Spiritual Center opens to positive responses from campus community

Despite last year’s concerns that the new Spiritual Center would not be big enough to accommodaste weekly services, campus religious organizations have found its facilities adequate.

“It’s working pretty good,” Father Joseph Hlubik of the Catholic Campus Ministries (CCM) said. CCM, with Father Gabe Zeis at its head last year, was pushing for a larger building.

Since a larger chapel was not possible, Hlubik polled students that attended Saturday evening and Sunday masses last semester to determine a different schedule to redistribute attendance.

“The building itself is beautiful and we are so grateful to have a building used solely for religious purposes,” Laura Munice, junior childhood education and sociology major and president of Hillel/Jewish Student Union (JSU), said.

JSU uses the Spiritual Center every Friday night for Shabbat services, usually drawing 15 to 20 people each week.

The Islamic Society uses the Spiritual Center once a week for their meeting and a prayer, he said, but they plan to use it more for small discussions, studies and prayer.

“It’s accessible, clean, quiet and peaceful,” Atheeb Khateeb, junior business major and president of the Islamic Society, said.

“I love the new building,” Reverend Rich Kocses of the Protestant Bible Fellowship said. “It’s like a palace.”

Kocses is grateful that students finally have one central location to assemble because in years past their meeting places were moved many times.

The old chapel, he said, was “worthless” because it was so small. Kocses considers himself and students privileged to have the sizable Spiritual Center for meetings, Bible study and worshiping.

He said he is very thankful and happy and couldn’t ask for a better place.

Leslie Bailey, junior history major and president of the Gospel Choir Ministry, said the group isn’t using the Spiritual Center this semester because she didn’t want to plan any major events with possible construction.

“It’s a really cool thing,” she said of the College’s effort to replace the old chapel and providing students with a “peaceful place on campus.”

CCM quelled its own concerns by reorganizing their mass schedule to accommodate its popular services. Sunday morning masses moved from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. to take some of the rush off the usually high-attendance evening masses, which were changed from 7 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Saturday evening masses stayed at 5 p.m.

Hlubik said making the Sunday morning mass later gives those that had a late Saturday night some time to sleep in and attendees can head right to lunch afterwards.

Catholic services usually accommodate 25 to 35 people on Saturday evening, 50 to 70 on Sunday morning and anywhere from 80 to 130 people at Sunday evening mass, Hlubik said.

Until Ash Wednesday services, when people were lined up out the door, CCM did not have difficulty with seating in the main multi-purpose room with a capacity of 142.

Hlubik said he looks forward to the day when he has to complain that there is not enough room.

“It’s a nice place for people to have as a focus for spiritual life,” Hlubik said, adding he is very thankful for the new building.

Khateeb said he’d give the Spiritual Center a nine out of 10 because he has minor complaints about the setup.

“The rooms aren’t exactly set up for our prayers with all the attached chairs,” Khateeb said. “Which is more of a small inconvenience rather than a problem. We just have to do a little rearranging, that’s all.”

Overall though, Khateeb is satisfied with the secular interior design.

“I also like the fact that although the main sanctuary looks like it may be set up for mass, it’s still inviting to all other faiths, as there aren’t any symbols or representations for any particular religion,” he said.

Munice has similar sentiments. “It makes our organization feel more welcome on campus,” she said.

The only problem JSU has with the Center is that on four separate occasions it was not opened when they had events scheduled.

“Eventually, they will have swipe card access for us, but in the meantime it is very annoying to have to wait in the cold for them to open it after we call them,” Munice said.

Ann DeGennaro, director of Campus Wellness, said that the meditation area of the Spiritual Center should be open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Any student that finds otherwise should notify her office so that can be corrected.

The sanctuary area will remain locked, however, because there are some minor problems that need to be fixed, DeGennaro said. And until they are, she said, activity in that area needs to be kept to a minimum.

Some such problems include leaks that have resulted from the abundance of snow and rain. The floating floor in the main sanctuary has moved a little as a result of the moisture.

Other than minor repairs and scheduling conflicts, DeGennaro said she has received mostly positive feedback from the campus’ religious organizations.

“The Spiritual Center can be defined in many ways,” she said. “It is not just for religious groups, but also for those who do not believe in organized religion.” DeGennaro said it is a place where people can meditate and find inner peace.