St. Ambrose University — a Catholic college in Davenport, Iowa — opened a Muslim prayer space this week and named it after a late professor and priest as an "acknowledgment of his efforts to promote the universality of faiths," the school noted on its website.
Separate areas for male and female worshipers
The prayer space features sinks for ritual foot washing and separate areas for male and female worshipers as Islam requires different prayer areas for each gender, WVIK-FM reported.
'Shows our commitment to all different faiths'
"Being able to say that we’re committed to these Muslim students, and to all students — students of all different faiths — is really outstanding," St. Ambrose senior Matt Mahoney told the station. "It’s uniquely Ambrosian, and it just sort of shows our commitment to all different faiths."
The impetus for the Muslim prayer space came after the 2017 funeral of theology professor and priest, Rev. Joe DeFrancisco, who made it a point over the course of his career at St. Ambrose to promote interfaith relationships.
Mahoney said that just prior to his death last summer, DeFrancisco said something that stuck with him.
How did the Muslim prayer space idea start?
"I happened to be in the chapel one evening when Fr. Joe was meeting with the Saudi Student Association," Mahoney said, according to the college website. "Fr. Joe was so welcoming to them and brought them a ton of food and then started talking about how they really didn't have very much space to pray. After Fr. Joe passed away, I thought, ‘Why don't we do something about this?'"
So Mahoney met last fall with the university’s Saudi Student Association to create a prayer space specifically for students of the Islamic faith, the station reported.
The school noted that the Muslim prayer space also is open to students of other religions who "prefer to pray somewhere other than Christ the King Chapel."
'A living example of the Catholic Intellectual Tradition'
"This is a truly appropriate way to honor Fr. Joe," St. Ambrose president Sister Joan Lescinski said at Tuesday's dedication, the college noted. "His openness to all members of the Quad Cities faith community was a living example of the Catholic Intellectual Tradition. Former students still talk about the impact visits to temples and mosques had on them as members of his Comparative Religions class."
Mahoney said Saudi Student Association leaders were pleased when he proposed naming the space after DeFrancisco.
"They said it was perfect," he said, according to the college. "I can't imagine there are many Islamic prayer spaces that are named after Catholic priests."
(H/T: The College Fix)