Seton Hall opened an interfaith prayer room in the cellar of Boland Hall this fall. The space is always open to residents and includes a room for silent prayer that is accessible to people not living in Boland.
Shamil Henriquez, the residence hall coordinator for Serra, Neumann and Cabrini Hall, worked with the Muslim Student Association (MSA) to make this room a reality. He explained his inspiration to create a new prayer space on campus. He said he prioritized new plans for the semester. After taking a tour of the Complex area, he noted the small interfaith room in Serra Hall and explained that the room could fit a maximum of 10 people.
“After looking at it, I reached out to the Muslim Student Association and set a meeting with them regarding the interfaith room,” Henriquez said. “I found out that they worked with HRL in the past to convert the room into a place of prayer and meditation. When we met in May, we discussed the pros and cons of the room, but based on their needs, it was clear that ultimately, they needed a much bigger space to pray comfortably.”
Henriquez discussed why students need to have access to a quiet prayer room. “I feel it’s vital for us to provide comfortable silent spaces where students can better connect spiritually with their faith through prayer, or better connect with themselves through meditation,” he said. “And for those students who aren’t as aware of their mental health and stress levels, providing spaces purposed to counteract that habit will only encourage more students to remember to take time for their spirituality, mental health and well-being and make them a priority.”
Roba Hassan, a junior education and speech language pathology major and president of MSA, played a pivotal role in commissioning the interfaith prayer room.
“It’s open to everyone and everyone should feel free to practice their religious beliefs safely,” Hassan said. “However, this is an interfaith room, and not a student lounge, which is an issue that people have had in the past with other interfaith/prayer rooms. Personally, I’m planning to store a few prayer rugs for Muslim students to use in the prayer room, and I believe that all people are free to bring what they need to practice properly.
“Everyone should respect the religious material that’s brought into the room, but it may make sense to have a storage box to store things neatly and maintain the organization of the room. It’s pretty much common sense; treat the room the way you would want your prayer room to be treated.”
Some students consider quiet prayer an important part of everyday life. Peter Rainwater, a campus minister, said, “I would say that it’s easy to find yourself only praying in groups, and I think it is very important to develop that habit of daily silent reflection.”
The new interfaith prayer room is a good place for students of all faiths to take some time away from their busy lives and spend some time focusing on their spiritual life.
James Hare, a campus minister, also commented on the new room.
Hare said, “I think that just like you would get to know a person by spending a lot of one on one time with them, you would also get to know God in the same sort of way. You have to spend personal time with Him alone to get to know Him better.”
Alexander Krukar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.