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Iowa University Opens Prayer Room for Muslim Students

IOWA – A university in Iowa has opened a new prayer space for Muslim students in memory of a world religions professor who died last year.

“At his funeral, there were people from six different faiths,” St. Ambrose University senior Matt Mahoney, told WVIK on Wednesday.

The Islamic prayer space was created in honor of the Rev. Joe DeFrancisco, a theology professor who died in July 2017 at age 69, after a 25-year career at St. Ambrose as a professor of theology.

To maintain the legacy of DeFrancisco of interfaith education, Mahoney met last fall with the university’s Saudi Student Association to turn an idea of DeFrancisco’s into reality.

“One of his ideas was our Muslim students particularly, but just students of all faiths, didn’t really have a substantial enough prayer rooms on campus,” Mahoney said.

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Mahoney worked with the university’s Saudi Student Association to design a space specifically for Muslim students.

“This is a truly appropriate way to honor Fr. Joe,” said Sister Joan Lescinski, president of St. Ambrose, in a statement released by the university and cited by Christian Post.

“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.”

Open to all religions, the new prayer room include sinks for ritual foot-washing and separate areas for male and female worshippers

“Being able to say that we’re committed to these Muslim students, and to all students—students of all different faiths—is really outstanding,” said Mahoney.

“It’s uniquely Ambrosian, and it just sort of shows our commitment to all different faiths.”