By Scott Strasser, January 14 2015 —
A new campus multifaith prayer centre was unveiled on Jan. 13 in front of dozens of students, staff and community members. The space, located in the Dining Centre, is called the Vitruvian Space and boasts four multipurpose rooms.
The largest room is called Firmitas — Latin for strength — and can hold approximately 220 people. Other rooms can accommodate 30–50 students at any time. Electronic schedulers by each door allow students to see if a room is booked or not.
The centre was first meant to open in September, but plumbing and flooring issues delayed the anticipated opening until November. Further construction delays pushed the unveiling back to January.
Vice-provost student experience Susan Barker cut the ribbon shortly after 12:00pm, following speeches from SU Wellness Centre manager Adriana Tulissi and Pentecostal Christian chaplain Kelly Johnson.
“This space is meant to support a strong campus community and support the campus mental-health strategy that was just rolled out, as spiritual wellness is one of the key components of student well-being,” Tulissi said.
Frequent overbookings of the multifaith prayer rooms on the third floor of MacHall led to the demand for more prayer space. In past years, Muslim students were often forced to pray in the hallway by the door when the rooms were full.
U of C chaplain for Sunni Muslim students Imam Fayaz Tilly said the new space addresses those problems.
“People would be going back and forth to the bathrooms or to their offices, which disturbed the conversations with God,” Tilly said. “So [this new space] is very congruent with the practices of prayer, devotion, sincerity and concentration that Islam establishes as far as prayer is concerned.”
Tulissi said the U of C worked for a few years to find a suitable solution to the multifaith prayer room overbookings. She admits the Vitruvian Space isn’t in a central location on campus, but believes it’s still better than what was previously available.
“In a perfect world – yes, if we had it in smack-dab in the centre of campus that would have been great,” Tulissi said. “Finding a space this large in the centre of campus was going to be tough. But I think there is a population here and this is a great location to have.”
The Vitruvian Space has ablution stations for men and women, shoe racks, coat hooks, mats and cushions. There is also an office for chaplains as well as faith and wellness centre employees.
Tilly said he was impressed by what the space will offer all faiths.
“I think the space is beautiful, resourceful and has functionality to it as well,” Tilly said. “Any student who comes into this space and takes a moment of reflection, meditation or prayer — I think that would make them a better person and human being. I think it’s worth every effort and penny that was put into this space.”