Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
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Two years later, GUís student chapel is renovated, transformed
by Bonita Lawhead, Inland Register staff
(From the Dec. 5, 2002 edition of the Inland Register)
The renovation of Gonzaga
Universityís student chapel includes a new altar and new stand for the tabernacle. (IR photo
from Gonzaga University)
A two-year renovation project has almost completely transformed the student chapel at Gonzaga University. The chapel, part of a 1904 addition to the GU administration building, has become a beautiful place of prayer and worship.
Gone is the carpet, replaced by several oriental rugs on the original wood floor, which was stripped to reveal its natural color. Gone are the benches and the stackable chairs, replaced by wooden pews. Gone are the side platforms and the wall that closed off the former sanctuary area. Now there is an open, unified space, one that conveys a serene and peaceful sense of the sacred.
Jesuit Father Bill Watson, GUís vice-president for mission, directed the project.
It started out as a modest refurbishing. Father Watson was thinking new paint, and maybe new carpet.
Students had other ideas.
One went so far as to say heíd like stained glass windows.
Those new windows are the highlight of the renovation. Instead of the plain colored window panels, there are now 27 luminous stained glass windows depicting various saints.
As told by Father Watson, the story of the windows is remarkable in itself.
Some phone calls here and there connected him with Blessed Sacrament Church in Philadelphia, which had the windows for sale. The church was now in a tough inner city neighborhood and its windows had been removed and stored in the basement for protection. The church needed money for a new roof and new hall. There had been little success in finding a buyer for the stored windows.
Enter now Father Watson. The GU chapel needed 27 windows.
The Philadephia church had 28 for sale.
The windows were too narrow to exactly replace the old chapel windows, but Father Watson found stained glass artisans who added borders to each one, making them wide enough to fit their new space.
What of the 28th wndow?
That window, dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel, will be hung in the chapelís foyer as a lighted box.
Another unique aspect of the windows is that one of them shows Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American to be beatified. The window refers to her as ďBlessed,Ē which may indicate prescience on the part of the window-maker. The windows were made about the same time as the GU chapel was built, but Kateri was not named blessed until 1980.
St. Elizabeth Seton, the first American saint, is also depicted.
There are no Jesuit saints shown in the windows, said Father Watson, but there are relics of St. Ignatius and St. Aloysius in the altar and tabernacle stand, donated by a GU alumna.
The ceiling is the original ornamental tin, painted white to bring out its design. Photos of the old chapel show gold highlights on the ceiling, and also on the chapelís columns, but Father Watson said they decided to forego that detail in favor of a simpler look.
The stations of the cross are another recycled item; they came from the chapel at Palatine Hill, a retreat center operated by the Franciscan Sisters of Philadelphia in Portland, Ore. The stations show a wealth of detail. The colored stain is light, making visible the grain of the wood and the carverís work.
Mac McCandless was the projectís architect. He also built the new wooden altar and the tabernacle stand. The tabernacle is the original, and it is situated underneath a large crucifix on the back wall of the sanctuary. The crucifix once had a home at Seattle University.
Father Watson was in the right place at the right time to guide the chapelís renovation. He said he has always been interested in architecture and renovated a crypt chapel at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. when he was there. He is a Spokane native; his parents are members of Our Lady of Fatima Parish.
Walker Construction of Spokane did the renovation work.
The students seem to appreciate the chapelís new surroundings. Father Watson said the number of students participating in weekday noon Mass has increased. So far, eight weddings have been booked for next year in the chapel.
The beauty of the chapel does not lie in its elements, however, beautiful as those are. It comes rather from the unity of those elements, giving it a timeless quality.
The chapel is located on the east end of the GU ad building; visitors are welcome.
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