnership with the office of alumni engagement), campus ministry hosted a prayerful gathering of alumni married in the Chapel. Finally, the Chapel Choir debuted a CD of music in honor of the anniversary.
Inside the Chapel
- Size: 6,100 square feet
- Design: Steven Holl Architects. Local project team: Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects.
- Awards: Design Excellence, American Institute of Architect’s New York chapter. The model of the Chapel is in New York’s Museum of Modern Art.
- Bell Tower: Fifty-two feet high; contains two bronze bells cast in a world-famous bell foundry in France.
- Walls: The Chapel is made of 21 separate wall panels, the largest of which weighs 77 tons. They were hoisted into place in 18 hours.
- Doors: Hand-carved Alaskan yellow cedar doors contain seven glass lenses set into the doors at different angles to radiate light.
- Art: At the entrance to the main sanctuary, five paintings by Dora Nikolova Bittau portray key moments in the spiritual growth of St. Ignatius.
- Interior Design: Architect Holl designed many of the Chapel’s furnishings, including the distinctive wool carpet, which is infused with themes from the pilgrimages of St. Ignatius.
- Blessed Sacrament Chapel: Inside this chapel within the Chapel, designed by Seattle artist Linda Beaumont, is an onyx tabernacle, a 20-foot-tall Madrona tree that symbolizes the struggle of life, and walls coated with 600 pounds of beeswax embedded with gold-leaf prayers.
- The Crucifix: Displayed above one side of the altar, the crucifix is part of an older one transported to the University from the Austrian Alps.
- Gratia Plena Sculpture: Nearly eight feet tall and weighing 2,300 pounds, the sculpture near the main altar by Steven Heilmer is a modernistic image symbolizing the grace of Mary. It was carved from a single piece of Carrera marble.
By Dr. Elizabeth Drescher, Santa Clara University
Mission Garden at Santa Clara University is one of many sites on campus where students in the class, Exploring Living Religions, can research and observe the sensate experience of religion and spirituality (photo courtesy of Santa Clara University)
The de Saisset Museum at Santa Clara, home of artist Bruce Beasley’s Rondo I sculpture, is one of many sites cited by students in the class, Exploring Living Religions, for its “spiritual resonance” (photo by Joanne Lee, courtesy of Santa Clara University)
The statue of St. Ignatius at Santa Clara is among the iconic sites on campus that students say extend their feeling of being valued and shaped as “whole people” (photo by Joanne Lee, courtesy of Santa Clara University)
At Santa Clara’s Mission Church, students notice that they must literally “step up” to participate, and that the cool and dim interior is an invitation to calm (photo by Joanne Lee, courtesy of Santa Clara University)
A statue of the Holy Family, titled, In Celebration of Family, is one of many sites on Santa Clara’s campus where students in the class, Exploring Living Religions, say they find themselves contemplating spirituality as a “whole person” (photo courtesy of Santa Clara University)
Santa Clara University’s campus, located in the heart of Silicon Valley, is hardwired for providing opportunities to find God in all things.
This is not an accident.
There is an intentionality in the campus’ landscape, which invites honoring the whole person, and countless sites of engagement, with the spiritual, the sacred, and the holy.
This academic year, students in my Exploring Living Religions class have been invited to be “field researchers” of the local religious landscape, both on campus and off. The class was informed by research showing that young adults today engage in learning by focusing on experience. What does something feel like? How does it relate to my own personal relationships?
This led us to ask: What does it mean for religion to be practiced by the whole person? Living religion is less focused on the kind of philosophical, theological, or other more cognitive understandings of religion that students are used to exploring. Instead, it starts with the senses: What does one feel in this place of worship? How does the physical character of the space itself invite certain felt experiences? What makes a location holy or spiritual to you? What is intentionally or unintentionally conveyed in a space of spirituality?
As part of that focus, we invite students to visit spiritual, religious or sacred spaces—defined very broadly—and to highlight their own experiences and observations as the centerpiece of learning about what religion is, and what it does in the world today.
One of the first places we visit is the Mission Santa Clara de Asis Church on campus. Students are asked, “What does the space do to prepare you to be spiritual or reverent, or engaged with your own spiritual experience? How does it direct you toward participation in the Body of Christ?”
Students notice that before they even enter the Mission, they must step up from the ordinary ground-level experience. They have to elevate themselves physically in order to participate. And there’s a big, wide door, which lets anybody in. It’s heavy and takes a little bit of effort to open. But then you go in, and the building itself begins to shape your behavior.
There’s a theology of the built space that’s teaching you something through your body without you really actively thinking about it. There are architectural features that draw the eye toward the ceilings or toward the altar. Students consider the way that people are invited to sit together in a space that makes everybody equal, and to look forward to the altar, to the image of Christ, or to the ceiling that reflects an image of heaven.
Students also notice immediately upon entering that the ambiance is dim. It’s cool inside, which tends to hush people. It calms the body. Students are generally really amazed at what that transition does within the body. You don’t walk into the Mission Church and start talking loudly. You ease into an environment it presents to you for quiet reverence. All of this is part of what the space itself is teaching the body to “know” about religion in general, and Catholicism in particular.
After the visit, some students talk about how they could go back to their dorm rooms and create that same sense of calm. One student went back and reorganized his dorm room so that he could walk in and— without encountering any obstacles— sit at his desk, where he had a Bible that his grandfather had given him. It really mattered to have that direct pathway, where he could just come, put his hand on that Bible, and be connected to his family and their shared religious tradition.
The campus itself is an invitation to that kind of exploration. I send students out to find spaces on their own, including those that seem to them to be sites of the spiritual, however they define that. Many cite the Ignatius Fountain, or the benches in front of the Holy Family Statue, or the Mission Garden. Those are iconic sites that extend that feeling of valuing and shaping the spirituality of the whole person within the broader landscape of the campus.
But for other students, it’s things like the Ricard Observatory, named for Jesuit meteorologist Rev. Jerome Ricard, S.J. It’s there where they say they feel most fully human and connected with others, in maybe more cosmic, science-related ways. Some students talk about the Learning Commons as a sacred space. As one student put it, “That’s really where I feel like I encounter my fullest self, and [where] I prepare myself to serve the world.”
Another 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.
If you think about it, that’s what the original Mission project was—at least on a spiritual level. Santa Clara itself has a complex history as a landscape of spiritual transformation. There are, of course, complicated and difficult parts of that story. But in its most faithful, its most positive, the Mission experience was recognizing the sacred in an unfamiliar landscape and culture.
For the missionaries who came to Santa Clara, it was an evangelization that valued God in every person, and in every place—a recognition that the native people of California, whom the missionaries encountered, were also the people of God, and that they needed to be in relationship with them. These relationships were not unproblematic, and students explore this history in the class. But it’s powerful for students to see their whole experience at Santa Clara as a spiritually infused opportunity for learning. They find their own spiritual authority to breathe into those spaces, to claim them, and to question them for deeper stories of lived religion.
Elizabeth Drescher, Ph.D. is an adjunct associate professor in Religious Studies at Santa Clara University, where she also serves as director of the Living Religions Collaborative.
By Molly Daily, Graduate Assistant for the Office of Marketing & Communication at Saint Louis University
St. Francis Xavier College Church is home to the St. Francis Xavier parish, Saint Louis University Campus ministry and other University spiritual activities (photo by Molly Daily for Saint Louis University)
Scenes from the 9 PM Mass at College Church (photo by Molly Daily for Saint Louis University)
Students hold hands across aisles while saying the Lord’s Prayer at College Church during the 9 PM Mass (photo by Molly Daily for Saint Louis University)
Jesuit priests say the Eucharistic Prayer at the 9 PM College Church Mass (photo by Molly Daily for Saint Louis University)
Students pray together at the 9 PM College Church Mass (photo by Molly Daily for Saint Louis University)
Ornate wooden doors leading from a city street open to reveal natural light filtering in through the brilliant colors of stained glass windows in every direction. Passing the traditional baptismal font gives way to rows of pews punctuated with marble columns, leading to an ornate, exposed transept. Visitors walk around and behind the elevated altar, where they gaze intimately at enthroned statues of Christ and the saints. This is St. Francis Xavier College Church.
The Church, which was renovated just under 30 years ago, brings together century-old Gothic architecture with touches of modern spirituality, weaving together the spiritual journeys of nearly 200 years of parishioners and students.
St. Francis Xavier College Church, originally established in 1841, grew alongside Saint Louis University’s (SLU) original campus in downtown St. Louis, MO. The first English-speaking parish in St. Louis, the space now affectionately known as College Church functioned both as an archdiocesan parish and as a University-owned chapel. When the University moved, there was no question that College Church would move with it. Though 177 years old in spirit, College Church has been at its present location at the heart of SLU’s current campus since 1884.
College Church occupies a unique space. “People ask me, is this a parish, or a campus ministry site?” said Rev. Dan White, S.J., pastor of College Church. “And the answer is: yes.”
Because of its joint purpose as the site of its own parish and as the site of worship for Saint Louis University’s students, Fr. White sees the physical space as uniquely at the heart of the Jesuit mission. He explained, “When the Jesuits began, almost all of the parishes had a connection to a collegio, which is more like a high school.”
To Fr. White, College Church is a building that represents that age-old Jesuit connection – but it’s also a place that belongs first and foremost to the students of Saint Louis University. In describing the students, he said, “I consider them parishioners. I say I have the biggest parish in the archdiocese, with 13,000 parishioners within our boundaries – and this is their place.” Though he may not be impartial, Fr. White recognizes the privilege and honor of serving at what he considers the most beautiful on-campus church in America.
Campus liturgical coordinator Erin Schmidt agrees. She works with a team of 150 student liturgical ministers to facilitate each week’s campus ministry Mass, held at 9:00 PM on Sunday evenings. In order to make the service as meaningful as possible, Schmidt relies heavily on her student team. “I don’t ever want to assume that what I think is best is what students need,” she said. So students take the charge each week, writing the prayers of the faithful and reflecting on the upcoming week’s readings in order to give the priest an understanding of what students may need from him at that time, and “help us (campus ministry staff) see where students are at” mentally and emotionally.
The focus on students taking the lead has created a joyful, energetic spirit that welcomes students of all faiths and backgrounds. That community and sense of belonging is what keeps Rio Febrian, a graduate student in the chemistry department, coming back and singing in the Mass choir. “I’ve been to Catholic Masses where the preaching is about living a joyous Christian life, but I think that’s really embodied in the 9 PM Mass,” Febrian said. “No one is requiring anyone to go, but it’s always packed.”
It’s also what inspired Rachel Kondro, a two-time SLU graduate, to enter RCIA at College Church. She said, “I had attended the student Mass at College Church for a number of years before deciding to [become Catholic]. I was moved by the beauty of the space and the energy, joy and passion among the students and faculty. It was an energizing experience, and being part of that community moved me closer to the decision to become Catholic.”
While the 9 PM Mass attracts many students, the Church is also a home for students celebrating commencement events, white coat ceremonies where first-year medical students receive their first doctor’s coats, and other activities. Ameer Khan, senior and president of the Interfaith Alliance, recalls her first experience in College Church at an interfaith service during her freshman year. Khan was invited to read from the Qur’an, focusing on passages about Mary and the birth of Jesus.
Throughout that evening, Khan’s fellow students read traditional Catholic Filipino prayers, Jewish scripture passages, and other readings. Through her experiences inside and outside of College Church with campus ministry, Khan has come to realize that “there are a lot of shared values between people of Muslim and Catholic faiths.” She loves campus ministry and said, “[These places] are spaces where I can be my full, authentic self with God and a community.”
That community contains the many distinct groups who find their home in College Church – and Fr. White sees them all as part of his flock. “It’s fun to think of what we all hold in common,” he said. “You may be a student, a parishioner, or just coming for confession – but this place is where we’re all together. And I think that’s what holds it all together. This place means a lot.”
Molly Daily is a candidate for a Master of Arts in Communication at Saint Louis University (expected in 2018).
By John Hill, Director of Media Relations, College of the Holy Cross
Interior of the Thomas P. Joyce ’59 Contemplative Center (photo by Tom Retigg for the College of the Holy Cross)
Students gather for a meal at the Contemplative Center (photo by Tom Retigg for the College of the Holy Cross)
A student pauses to reflect on the grounds of the Contemplative Center (photo by Tom Retigg for the College of the Holy Cross)
Students pray inside of the Contemplative Center (photo by Tom Retigg for the College of the Holy Cross)
Students at prayer inside of the Contemplative Center (photo by Tom Retigg for the College of the Holy Cross)
Twilight at the Contemplative Center (photo by Tom Retigg for the College of the Holy Cross)
Exterior of the Contemplative Center (photo by Tom Retigg for the College of the Holy Cross)
There are plenty of beautiful, serene places to pray on campus at the College of the Holy Cross. There are three chapels here, in addition to Campion House, the home of the Office of the College Chaplains, and any number of picturesque outdoor spaces atop Mount Saint James.
But the newest space is just a few miles away from campus, at the top of a hill in West Boylston, MA with a view of nearby Wachusett Reservoir and quintessential New England foliage as far as the eye can see. The Thomas P. Joyce ’59 Contemplative Center is a 33,800 square-foot complex featuring a chapel, meeting rooms, dining room, and bedrooms for 60 individuals in a lodge-like atmosphere removed from the regular bustle of campus life. Holy Cross students, alumni, faculty and staff can be found here year-round, spread out across the vast 52-acre site, reading in the quiet nooks, writing in the sprawling woods, or speaking with spiritual advisors.
“The Contemplative Center is a concrete symbol of what our Jesuit and Catholic tradition invites the members of our community to do,” says Rev. William R. Campbell, S.J., the College’s Vice President for Mission. “To be reflective, to step away and to think deeply and engage the issues in a space that’s conducive and has taken on a sacred character.”
Since its opening in 2016, the Joyce Contemplative Center has become increasingly engrained in the Holy Cross experience. More than 700 students — roughly 25 percent of the student body — took part in a retreat or program at the Center during the 2016-17 academic year. A highlight is the Spiritual Exercises, a five-day silent retreat based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, which is offered four times a year. In May, students are invited to step away from the bustling campus for the “Eat, Pray, Study” retreat, where they can study for their upcoming finals in a quiet, serene atmosphere.
The Center is not just for students. Alumni visit for retreats, taking the opportunity to pray and reflect and reconnect with their fellow alumni and with God. Athletics teams and academic departments use the facility for team building that goes beyond X’s and O’s and the upcoming syllabus. The College’s Board of Trustees has also held a retreat here. Most weeks, the Chaplains’ Office is juggling three or four programs, says Marybeth Kearns-Barrett, the Director of the Office of College Chaplains.
But it isn’t for every event, Kearns-Barrett is quick to point out. This isn’t just a meeting space or a well-appointed retreat house. Every event here should have at its core a contemplative, Ignatian purpose.
The architects of the Center, Lamoureux Pagano & Associates, Inc. of Worcester, MA, were given the autobiography of St. Ignatius for inspiration, which is revealed in small touches throughout the property. Dozens of hanging pendant lights in the chapel mimic the night sky, which often held Ignatius’ gaze during his convalescence in Loyola, Spain.
The ceiling of the chapel is angled upward, just slightly, seeming to stretch upwards toward the sky. A stained-glass cross is suspended at the front, just before a glass wall that looks out over the surrounding beauty. It’s Kearns-Barrett’s favorite space on the property.
“That’s the place that reminds us of what this place is for, and why we’re there,” she says.
The Center builds on an already full mission and ministry program at Holy Cross. Of the 2017 graduating class, 68 percent participated in a College ministry program through the Office of College Chaplains, among the highest rates of participation of all Catholic colleges in the country. And in recent years, more than 150 faculty and administrators have participated in a 12-day pilgrimage to the sites associated with St. Ignatius, St. Francis Xavier, and other early Jesuits as well as the wider Catholic Church in Spain and Rome, after having engaged in discussion seminars on relevant readings prior to each trip.
Though the Center is removed from the main College, there are echoes of campus everywhere. Black and white photography on the walls depict slices of spirituality found back on campus, each one echoing aspects of the Exercises. The suspended stained-glass cross in the chapel was built according to the same design by the same liturgical artist who built the crosses in chapels on campus.
And while those echoes are present, being removed from campus allows students to disconnect from the day-to-day, says Fr. Campbell. Cell phones are left at home or dropped in a basket at the door. The outside world beyond view is left behind.
Last fall, Fr. Campbell observed two students from Cleveland and Chicago, who attended a silent retreat at the Center. Fully immersed in the Spiritual Exercises, the pair, both avid baseball fans, had no idea that their respective teams were set to meet in the World Series.
“It’s nice to see how seriously the students take the invitation to step away,” Campbell says, “and focus on prayer.”