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Xavier cuts ribbon on chapel 80 years in the making

1st October 2012   ·   0 Comments

By Mason Harrison
Contributing Writer

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

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