Here at the monastery, October 24th is a big day. This is the anniversary of the consecration of our chapel, a community celebration. These two Cs are what brought Sister Priscilla Schmitbauer to live out her call and build our chapel.
Who was S. Priscilla? An elementary school teacher chosen by the prioress in the early 1900s to become the plant manager at the monastery. I doubt if even in her wildest imagining she thought she could or would oversee the building of Sacred Heart Chapel, the heart of our home.
But she did.
Plans for Sacred Heart Chapel go back almost 100 years. The Sisters named three criteria to guide the building—that the Chapel be beautiful; serve both present and future needs; and not exceed $50,000. Because George Stauduhar, the architect, lived in Rock Island, Illinois, and the U.S. mail was the means of communication, we have the complete story of the Chapel’s building. Priscilla not only kept copies of the architect’s letters; she kept copies of her letters to him—an archival treasure!
The Sisters wanted a dome on the chapel. The architect balked at that. There was no way to have a dome under the budget laid down. To this edict, S. Priscilla responded almost immediately: “After due deliberation, it has been decided that the Dome should not be omitted.” The Sisters would have their dome! The architect was advised to contact the contractor and come to “an estimate of the lowest probable cost of the Chapel” (letter to Stauduhar, Jan. 22, 1912).
The chapel was completed in 1914. Two of the goals had been reached and continue today: the chapel is beautiful and it serves present needs. The total cost for construction and furnishings, however, was $190,000! The recorded response of the Sisters to their new chapel—with Dome: “[T]he Chapel stands as a lasting memorial and open manifestation of the living faith that dwells in the hearts of the Sisters” (Community Chronicles, 1914).
Psalm 127 says that “unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.” We are so grateful for the God who built the “house” through the heart, hands, and determination of Priscilla’s labor!