November 2013

This morning I saw the headline come across the Dayton Daily News website, “12m renovation planned for UD chapel.” An hour and half later when I could final login to read the article, it was curiously gone, having only been up on the site for at most a few hours.

Renovations on this chapel have already occurred over the years. There are no pews currently as a result of these past efforts, and the ornate walls were whitewashed, the altar rail was demolished and most beautiful paintings and statues were removed.

The University of Dayton did issue the following press release today (with my Father Z-like comments and emphasis):

Updating an Icon

The University of Dayton expects to begin in August a $12 million renovation of the Immaculate Conception Chapel, the symbol of its Catholic identity and the University’s heart for generations of students, faculty, staff and their families.

The chapel’s iconic cupola, exterior look, historic dimensions and footprint will be largely unchanged. Inside, updates will improve (improve’ is a relative termhow the chapel functions to allow fuller liturgical participation (the phrase “fuller liturgical participation has been used to justify an incredible amount of liturgical abuses over the past 45 years) and will blend with familiar elements to echo the chapel’s traditional look (are they just throwing a bone to tradition here, or will there be real follow through in this area? Will the result of this supposed “renovation” receive praise on a forum such as New Liturgical Movement or in The National Schismatic Reporter?).

“We are a Catholic university; we should have a powerful symbolic place and space for God,” said the Rev. James Fitz, S.M., vice president for mission and rector. “Since the chapel was built in 1869, it has been adapted to meet changing needs and circumstances. This renovation will preserve the chapel’s essential traditions (Will it???) and history and allow us to celebrate Mass in accord with today’s liturgical norms.” (Oh dear, another code phrase for liberal liturgical destruction…)

A significant amount of the fundraising for the project has been completed with a recent anonymous gift of $3 million (wealthy liberal liturgical activist or some sorry soul who is about to see their money go to progressivist waste, or a smart investor???). With that gift, the University is just $1 million from its $12 million fundraising goal, and expects to meet that goal by March, Fitz said.

Renovation plans have been revised since 2008 when a plan called for an expansion that would nearly double the seating capacity to 500. However, through a new collaboration with Holy Angels Church, the University will be able to use the church, which is located in the heart of the campus on Brown Street, when a larger space is needed.

“The Immaculate Conception Chapel is the spiritual heart of our campus and deserves a thoughtful and unified renovation that respects the chapel’s history (What does this mean?) and meets contemporary liturgical requirements,” (I’m afraid of what this means…) said Daniel J. Curran, president. “We’re very grateful for the gifts of trustees, alumni and friends making it possible for this project to go forward in August.

“We’re also very appreciative to Holy Angels Church for our new partnership that strengthens our Catholic education programs and will enable large gatherings of our campus community to worship together.”

The goal of the interior design is to unite all of the elements of the chapel into a warm, unified whole that retains essential traditions and history, said Beth Keyes, vice president for facilities. A number of existing elements will be reused and wood finishes, warm colors and simple elegance (another watch word, “simple”) will evoke the early beauty of the chapel (so does this imply they recognize there is less beauty today in the chapel?).

The altarpiece with Mary will be positioned to allow better sight lines of the circular window on the east wall. New stained glass windows along the walls of the nave will complement the jewel tones and traditional style of the windows of the saints currently behind the altar.

“The Church has always used art and architecture to raise our hearts and minds to the presence of God in our lives,” said Fitz. “The chapel reminds us that we need to set aside a place and a space for God in our daily lives.

Key aspects of the renovation will be:

  • Installation of wood pews and kneelers to retain the existing seating capacity, while creating better flow throughout the sanctuary in accordance with liturgical requirements. (This seems like an improvement.)
  • A vestibule for a gathering space with a glass wall just inside the front doors. The 18-foot, wooden entry doors will be refitted to open and close easily and will once again become the main entrance to the chapel. (Seems to be a functional improvement.)
  • A baptismal font will be placed near the entrance, and a small reservation chapel for Eucharistic adoration will be located near the altar. (Where is the baptismal font now? Is a baptistry being destroyed to move the font or is the font currently in the sanctuary or somewhere else? Reservation chapel?!?! I’m curious how this is going to be “near the altar.” If this is what I think it is, this is horrible! This is terrible! I hope this isn’t the broom closet that is typical of the reservation chapel concept.)
  • A modest addition on the south side will include restrooms, a reconciliation room (Another terrible idea. Are confessionals being ripped out for this reconciliation room or have they already been ripped out during previous renovations?), support space and a bride’s room.
  • Universal handicap accessibility will allow those with physical disabilities to have easier access not only to the chapel itself, but also allow fuller participation in the Mass (All very commendable…).
  • Upgrades to the lighting, HVAC, sound and other mechanical systems will enhance comfort and energy efficiency. The project will be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified, emphasizing sustainability in materials and design in order to be environmentally responsible and resource efficient. (As long as the goals remain efficiency and cost savings and not nutty, left-wing environmental silliness, this is all fine.)

The chapel has long been a popular location for alumni weddings, but starting July 28, Masses and weddings will be temporarily discontinued. The renovated chapel is expected to be rededicated in August, 2015, when regular use for Masses, weddings and other celebrations will resume.

For information on how to schedule weddings after the renovation, contact Campus Ministry at 937-229-2019. For updates during the renovation, visit

Brightman & Mitchell Architects of Dayton, who have worked on many other area church projects such as St. Helen’s Church and Ascension Catholic Church, are creating the design. (I’m not terribly familiar with the specifics of St. Helen’s but I do know it is not particularly known for its traditional beauty. Ascension I can indeed confirm is a disaster of a church, both on the inside and outside, however a disaster no greater than any other suburban Catholic parish. But make no mistake, if you were building or renovating your church and the result was Ascension you would be angry.) Liturgical consultant Kenneth Griesemer has provided direction on the requirements for space, flow, function and design in accordance with Church documents (Or in accordance with someone’s misinterpretation of Church documents?). Renderings are expected to be available in January.

For more information, contact Cilla Shindell, director of media relations, at 937-229-3257 or

Although I haven’t had a chance to read thoroughly Pope Francis’s new apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, this paragraph in the opening section caught my eye:

Lastly, we cannot forget that evangelization is first and foremost about preaching the Gospel to THOSE WHO DO NOT KNOW JESUS CHRIST OR WHO HAVE ALWAYS REJECTED HIM [emphasis in the original]. Many of these are quietly seeking God, led by a yearning to see his face, even in countries of ancient Christian tradition. All of them have a right to receive the Gospel. Christians have the duty to proclaim the Gospel without excluding anyone. Instead of seeming to impose new obligations, they should appear as people who wish to share their joy, who point to a horizon of beauty and who invite others to a delicious banquet. It is not by proselytizing that the Church grows, but “by attraction”.

When I joined this diocese a dozen years ago, the idea that a celebration of the older form of the Mass would be promoted on an AOC website would have struck most observers as absurd. Heck, if you were a young priest expressing interest in the “pre-Vatican II” Mass, you probably would have been sent away for counseling. And while after four years it’s fairly clear that Archbishop Schnurr isn’t going to lead any sort of orthodox renewal or embrace of the Church’s patrimony here, he is at least letting good, traditional things happen, even on archdiocesan websites:

Priest Invites Athenaeum Alumni/Supporters to Attend Mass in Extraordinary Form

Athenaeum of Ohio alumnus, the Rev. Martin Bachman, currently parochial vicar at Holy Trinity Parish in Batavia, offers Mass in the Extraordinary Form on Saturday mornings at Holy Trinity. Father Bachman will offer a special celebration of the Mass at 3 p. m. Sunday, December 8 at Holy Trinity and invites alumni and supporters of the Athenaeum to attend on the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Besides Holy Trinity, Father Bachman has served as parochial vicar since July, 2012 at St. Louis Parish, Owensville; St. Philomena Parish, Stonelick; and St. Ann Parish, Williamsburg.

For more information about the Masses …

Dan Andriacco, communications director for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, wrote a Catholic Update a few years ago entitled “Holy Day vs. Holiday” for the purpose of “making Christmas less commercial” that gets some circulation this time of year. Inside are some good ideas for keeping this time of year focused on the right things, e.g., observing Advent and celebrating all of the Christmas season. But allow me to dissent from its major premise: that Christmas is “too commercial.” The generosity that people feel this time of year should be celebrated. It’s good to share gifts with friends and family members. Sure, people can overdo it, but I don’t think that’s the crux of the problem. (And five years of the Obama economy have probably curbed some of those excesses.) It’s that American Christians are increasingly secularized, not commercialized. Their patterns of behavior aren’t grounded in the liturgical calendar the way their ancestors’ were, and they mark time by secular substitutes, e.g., the school year for students, the financial calendar for working adults. Mention the “O Antiphons” at your next “Holiday Party” and see how many puzzled looks you get. The good news is that Mr. Andriacco’s suggestions are mostly just as applicable to helping re-Christianize Christmas. But again, the problem isn’t commercialism, it’s secularism.

Because the entire collection from this weekend’s Masses in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati will go the USCCB’s scandal-plagued Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), supervised locally by the Catholic Social Action office (think of it as a branch office of Catholics for Obama). I set forth my objections in an LTE the Cincinnati Enquirer ran a few years ago. Here’s a snippet:

The standard for Catholics shouldn’t be merely to avoid funding groups that oppose our central teachings. I would hope we can take as much for granted! Rather, our standard should be to support organizations with a clearly recognizable Catholic identity or set of guiding principles. That can’t happen when CCHD recipients include highly politicized groups like the Contact Center, whose website masthead once featured the slogan “welfare reform = death,” and the Amos Project, an organization known for shaking down local businesses with unfounded charges of racism. Ditto for the scandal-plagued ACORN, which received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the CCHD even after it was exposed for various financial improprieties.

Moreover, when it comes to societal problems with a variety of legitimate Catholic solutions, e.g., how best to help the poor, the role of bishops and priests is to inform the laity of the principles they should take into the public square. It’s then up to the laity, not a bishops conference or a chancery — and certainly not the CCHD — to apply those principles to concrete situations in their communities. Part of that application is determining which local groups are worthy of support.

The good news: The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that inner-city Catholic schools in Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati are bucking the national trend and growing their enrollments.

The bad news: The Cincinnati schools are accomplishing it through the use of state-funded vouchers.

The Cincinnati Archdiocese is in year two of a major effort to recruit Hispanic students, which they say is going well. Ohio’s expansion of the Educational Choice Scholarship Program (EdChoice) also played a big role. The program offers state-funded tuition vouchers to lower-income families to help them pay for private school tuition. Nearly 70 percent of CISE students receive money from EdChoice.

The Catholic Courier of Rochester is running a series of stories on the new bishop of my home diocese, His Excellency Salvatore Matano, including a piece on local reactions. One priest interviewed is impressed by his knowledge of local history, especially a little known story about two Eucharistic martyrs:

Father Palumbos said he also was impressed that Bishop Matano had done his homework on diocesan history. In his welcoming remarks, Bishop Matano spoke of the deep commitment to the real presence in the Eucharist that Father George J. Weinmann and Sister Lillian Marie McLaughlin, SSND, displayed when they plunged into the burning St. Philip Neri Church in February 1967 to rescue the Blessed Sacrament from the flames. Sister McLaughlin was killed in the fire and Father Weinmann died from injuries several days later. Parts of the tabernacle from St. Philip Neri Church make up the tabernacle installed at Sacred Heart Cathedral as part of its renovation nearly a decade ago.

As I shared on my previous site, St. Philip Neri was the parish of my mother’s family, and my maternal grandmother used to do “tatting,” a form of embroidery, for the altar linens.

David Fiorito of Becket Hall, a “prep school” for discerning seminarians, is quoted about Bishop Matano’s welcome focus on developing the holiness of the people. Which is exactly right. The role of the priest and bishop is to sanctify the people so they can bring Jesus to the world. That’s the outward-directed vocation of the laity — to engage in the apostolate! In all too many places, and especially in Rochester, the laity are under the impression that their role is to “co-minister” with the priest in the sanctuary.

So it would seem that out of the gate Bishop Matano will focus on (1) the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and the (2) sanctification and holiness of his flock. He couldn’t pick two better priorities.

And I’m glad I hadn’t just sipped a drink before I read Cardinal Dolan’s remarks.

P.S. Per Bishop Matano’s comment about needing a haircut before his press conference, someone should recommend a local barber to His Excellency. I nominate Battisti’s on Rochester’s West side.

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