Photo: Catherine Avalone / Hearst Connecticut Media
HAMDEN — Recognizing a need to give Catholic students a space for prayer on campus and also engage students of other denominations in religious thought, Quinnipiac University has opened a Catholic chapel and a Center for Religion on its Mount Carmel campus.
“If we want to say what we offer the student is a world-sized classroom, then they have to have an understanding of the role religion has played in their world and continues to play,” the Rev. Jordan Lenaghan said. “This is a place where those kinds of conversations can happen.”
The 4,000-square-foot building includes office space, a lounge, conference room, a full kitchen and an assembly room. The Catholic chapel, where Masses already have been held twice each week since the beginning of the semester, is the first space dedicated for Catholic students and Quinnipiac community members to practice their faith.
“This long, long overdue Catholic chapel and Center for Religion will provide wonderful programing and thought provoking and serious religious contemplation that is so important to an educational community in particular,” university President John Lahey said.
The university has a Jewish center and a Muslim prayer room to accommodate the practice of those faiths on campus, but lacked a space for the university’s Catholic student population, which is about 60 percent.
“For all those people, the sisters and brothers and priests who helped shape my life, I apologize it took me so long to do this,” Lahey said. “It’s not easy to get a project like this off the ground, but for me it was worth the wait and I couldn’t be happier with the facility we have here.”
Lahey, who was raised Catholic and attended Catholic schools for 16 years, said the center and the chapel will be a place for spiritual reflection and religious contemplation.
The university has a religious center, which is where the religious and spiritual needs of students are attended, Lenaghan said, but the new Center for Religion positions religion for academic analysis and uses religion to foster the ethical and moral imagination of students and raise religious literacy.
“You can’t open a newspaper and not find a raft of stories for which there isn’t a religious dimension,” he said. “Where do you go to be able to understand those events? That requires religious literacy.”
The university already has played host to several programs and speakers this semester, including a lecturer from America Magazine on the intersection of religion and journalism and a lecturer from Fordham University on the Protestant Reformation.
The university has two chaplains, one Catholic and one Protestant, and a religious life coordinator who serves students of Muslim faith.
The Rev. Matthew Gworek, the Catholic chaplain for the university, said the chapel is a great place of sanctuary and insight to all the different students who come through the doors.