Meditation and Spirituality Center reopens in celebration of spiritual diversity

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Photo courtesy of Charger Bulletin/Mia Adduci.

Imam Omer speaks to students at the reopening, West Haven, Sept. 29, 2022.

Mia Adduci, Campus News Editor

The Meditation and Spirituality Center located at 15 Ruden St. has reopened as a safe place for worship and spirituality for individuals of all belief systems.

Senior Associate Dean of Students Ric Baker gave opening remarks which welcomed the community to the space and the land on which it stands.

“Land is sacred to all of us, and whether we consciously appreciate it or not, it is the space upon which we play, live, eat, find love and experience life,” he said. “The land is ever-changing and ever-shifting, giving us and other creatures, beings on the earth, an infinite number of gifts, resources and lessons.”

Baker then continued to describe the university’s land acknowledgement statement, and of Connecticut’s historical genocide of native tribes.

Dean of Students Ophelie Rowe-Allen then gave her own set of remarks before a number of representatives from different religions took to the podium to bless the shared space.

She spoke on how the creation of the space came as a response to survey results from 2013, to which she said “today is another reminder that students’ faith, beliefs, spirituality and their philosophical perspective are an important part of their academic journey.”

“The University of New Haven seeks to welcome and be respectful to all members regardless of their practice in faith or beliefs,” Rowe-Allen said. “We have thoughtfully designed this space for diverse communities within the campus community to build a foundation for a welcoming atmosphere.”

Campus Chaplain Marty O’Connor also helped lead the opening of the Center. When he first took to the podium, he told the crowd about the collaboration between leaders of different religions which was necessary in planning for and creating the space. O’Connor also said that “There is a process, a ritual associated with blessing sacred spaces.” This worked as a segway into the blessings added to the opening by representatives from a number of the religions followed on campus.

Senior Nicole Harry, who is Hindu, was the first to bless the space. She began the series of prayers with a set of breathwork exercises, to “cleanse the mind before we cleanse the space.”

Harry then proceeded to chant a set of mantras. The first prayed to Ganesha, remover of all obstacles. She said that when blessing a new space, “we pray to lord Ganesha to remove all obstacles… and set pure intentions.”The second chant was directed towards the goddess of knowledge, Saraswati.

Harry also made it a point to say that “It is amazing to see that the university had responded to us and had listened to us and that our voices have been heard.”

Rabbi Michale Farbman spoke next. He said that in Judaism, moments of transition are significant and the opening was worthy of a celebration, and then gave a blessing in Hebrew.

“If there is one space in which students coming from a variety of religious traditions can come and enter, sometimes each at their own time, sometimes perhaps at the same time, knowing that they are all welcome, they are all safe,” Farbman also said. “What an incredible blessing it is to be each in your space but also sharing this in an opportunity to establish relationships and appreciate each other / diversity in each other’s idealism and religious traditions.”

Chaplain O’Connor then returned to stand before the crowd in representation of all Christian traditions. He read a prayer written by a student from Notre Dame high school, from when the Catholic high school rededicated one of their own religious spaces.

The Muslim religion, Islam, was welcomed into the space through a reading of the first chapter of the Qur’an, called Al-Fatihah, or “the opening.” Iman Omer read the religious text in Arabic, as he explained how he found it fitting in light of the reopening of the Spirituality Center.

In her closing remarks, Rowe-Allen said that “wellness is part of your academic journey and we want your spiritual life to be part of your academic journey.”

The center includes a meditation center which houses a number of spiritual texts, in addition to a number of sinks for those entering to wash their feet, an open worship space and separate men’s and women’s prayer spaces for the Muslim religion.

Students, staff and faculty can access the Mediation and Spirituality Center via keycard access from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Reservations can be requested through Spiritual Life and Campus Ministry.

For those seeking more information, the university has created an Interfaith and Spirituality Resource Guide.