If you ask 100 people about their religious beliefs, you will likely get 100 different answers. Some say that it is a journey, that it speaks to the core of who you are and your mission in life. Some call it a puzzle, one that raises more questions than answers. Some will say they can’t identify with it.
At the heart of campus, a new chapel has entered the final stages of construction. The chapel will provide not only a place for worship and discussion of religion, but also space for campus groups and individuals of all faiths and backgrounds to come for fellowship, conversation and quiet contemplation. A dedication ceremony is set for Sunday, October 28, at 2 p.m.
As the cross was raised upon the spire of the new chapel, many are wondering if a conversation about religion is past due.
Religion has long been a sensitive topic. At a public university, it becomes that much more sensitive. With students from all across the United States and from more than 60 other nations, the beliefs found at Wright State University are bountiful.
Diversity extends beyond race, gender, sexuality, class and ethnicity. Wright State sees religious variety as another way in which students can learn from each other, becoming more open to the world at large, as well as to search within and learn more about themselves. “As a total university, our interest in students extends to their development in all of its facets, including spiritual development,” said Dan Abrahamowicz, vice president for student affairs. “This is just another way that Wright State celebrates our diverse campus.”
In that spirit, all faiths are welcome on campus—agnostic and atheist, Christian and non-Christian, classic and new age. Devout followers or questioning and venturing community members are likely to find other like-minded individuals and can explore religion both in the classroom and beyond.
Students may enroll in religion courses, explore texts in the University Libraries’ religion databases and discuss the impact of religion in history, literature, psychology and philosophy. Questions are posed, papers are written, debates are sparked.
Outside the classroom, numerous student groups have taken root at Wright State. These student organizations celebrate the teachings of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism or other faiths. Some students have gathered to unify the atheists, pagans and freethinkers on campus.
A growing need
Occasionally, spurred by interactions with classmates or outspoken campus visitors, such as the “Quad God” preacher, students find themselves needing a place to turn, someone to talk to.
Reverend Ed Burns of the Catholic Campus Ministry tries to help all who may be questioning their faith. “My first order is to serve the Catholic student body, but my other priority is to serve any student, Christian or otherwise,” said Burns.
Employed by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Burns has served as the director of the ministry center since July of 2006. At the time, the Archdiocese owned five acres of land in the center of the university’s campus, upon which sat a small A-frame building built in 1971 that served as the church’s home on campus. As the university grew, the building became too small and lacked accessibility to serve an increasing population of students with disabilities. Upon his arrival at Wright State, Burns was tasked with overseeing the construction of a new campus center.
In an innovative collaboration, Burns began talks with Wright State’s Abrahamowicz and Rob Miller of AM Management, the private company that partners with Wright State in managing most of the on-campus housing and provides utility services to the Archdiocese property. It was agreed that the university would purchase four of the acres, and the Archdiocese would begin construction adjacent to their existing building. All told, between the Archdiocese, the sale of the land to the university and gifts from private donors and AM Management, roughly $1 million was raised for the new chapel.
In March of 2012, the Catholic Campus Ministry celebrated the groundbreaking for their new St. John Bosco Chapel & Center. “The name was selected as it is the name of the boys home in Jamaica that we visit each year as a service project,” added Burns.
The facility will celebrate its opening with a Dedication Mass on Sunday, October 28, at 2 p.m., with a reception to follow. The new chapel will seat approximately 175 people, and the center will include a gathering space, offices, storage, kitchen and a conference room. The ministry offers Bible studies, fellowship meetings, service projects and retreats. Catholic Mass is on Sundays at 11 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. and Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m.
“Campus community members of any faith are welcome to come in during our open hours to find a quiet place to think or pray,” said Burns. “I want people to feel welcome here. My ministry is to higher education, to be a resource to everyone, which is especially important at a public university. If other groups on campus wish to hold services in our chapel, I am certainly open to discussing it with them.”
The university is making plans for the four acres of land that the Board of Trustees purchased.
“We are in the planning stages for what we are calling a commons that will include community gathering space, a dining option of some sort and office space for Residence Services,” said Abrahamowicz.
The new development will be available to the whole campus, and at this point the possibilities include recreational space and fast food or coffee options like Subway and Starbucks. A bistro-type dining area has also been discussed.
For more information:
- Religious life at Wright State: http://www.wright.edu/aboutwsu/religions/
- Wright State Student Organizations: http://www.wright.edu/studentactivities/studentorgs.html
- Catholic Campus Ministry: http://www.raidercatholics.com/