Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Chapel Celebration

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!


  1. This is very interesting! I know that St. John's Abbey Church was dedicated in 1961 - also on October 24. Coincidence?

  2. I was sad when the chapel was renovated. What happened to the windows and statues?

    Where did they get the money to fund the construction?

  3. S. Dolores and I have been tracking down answers to these great questions about the chapel. First, Chase, I am having trouble finding a mention of why they're both consecrated on the same day of the year. Sacred Heart Chapel wasn't consecrated (now we say dedicated) until 1943, although it was blessed in 1914 when it was built. I will keep looking!

    S. Dolores tracked down this information about what happened after the renovation:
    Some of the statues remain in Sacred Heart Chapel. The angels are in the Basilica of Mary in Minneapolis. Many of the stained glass windows went to Saint Scholastica, our retirement center, for their chapel, and others are in Clemens Library at the College of Saint Benedict.

    The Sisters paid for the renovation through careful planning. There was not a capital campaign for this renovation-- it came from their own funds in the mid-1980s.