New Campus Chapel of the Holy Spirit to be Dedicated

News Story: January 17, 2013

Sanctuary Features World-Class Architecture and Art

Sacred Heart University will formally dedicate its new Chapel of the Holy Spirit with a week-long series of events that begins on Sunday, September 27th. The weekend’s festivities will inaugurate a year of special events to celebrate the opening of the new chapel that will include Masses, ecumenical services, academic convocations and concerts.

Among the Chapel’s special features are original mosaics and stained glass by the world-famous Jesuit artist, Father Marko Ivan Rupnik. Renowned as an artist, theologian, author and spiritual director, Father Rupnik was chosen by Pope John Paul II to design his personal chapel at the Vatican dedicated to the Mother of the Redeemer. Among his other international commissions are major works in Fatima and Lourdes. His work on Sacred Heart University’s Chapel has already attracted widespread attention and praise. The Fairfield County Catholic said its “dazzling mosaics will inspire all,” and the Stamford Advocate profiled the “making of a masterpiece” by a “modern-day Michelangelo.” The Connecticut Post hailed Rupnik as a “mosaic master,” a sentiment shared by the influential Catholic weekly, America, which asserted that walking into the Daily Chapel was like “stepping into a dazzling icon.”

The Sacred Heart University Chapel was designed by Sasaki Associates, a world-class architectural firm that specializes in university projects. The company won first prize in the international design competition for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, and its academic portfolio includes major projects at such schools as Harvard University, Boston College, Johns Hopkins, MIT, and Trinity College in Hartford.

The chapel building and grounds will form a pivotal campus landmark, enhancing student life while serving as a powerful symbol of Sacred Heart’s Catholic identity. According to the University’s president, Dr. Anthony J. Cernera, “it is only fitting that an institution so deeply rooted in the Catholic intellectual tradition create a space of great beauty, solely dedicated to the pursuit and expression of faith. The University Chapel will represent the literal and figurative centerpiece of the campus community.

“By devoting such a visible, central location to the Chapel, the University makes a proud, strong statement about the role of faith in the life of the University community. It invites all of the members of our community to deepen their relationship with God and their dedication to the service of others,” he concluded.

The Chapel’s principal sanctuary will welcome 500 persons, with a smaller Chapel of the Nativity for daily Mass and private prayer that will seat 50. Its most prominent mosaics depict the Incarnation, the Resurrection, and Pentecost, central themes of Christian belief. There are outdoor gardens, and a spacious narthex – or foyer – suitable for public gatherings. The building and grounds are designed to suggest one of the defining themes of the Second Vatican Council: the Church as the Pilgrim People of God. The Chapel roof consists of copper folds in the manner of a nomadic tent, for example, and the narthex has walls of glass to demonstrate the intersection between daily life and the life of prayer.

The Chapel’s bell tower holds four unique bronze bells, hand-cast in the Netherlands. The largest one weighs 1,500 pounds and measures 41 inches in diameter; the smallest weighs 447 pounds and is 27 inches in diameter. Masses and other appropriate events will be accompanied by music from a tracker organ designed and manufactured especially for Sacred Heart University by master craftsmen at Casavant Frères. Based in Québec, Casavant Frères is one of the oldest and best-known pipe organ builders in the world.

The University Chapel will be named for the Holy Spirit, calling on the Spirit of God to enlighten the life of the University. It is also an echo of the University's origins in 1963 during the Second Vatican Council. At that time, the Council reaffirmed the vocation of all the baptized to participate in the work of the Church. "Sacred Heart University takes its inspiration and energy from that historic ecumenical gathering," explained Dr. Cernera. "Catholics recognize in the Council a time when the presence of the Holy Spirit was especially evident -- leading to a renewal of the Church throughout the world. Sacred Heart University is an embodiment of that calling: it was designed to be led and staffed by lay people - a first for the United States - and it continues to shape leaders for the Church and society."

For a listing of events during this dedication year, click here. To learn more about the Chapel of the Holy Spirit, click here.