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Season of Lent (Christian Holidays)

The seasons of Lent and Easter are approaching, and we want to make you aware of services and traditions that may impact your students and staff. These seasons and rituals are important to a part of the RIT community, so we hope to help prepare you with the information that may help you support your students and their faith practices.

Lent is a penitential season of the Church intended for prayer and fasting. How students choose to fast or observe this season is really up to them. Others may change their diets; for example, abstaining from meat on Fridays or abstaining from something throughout the whole 46 day observance. Abstaining from candy and caffeine are common, so be mindful if you have treats in your class or workspace. Fasting or abstaining will not cause them to miss classes/assignments, but may impact them, especially in the first couple of weeks as they adjust any new routine or diet.

Attending services or dedicated time for prayer could create new and added stress to their daily routines. Students may request to miss class or work in order to attend religious observances without penalty. It is students’ responsibility to contact faculty and supervisors make these requests in advance and arrange to make up for assignments due or covering missed content. A full summary of Lenten and Easter services on campus are below. Some students may choose to attend services at a local church at times other than those listed below.

Ash Wednesday - March 6th.  This is a day that is often accompanied with fasting as well as attending a service on or off campus. Our on campus Ash Wednesday services are:

○12:00 pm Catholic Ash Wednesday Mass

○1:30-3:30 pm the Lutheran/Episcopal/Catholic communities will be offering “Ashes to Go” together, which is a way for students, faculty, and staff to stop in for a moment of prayer and reflection before receiving their ashes.

○6:30 pm Catholic Ash Wednesday Mass

Palm Sunday - April 14th.  The following services will occur on Palm Sunday:

○10:00 am Catholic Palm Sunday Mass

○5:00 pm Catholic Palm Sunday Mass

○6:30 pm The Table Lutheran/Episcopalian Palm Sunday Service

Holy/Maundy Thursday - April 18th.  The following services will occur on Holy Thursday

○7:00 pm Catholic service.

Good Friday - April 19th.  The following services will occur on Good Friday:

○12:00 pm Different Christian denominations will gather for an Ecumenical Prayer Service

Holy Saturday - April 20th.  The following services will occur on Holy Saturday:

○8:00 pm Catholic Easter Vigil.  This is also when a number of students will be confirmed into the Catholic Church.

○Students from several Protestant traditions will be encouraged to attend local churches/congregations throughout Rochester.

Easter Sunday - April 21st.  The following services will be held on campus:

○10:00 am Catholic Easter Mass

○5:00 pm Catholic Easter Mass

○6:30 pm The Table Lutheran/Episcopalian Easter Service

Spring Equinox / Ostara (Pagan & Wiccan Holiday)

Spring equinox, also known as the vernal equinox, March equinox, or Ostara, is the moment in time when the Sun stands directly above the equator and day and night are of approximately equal length.  For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere it marks the beginning of Spring. For pagans it is considered a time of rebirth and renewal. Pagans celebrate with rituals that include symbolism related to spring such as rabbits, eggs, planting of seeds, and balance. It is a time for celebration, levity and gathering with other pagans to celebrate the coming of Spring. 

There are no requirements for pagans to take off for work or school for this holiday though pagan students may wish to attend a ritual when it is being offered. The ritual offerings are not always on the exact day of the holiday. The Spring Equinox will occur on Wednesday, March 20th, at approximately 5:58 pm in 2019. A ritual will be held at RIT in Jones Chapel on Thursday, March 14th, from 4:30-6:30 pm to commemorate the start of Spring and students may request an accommodation to attend this event. 

Passover (Jewish Holiday)

Passover is a weeklong Jewish Holiday that commemorates the ancient Israelite exodus from Egypt and their liberation from slavery. In 2019 Passover begins at sundown on Friday April 19th and ends at sundown on Saturday April 27th.  During Passover, no leavened products are to be consumed and many other types of food are prohibited. The first 2 nights of Passover are marked with a Seder, a festival meal that is accompanied by a retelling of the story of the exodus as well as special prayers. RIT will be hosting Seders on the evening of April 19th and 20th and all are welcomed to attend.

Due to the dietary restrictions of Passover, students have limited times and places to pick up kosher for Passover meals from Dining Services so they may be slightly late to classes and meetings as the timing and location of those meal options may be out of their normal schedule. While students are responsible for providing notification of any delay and requesting accommodations, please remember that these changes to their routine are outside of their control.

The first two and the last two days of Passover are known as Yom Tov, and like on Shabbat and several other Holidays, work is prohibited, which may include use of electricity for some students. Jewish students requesting accommodations for Passover are likely looking for excused absences from some or all of their classes and possibly alternative test dates.  If any assignments are during the period of Yom Tov, please ensure that the any MyCourses drop box or similar submission tool is open early enough for students to submit their work before the period of Yom Tov begins. This year, Imagine RIT falls on the last day of Yom Tov, so please be cognizant of this if students are expected to participate in Imagine RIT activities or demonstrations.

Jumu’ah Salat Prayers (Muslim Observance)

On Fridays, Muslims like to come together to observe the mid-day prayer together. This prayer is called Jumu’ah Salat and usually occurs just after noon. Both Sunni and Shia (or Shiite or Shi’i) Muslims recognize this as a religious obligation for all healthy, adult Muslims. Friday is not a sabbath day or day off, but Muslims take enough time to attend the congregational prayer before returning to worldly obligations. This prayer includes the daily midday prayer as well as a two-part sermon or khutbah delivered by an imam or prayer leader, with a pause between the two parts to allow for du’a or personal prayer. This is an important time for Muslims to learn about the Quran, from which the imam (a learned scholar, as Islam has no clergy) reads a verse, and how to apply it to daily life. In Muslim countries, Friday is often a day off work, but in the United States it can be difficult to observe Jumu’ah Salat and this has been hard on Muslim students and communities. RIT holds Jumu’ah Salat every week from 1:00 to 2:00 pm in the Skalny Room of the Schmitt Interfaith Center.

Students may request a religious accommodation to attend Friday prayers. This may include enrolling in an alternative class or lab section, if available, that does not overlap with Friday prayers, leaving a few minutes early or arriving a few minutes late, switching from a Friday shift to a different day of the week, or rescheduling a meal break to coincide with prayer times. Students are responsible to make these requests in advance and develop alternatives to ensure that academic work and other obligations are met appropriately.

Students may request religious accommodations for other daily prayers (salat), which occur at sunrise, midday, mid-afternoon, sunset, and night, and change times slightly throughout the year. These prayers are shorter and can be conducted in any quiet, out-of-the-way space. Most days, students can pray between classes, unless a particularly long class (3 hours or more) is scheduled. In this case or in the case of a long work shift, they may ask for the break to occur at a time and length sufficient for prayer (about 15 minutes). Students are responsible to make these requests in advance and develop alternatives to ensure that academic work and other obligations are met.

Ramadan (Muslim Holiday)

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim calendar during which healthy, adult Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset daily. This fast cultivates self-restraint, compassion, community building, and awareness of God. During the day, Muslims abstain from food, water, evil speech, and bad thoughts or actions. Fasting is, of course, a personal choice and not all students from Muslim backgrounds are observant. They may also choose not to fast for health reasons. During this month, Muslims typically rise while it is still dark to eat and drink a meal called suhoor before their first daily prayer. They break their fast after the sunset prayer has concluded in a meal called iftar, which is typically more communal. Many families host special gatherings, neighbors visit one another, and special foods are shared during Ramadan. The month concludes with the festival of Eid al-Fitr, which includes two or three days of communal celebration and feasting.

In the United States, Ramadan will begin on the evening of Sunday, May 5, and the first full day of fasting will be Monday, May 6. This is during the latter half of finals week at RIT. The first daily prayer during that time of year is around 4:30 am, and Muslim students may not eat or drink again after that time until the sundown prayer, around 8:15 pm. This will affect their energy levels and cognitive function. Students may ask to reschedule final exams held in the afternoon to earlier in the day. They are responsible for making these arrangements in advance. If using the testing center, they must make this request before April 8, see more information.

Students who are fasting may request accommodations to ensure they can eat as soon as possible after sundown and, if scheduled to work, may request an adjustment to their shifts or to take their meal break to coincide with iftar. When scheduling end-of-semester meals or celebrations for students, please be aware that Muslim students in your group may be fasting. Commencement will also fall during Ramadan this year, on May 10-11. Students may request to be excused from events scheduled late in the day due to fatigue. Muslim students who are graduating may have family visiting who are also observing Ramadan. Please be mindful at receptions and other celebratory events.