Come reflect and connect with the Divine
Reminders of our Jesuit charism are intentionally embedded throughout campus. Tucked into garden settings and inside buildings, these sacred spaces tend to the souls of the Seattle University community. While the Chapel of St. Ignatius and reflecting pool figure prominently, other spaces are not in direct view from the upper or lower malls. Some are passed by every day, adding meaning to the beautiful campus landscape and providing opportunity to connect with the Divine through peaceful reflection. Chapels and prayer rooms, some old and some created more recently, offer space for individual prayer and group activity. Most importantly, these sacred spaces welcome people of all faiths, the spiritual and non-believers alike.
The Chartres Essence Labyrinth, completed in 2020 just before the university’s COVID-19-driven transition to online learning, is the university’s newest sacred space. Gifted by Mary Ellen Weber, ‘04, a graduate of the School of Theology and Ministry, spiritual director and active SU volunteer, the labyrinth’s design is based on the medieval labyrinth in Chartres Cathedral in France, one of the most-walked labyrinths in the world. You can find the Chartres Essence Labyrinth behind Loyola Hall.
Walking a labyrinth is a spiritual practice intended to quiet the mind and invite deep listening to the soul. Unlike a maze with its dead-ends and false turns, labyrinths guide participants along a single winding path that leads to the center and out again.
“The key is to let go of your thoughts and trust the path to unfold as you walk to the center of the labyrinth and back out,” Weber explains. “It’s an inward journey to a place of connection, the place of Divine love within us, then an outward journey into the world carrying whatever insights, images or feelings you experienced within the labyrinth into your life.”
Some people use a labyrinth for discernment, an important piece of SU’s Jesuit pedagogy and Ignatian Spirituality.
Siting the labyrinth was an intentional process. Its location behind Loyola was chosen for its intimate size and garden. The meandering paths that lead to the space and an existing small fountain particularly appealed to Weber. The labyrinth’s entrance faces the fountain and provides wheelchair access from the Loyola building. Its curving path is made of stone and the lines within the path are a permeable, walkable groundcover.
“Notably to the left of the entrance is a basalt rock hosting a carved ‘finger labyrinth’ replication of Chartres Essence,” Weber says. “Finger walking a labyrinth is an actual practice. The idea is that someone who doesn’t feel steady walking or who is visually impaired can trace the labyrinth pattern with their finger. I love the basalt feature. It’s beautiful.”
A sign at the site contains a description written by Weber of the labyrinth and its connection to Ignatian Spirituality.
“St. Ignatius of Loyola commissioned his companions to ‘Go forth and set the world on fire,’” Weber says. “Walking the labyrinth invites us to connect with our inner spark, tend the flame and carry the fire out into the world. I wanted to give SU the gift of this spiritual practice, which has been transformative for me.”
Another sacred space has witnessed the university’s evolution over more than seven decades. Once the focus of the annual May Crowning of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the “Queen of May,” featuring a living rosary and a popular site for prayer in the 1960s and 1970s, the Grotto to Our Lady of Fatima now sits in peaceful solitude.
The history of this shrine surrounded by bushes and trees in the southwest corner of the garden behind the Administration Building dates to 1950. It is dedicated to the memory of Howard Peronteau, S.J., a beloved educator and administrator in SU’s sociology department from 1930 to 1949. Father Peronteau was one of the four “Refounding Fathers” that included James McGoldrick, S.J., Raymond Nichols, S.J., and Daniel Reidy, S.J., all credited with growing the student population and expanding the facilities at Seattle College following World War II. Father Peronteau encouraged devotion to Our Lady of Fatima among students and had long desired a shrine in her honor.
Sadly, a heart attack took Fr. Peronteau’s life on Oct. 20, 1949. Following his passing, three donors, the Peronteau family, Loretta Allain and the student body chose to remember Fr. Peronteau with a shrine to Our Lady of Fatima. The Sodality, a student religious and service club, sponsored a “Dime Drive” to help procure funds for the project. Leo S. Gaffney, S.J., devoted much time to designing and organizing the project. A Carrera marble, hand-carved statue of Our Lady standing about three-feet high, made in Italy, was gifted by Kathleen Borbeck and family. A plaque in memory of Fr. Peronteau is attached to the stone base on which the statue stands.
A memorial for Fr. Peronteau was held at the shrine in 1950 on the first anniversary of his death. The university community formed a living rosary and President Albert A. Lemieux, S.J., made a brief address. A.B. Corrigan, S.J., closed the ceremony, leading in the recitation and praying of the living rosary for Our Lady of Fatima’s intercession in bringing peace in the struggle against communism, according to the October 26, 1950, edition of The Spectator. Seattle College became Seattle University in 1948.
Things changed over the years. The May Crowning ceremony fell out of fashion, trees and plants grew around the grotto making it less visible and fewer people visited. The statue was vandalized three times between 1988 and 1998. The head and hands of the original statue were knocked off and it was replaced with another marble statue only to be vandalized again in 1995. That time, the statue’s head was knocked off and stolen but later recovered and SU Facilities was able to epoxy it back on. In 1998, after it was vandalized yet again, the statue was replaced with a third figure, the bronze statue that stands today. Our Lady beckons all to sit with her and pray.
The Ecumenical Chapel and Multifaith Prayer Room, both on the first floor of Campion Hall, affirm SU’s welcome to people of all faiths. The chapel is a large space that precedes and nearly runs the length of Campion Ballroom. At one time the main chapel on campus, Catholic Mass was held in this space. After the Chapel of St. Ignatius was completed in 1997, the space was renovated and designated the Ecumenical Chapel, a place for Protestant worship.
According to Erin Beary Andersen, ’96, associate director of Campus Ministry at SU, “Ecumenical worship is open to all Christians. There is a large baptismal font at the chapel’s entrance symbolizing Christian unity in baptism. It’s a malleable space with movable padded chairs and a portable altar and ambo.”
Because there are no regularly scheduled services in the Ecumenical Chapel, the space is used for multiple purposes. Christian student clubs and Campus Ministry meet there and the SU choir practices in the space. It has also been used for interfaith services.
The south end of the Ecumenical Chapel abuts the Multifaith Prayer Room, a much smaller venue. Built in the early 2000s, the prayer room is the result of a partnership between Mary Romer, the former director of SU Campus Ministry and Faizi Ghodsi, the former director of SU’s International Student Center and a Muslim. Realizing there was a need for a Muslim prayer space on campus, the two worked with Facilities Services to create one. The Multifaith Prayer Room is open to all but intended to be particularly useful for Muslim students, who are asked to pray five times a day.
Andersen describes the space: “There’s a separate entryway with cubbies for storing shoes, which are not allowed in the sacred prayer space where Muslims kneel and touch their forehead to the floor. Continuing through the entryway, just before the prayer room, are two holy cleansing rooms on opposite walls, one for men and one for women. Muslims perform a cleansing ritual prior to prayer called “Wudu” in which they wash their hands, mouth, face, arms and feet with water. The prayer room floor is covered with a beautiful Persian rug gifted by Faizi and there is space for storing prayer rugs. It’s a simple room without any imagery on the walls. Pictures or statues of human beings or animals are prohibited in prayer rooms by Muslim law because they can lead to idol worship.”
The prayer room is also used for other purposes. Eddie Salazar, ’98, ’09, senior administrative assistant in SU’s Center for Jesuit Education, leads quarterly Zen meditation workshops for faculty and staff in the space. EcoSangha, a university-wide Zen community co-founded by Salazar and Philosophy Professor Jason Wirth, PhD, who is an ordained Zen Priest, also practices Zazen (meditation) in the space.
SU community members can reserve the Ecumenical Chapel and Multifaith Prayer Room by contacting JoAnn Lopez in Campus Ministry, firstname.lastname@example.org, (206) 296-6992.
Other sacred spaces on campus include the Vi Hilbert Biodiversity Garden, the El Salvador Jesuit Martyrs Memorial Garden and the Japanese American Remembrance Garden. The links below will take you to the Campus Ministry Sacred Spaces webpage with information primarily about indoor sacred spaces. The padlet link, a work in progress, is a map denoting sacred spaces around campus, both indoor and outdoor. The SU community is invited to visit and discover the space that feeds your soul.
Tags: Jesuit Identity, Current Students, International Students, Alumni, Faculty, Staff, Community Engagement