It took over forty years, a lot of blessings on motorcycles, a priest’s death in harness, tons of plans that fell through and donors that dropped out, selling donated land to save the archdiocesan treasury, and some crazy determination, but the Catholic Campus Ministry over at Wright State finally has its own permanent chapel. It was dedicated today with great joy and solemnity by Archbishop Schnurr.

(In a more finished state than many partially-roofed churches in this diocese’s history, but still without some doors, the stained glass, and most of the decor. I think it’s some kind of church version of Murphy’s Law.)

I’ve seen church dedications before, on EWTN, but I’ve never been to one in person. After the past year and a half of reading St. Beatus’ love letter to the Church in his Commentary on the Apocalypse, I found the dedication rites to be almost unbearably beautiful and moving. I could feel the presence of God, the angels, and the members of the Church, both here and in the Church Triumphant. The late Fr. Rohmiller’s quirky presence was particularly close among his brother ex-pastors in attendance (one of whom came all the way from Ireland to attend), and the bad pastor who wasn’t present (the one who got defrocked for doing bad stuff) was a reminder of the mystery of the spotless Church being a hospital for sinners, and sometimes persecuted by her own.

In a less serious way, the celebration of the Mass had that same checkered quality while remaining spotless. There were mistakes made by those inexperienced with dedication Masses and with the layout of the new chapel, there were things that could have been improved, and there was one inadvertent breach of liturgical music regs by a musician who didn’t know better — but there was also strong teaching from the Archbishop about evangelism and salvation, and the ancient lovely prayers and gestures and chrism, and the Holy Spirit hovering over us and within us, like the incense in our lungs. So we sang, and the angels sang, and we offered ourselves along with the Lord’s perfect offering, and something sacred was dedicated to His Name. The Church is Christ’s Body, said the prayers, the Vine whose branches wrap around the whole world, and climb up the Cross into Heaven. There in that little chapel among the parking lots, dorms, and trees, I could feel how we all are grafted into that True Vine.

So yes, things are getting better. Sometimes the pilgrimage of the Church is more of a lurch, but the Lord is still leading our steps on a straight path, bringing us to places of good grass and good water where we can rest along the way, and making sure we keep heading toward our true home.

The place was crammed with visitors, but should be ample even for the crowds of Catholic students who attend. The chapel is still bare and spare (as noted above, no decor) and they even had to borrow university chairs (the pew chairs with kneelers haven’t come yet, either). But it’s got good bones to it and nice design, and it feels like a church, not a mall. Also, it’s got great acoustics, thanks to the sensible choice to have resonant wood and plaster walls and no stupid carpets on the nave floor. I do have a feeling that, come winter, Father is going to want some nice bright stencil designs on his walls (possibly even with reflective paint colors), because this rainy day got pretty dark and gloomy even with the fall leaf colors outside; but the lighting system is nice and warm, and the place seems well-built and well-insulated. I don’t agree with some of the layout and furniture choices; but nothing has been done in a way that forbids adaptation to other layouts, should they be mandated. And most of all, it’s really there. No more dreaming and planning; it’s solid now.

Fr. Burns is still accepting donations for the church furnishings and for the general needs of Catholic ministry on campus, so feel free to send him some money!