• Afterwords: Room at the table for everyone


Room at the table for everyone

By Patricia Quigley ’78, M’03


No matter what your faith tradition is, odds are that you and your fellow believers love carbs.

This is one of the things I’ve learned from gathering around a table to share a meal with students and colleagues who are part of Rowan University’s Interfaith Council.

Imagine the spread: pizzas, stromboli, naan, challah, samosas and more. Okay, there was a salad. It had something chip-like on top of it. As I said, people of every faith love carbs.

I’m a staff advisor to Rowan’s Campus Catholic Ministry (also known as Newman Club), so I’ve had the privilege to get to know other advisors, clergy, e-board reps and students from three Protestant groups, two Jewish organizations and our Muslim student group. I’ve been impressed by the way these Rowan employees and students of varying beliefs have come together honestly and patiently and in a welcoming manner as part of the Interfaith Council.

The Council is a few years old, one of the initiatives of the Office of Social Justice, Inclusion & Conflict Resolution. As the name promises, SJICR is on a mission to build understanding, relationships and respect.

At a state school, in a secular environment, at times when some of us may feel like “other” for caring about a Supreme Being, it impresses me that Rowan has this interfaith organization.

But that is just one part of a bigger picture to me: our school, this place where I have worked for more than 20 years—and attended more than 40 years ago—has become an institution that embraces all people, regardless of gender, physical abilities, race, sexual orientation, socio-economic background, faith or many other characteristics and outlooks.

We are our own little New Jersey melting pot of people from all backgrounds. While we may not be as diverse as, say, an NYU, we do become more so each year. We are a collection of stories, of trials, of triumphs. We are family, with all that entails.

Breaking bread together means that we’re also breaking barriers. Getting to know each other better isn’t always easy. We’re tentative in some ways. Our beliefs are, in many cases, very different, and no one wants to tread on anyone else’s toes. There’s a tacit understanding: no sermons, no finger pointing, no “my way or the highway.”

I like these people, and I hope to learn from them, to grow in understanding, to become more open and tolerant.

The Interfaith Council is just one example of the wide welcome Rowan offers throughout the institution. Our academic community fosters openness and support.

Our school also demands respect from us for others. Yes, as individuals we fall short at times.

Yes, we sometimes cling to people who look or sound or think like us.

But there’s a home for all kinds of people at Rowan University. Everyone is welcome to attend, to observe, to learn.

And when the body is eager for dinner and the mind craves a thoughtful discussion, I know of at least one table where there’s room for more hungry friends—carb lovers, especially. ♦


Patricia Quigley wrote this essay—her sixth for Rowan Magazine—not knowing when it would be scheduled for publication. She passed away the week the magazine went to press, unaware that readers would "hear" her writing voice one more time discussing things she deeply valued: faith, community, friends—and hospitality that happens especially around a bountiful table. Pat wrote for the magazine as a freelancer before joining the Media & Public Relations staff at Rowan University and contributed dozens of feature stories and countless smaller articles in the last 24 years. I am honored and grateful to have worked with her. —Ed.