Xavier cuts ribbon on chapel 80 years in the making
1st October 2012 · 0 Comments
By Mason Harrison
For the hundreds of sectarian higher learning institutions across the country, having a chapel on campus is par for the course and a non-event for the thousands of students and workers that traverse the grounds of America’s faith-centered colleges and universities. But on October 6 the dedication of Xavier University’s new chapel will very much be a big event followed by five days of activities to mark the construction of the school’s first stand-alone chapel in its history.
When Mother Katherine Drexel first drew up plans for the Xavier campus, the blueprints included a chapel for the Catholic university, the only historically Black Catholic institution of its kind. But over the course of the school’s more than 80-year history, constructing a dedicated building to house the university’s religious functions never came to fruition.
“[T]hose plans were always deferred in order to address other essential campus needs such as new classrooms and laboratories, faculty and staff offices, living residences and other student oriented service facilities,” according to a statement from Xavier announcing the new chapel.
Longtime university president, Dr. Norman Francis, said the new chapel “reinforces Xavier’s historic Catholic identity” and “will be a place where the Xavier community can come together to celebrate the Eucharist, enrich its knowledge of the liturgy, foster religious vocations, attend life-altering retreats, participate in ministries of service, and give time and talent to assist the poor.”
The 11,000-square foot structure features a domed copper roof, a sanctuary ringed with skylights and was constructed using environmentally friendly building materials. The building was designed by renowned architect Cesar Pelli and funded by more than $10 million in private donations.
Pelli, whose firm has designed buildings around the world, described the chance to erect a building for religious purposes as “extremely attractive” and said the building will embody Mother Drexel’s core traits of “modesty, simplicity and spirituality,” according to Xavier’s statement.
New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond will dedicate the building at 4 p.m. October 6.
Several Mass celebrations will take place at the chapel on October 7 followed by a panel discussion on the mission of the school’s founder on October 8. Concerts will take place in the chapel on October 9 and 10 and the week of celebratory events will conclude with a Mass for faculty and staff and a citywide prayer service on October 11.
The St. Katharine Drexel Chapel will also be open to the public at noon from October 8-11 for Mass.
This article was originally published in the October 1, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper