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.
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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 term) how 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 udayton.edu/ministry.
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.