When Father Chris DeGiovine became director of campus ministry in 1989, Saint Rose students worshipped at a Catholic chapel in Saint Joseph Hall. Over time, he came to see that the space was not meeting the needs of a campus that was no longer overwhelmingly Catholic.
He surveyed students, who emphatically told him what they wanted: a worship space for all faiths, which honored the College’s Catholic heritage and provided room for quiet reflection. College President Louis Vaccaro, in turn, wanted a gathering space in the middle of campus to host substantive regional interfaith discussions. Local priests, ministers, imams, rabbis and ministers, DeGiovine pointed out, were just beginning to come together to address community issues. Saint Rose was in an ideal position to facilitate.
That place became the College’s Interfaith Sanctuary, which opened in 1997, and continues to host areas designated for people from all faiths, including Christian, Muslim, and Jewish worship.
DeGiovine left the College in 2014 to become a parish priest and has since retired. His influence on campus is felt every time students enter the sanctuary for some solace or a respected speaker leads a discussion on easing poverty or gun violence.
“A Muslim student just arriving in Albany who had a big academic load and felt she was alone came in and said ‘Can you tell me where I can pray to Mecca?”’ he recalled of the early months. “When I showed her that she could do that here, she started to cry. I was sure we had built something very special.”