A Place for Reflection
The latest addition to the Southwestern campus is a labyrinth that is located just south of the Howry Center patio.
Christians began using labyrinths in the Middle Ages as a way to recreate the arduous journeys that were made by pilgrims. University Chaplain Beverly Jones says the popularity of walking labyrinths has been on the rise since the early to mid-1990s.
“I don’t know how many campuses have them, but it is not unusual to see them at churches, hospitals and retreat centers as well as in public parks,” Jones said.
Jones said she has introduced labyrinths to students a variety of times on retreats as a pathway for prayer, meditation or just quieting one’s mind and heart. 2013 graduate Derrick Dolezal helped Jones build the labyrinth as part of a summer internship with the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life.
The labyrinth is 36 feet in diameter and is constructed of limestone blocks. It is located on land that used to be part of the golf course at Southwestern. The pattern Dolezal designed is modified from the popular labyrinth design that was built into the floor of the Cathedral at Chartres in the Middle Ages.
“When the golf course closed, the practice putting green seemed a perfect place for a labyrinth due to its raised elevation and good grass,” Jones said.
Jones said she hopes the campus community will appreciate the availability of the labyrinth and use it. She plans to offer programs that will introduce students to prayer walking, and the history and use of labyrinths in spiritual growth.
One Southwestern student has already become an expert on the subject of labyrinths. Religion major Montana Steele did her capstone project on “A Pilgrim of Space: Constructing Micro-Pilgrimage Journey within the Sacred Spaces of the Labyrinth and Hindu Temple.”
Steele said labyrinths have been around since the times of Greek mythology with the Minotaur, and the labyrinthine image has been documented by archaeologists to have been present as early as 30,000 BCE.
Steele was among the students who spoke at a dedication ceremony for the labyrinth that was held Nov. 19.
“I think the labyrinth is a positive addition to campus for both Christian and non-Christian students,” Steele said. “The labyrinth can be entered by Christian students and they can use it as a centering with God, while the non-Christian students can enter it, go through the labyrinth and become centered through meditation.”
Since it opened, the labyrinth has already provided support for several students during the stressful last weeks of the semester.
“The labyrinth has allowed me to have some time to myself, and to really refocus my thoughts, especially with finals week fast approaching,” said sophomore Hannah Steen.
More information about the labyrinth is available at the Office of Spiritual and Religious Life, which is located in the Howry Center.
− Interviews by Maritza Robles