Bishop helps Chapel note 50th on Saint Michael feast

September 30, 2015

Two “Churches” were brand new to the Saint Michael’s College campus 50 years ago this month in 1965, and they’ve been together since.

To open the 4 p.m. Saint Michael Feast Day Mass with Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne on Tuesday, September 29 – an occasion that also officially commemorated the Chapel’s 50th anniversary – the greeter Churchill “Church” Hindes from the College’s Class of 1969 remembered what the building meant to him and others then and now.

“The Class of ’69 arrived … to witness completion of the construction, and along with the Classes of 1966, ’67 and ’68, were here  to see the Chapel come into use, and to see, during those rather busy times on the Saint Michael’s campus, the Chapel become a place of solitude … and we know it continues to serve that way for all of us,” said Hindes, who lives locally and still is active in the Chapel worshipping community, participating in weekend and Feast Day liturgies.

Bishop Coyne’s homily message reflected on the role that buildings and worship-spaces play in the lives of the faithful, just as the faithful help define and animate those spaces. He spoke of the need to find a right balance between the concepts of “Domus Dei” – the House of God where a church as a beautiful object gives praise to God “in the care and beauty brought forth in the structure”; and the Church as “Domus Ecclesia,” or literally “house of people of the Church.” This concept encourages people to understand that they can participate with each other in worshipping together, stressing the importance of a community to constitute a Church, not just a building.

“What makes some churches holy is not just the celebration of sacraments, not just the fact that wonderful and holy things are done in them – what makes our churches holy is the holiness of her people, living and worshipping and praising God … we make a church holy by our very presence as a people,” the bishop said. More than anything, that is what “forms us more deeply into who we are,” the bishop said, though further noting that a church or college chapel also forms the community that has gathered through the sacraments celebrated. “When they leave this place they are more committed to be the people of God and to spread the Good News,” he said, noting that this idea of “formation” has even more resonance on a college campus where formation of men and women happens “not just intellectually, but also, in the Catholic tradition, spiritually, pastorally, humanly, to be men and women of integrity, of faith.” He noted how Pope Francis on last week’s visit to the U.S. repeatedly stressed the need to serve the good and humanity, “in all its needs, in all its places” and “to spread the good news that Jesus is Lord.” In closing he said we should remember that angels – like the chapel’s namesake, the Archangel Michael, are messengers of God, and so, “as those formed in this space, we leave here to be those messengers as well.”

Also to note the 50th anniversary of the Chapel, College Archivist Elizabeth Scott has on display in Durick Library’s entry area several old photographs and documents about the Chapel’s planning, dedication and history since. Text in her display notes that College leaders for years hoped for a Chapel separate from other campus buildings — a chapel area existed in present-day Founder’s Hall until 1923, when Jeanmarie (formerly Jemery) Hall was built with a Chapel and side-chapel spaces that included relics of Saint Edmund for veneration — such as an arm that was brought to Vermont from Pontigny in the 1950s  (it’s now at Enders Island in Connecticut). Scott notes that small relics of Saints Victor and Emily, though unseen, were  placed in the altar during the consecration. Photos in her display also show dedication of the cornerstone, and the dramatic framework during construction.

One item in the display shows a more conservative and traditional chapel design proposal from a 1950s fundraising-mailer. But Vatican II ushered in new ways of thinking about church architecture — and the altar in the center allowed priests to better face the congregation, one change from Vatican II that happened in the year or two before the Chapel’s construction and completion, the materials note. The Chapel is the largest-capacity Catholic worship space in Vermont and for decades has been used both for liturgies and many ceremonial, scholastic and artistic events when appropriate.

Earlier in the day Tuesday to commemorate the Feast of the Archangel Michael, the Society of Saint Edmund invited and treated the entire campus community to a special luncheon in the Alliot cafeteria. Rain precluded the recent tradition of an outdoor cookout.

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