Exploring My Muslim Spirituality at a Catholic University

By Sofea Lee

When I first attended Sunday Night Mass at the St. Vincent de Paul Church, I was struck by the towering ceiling and the stunning stained glass windows adorning the east and west walls. I felt ushered into a wholly different space than the academic-centered spheres on campus.

Although my spiritual practice had been informed by different teachings, I experienced a measure of joy in listening to the homily and hymns and in witnessing the rituals held sacred by those around me at this Mass. Like the mosques I attended back home, I saw this church as a spiritual home for those who sought a sanctuary for their practice.

I didn’t know what to make of DePaul’s identity as the nation’s largest Catholic university when I began my undergraduate studies here three years ago. Being an international student from a Muslim-majority country, I possessed a low-level fear about my ability to freely practice my faith on campus, especially since my Muslim identity is visibly marked by my choice to wear a headscarf.

But upon starting at DePaul, this fear gradually dissipated (it seems almost comical in retrospect). I quickly learned that I could explore my faith within an on-campus Muslim community and that I  could to learn about others’ spiritual practices. And so I rapidly adjusted and embraced DePaul’s vigorous interfaith spirit. I began attending the occasional Abrahamic text study, quarterly interreligious celebrations organized by the interfaith scholars and University Ministry, and, of course, Sunday night Masses. I came to appreciate how DePaul’s spiritually diverse population advocates for practices of dialogue and community engagement.

As a result, I have learned to practice my faith in old and new ways. While prayer remains an important element of my Islamic faith, I now understand that being curious and respectful about the rich spiritual lives of others can also be an act of worship. I have found how important and meaningful it can be to show up for each other and be present with the sacred, regardless of traditions. Extending how I glorify God in my everyday practice beyond prayer has empowered me to explore my spirituality in a communal context, and I look forward to continuing doing just that during my final year at DePaul.