SHU Breaks Ground for Campus Chapel, Bell Tower and Gardens

News Story: December 28, 2006

To feature original artwork by Marko Ivan Rupnik, whose work is found at the Vatican and Lourdes

Sacred Heart University broke ground for a new Chapel at its main Fairfield campus on Tuesday, December 5, 2006. The principal sanctuary will seat 500 persons, with a smaller Chapel for daily Mass and private prayer. There will also be outdoor terraces and gardens. The site will feature a bell tower crowned with a gilded cross.

The new Chapel will rise on the main Quad, at 5151 Park Avenue in Fairfield, between the Administration Building and the rear entrance to the Main Academic Building.

Among the special features of the Chapel will be original artwork by the world-famous Jesuit artist, Father Marko Ivan Rupnik. Father Rupnik’s numerous international commissions have included mosaics for Pope John Paul II’s personal chapel dedicated to the Mother of the Redeemer. He is now working on art to adorn the Basilica of Notre Dame du Rosaire in Lourdes, France.

Father Rupnik is the director of Rome’s Centro Aletti, a center for scholars and artists connected with the Pontifical Oriental Institute. In association with Sacred Heart University, the Centro Aletti recently inaugurated the Center for Ecumenical Understanding to promote greater dialogue and understanding between the great Eastern and Western traditions of Christianity.

The Sacred Heart University Chapel is designed by Sasaki Associates, a world-class architectural firm that specializes in university projects. The company recently 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. 

When the bells chime in the new bell tower, the Sacred Heart community will hear four unique bronze bells.  The largest one will weigh 1,500 pounds and will measure 41 inches in diameter; the smallest will weigh 447 pounds and be 27 inches in diameter. The bells will have steel and bronze clappers that are moved electromagnetically, allowing for varied single- and multi-bell tones.  Although cast in the Netherlands, the bells will have a local connection since the installation will be arranged by an 87-year-old company based in Monroe, Church Specialties. The firm is headed by Joe Duffy, whose twin daughters, Katie and Annie, are in their final year at Sacred Heart University.

Masses and other 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 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 SHU President Anthony J. Cernera, “It’s only fitting that an institution so deeply rooted in the teachings of Catholicism create and maintain a space solely dedicated to the pursuit and expression of faith. The University Chapel will represent the literal and figurative cornerstone 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 today’s campus life, influencing how students learn, how they interact, and how they live on campus and in the world.”

The $17 million Chapel will be completed by September 2008.