Appreciation for the University Chapel

January 8, 2024
Amélie Lemay

The University Chapel is a beautiful Gothic building across from Firestone library in the center of campus. The title "Chapel," conferring the image of a small worship house, is a bit misleading for this vast hall that can seat two thousand. It's where Opening Exercises and Baccalaureate are held each year, and both denominational and ecumenical worship services are held there throughout the week. A small number of Princetonians also return to the Chapel for their marriage ceremony, and it's always exciting to see a wedding party taking their photos in front of the Chapel or on the steps of Whig Hall.

Exterior of the University Chapel and surrounding trees

The Aquinas Institute, the Catholic ministry on campus, celebrates daily mass at 12 p.m. and Sunday mass at 4:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. in the Chapel. The Aquinas Institute is part of the Office of Religious Life, which encompasses at least 15 chaplaincies for various faiths and denominations. Several student groups, chaplaincies and affiliated chaplaincies include the Center for Jewish Life, Episcopal Church at Princeton, Hindu Life Program, and Muslim Life Program. For those wishing to continue or deepen a religious practice at Princeton, there is certainly an appropriate group for you to do so, with services held either in the Chapel or elsewhere on campus.

I consider my faith an important part of my beliefs and identity, and I attend Sunday mass at my local Catholic church when I'm at home with my family. During the hectic semester, though, I sort of allow myself a special pass from attending mass. While I don't take the time to attend a formal service, I do sometimes try to stop in to either the Chapel or St. Paul's on Nassau Street for a brief moment of prayer, even five minutes. In addition to the services held each week, the Chapel is simply open to the public for reflection from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. each day. I can discreetly enter and kneel in the back, just taking a few minutes of quiet time alone. You may find a meaningful role as an active member of one of the many religious groups on campus, which could become an integral part of your Princeton experience. Even if you don't though, the Chapel is there to welcome you for whatever small moment of your day you can carve out for prayer or reflection.