Four Unique Bells to Invite the SHU Community to Prayer

News Story: January 17, 2013

The Sacred Heart University community gathered on Thursday, August 27, to “baptize” the first of four bells that will be placed in the bell tower near its soon-to-be-dedicated Chapel of the Holy Spirit. Following ancient traditions, each bell will be named and will be distinguished by an inscription.

The new Chapel stands at the very heart of the campus: a house of prayer for all people, in the words of the prophet Isaiah. Every element of its design has been carefully chosen to welcome the Pilgrim People of God and to provide a place of nourishment and peace.

One important aspect of its design will be the 80-foot-high bell tower that stands as a dramatic exclamation point near the Chapel’s front entrance doors. It now holds four hand-crafted bronze bells that will toll the hours and call the University community to prayer. 

Created in the Netherlands especially for the new Chapel, the bells will have distinctive sounds and each one will preach a message important to the University community. The top-most bell weighs in at three-quarters of a ton and is 41 inches wide at its base. Named Esther, for the Old Testament queen, it features a quotation from the Book of Deuteronomy. It is the foundational prayer of the Jewish people that reads in Hebrew: Shema Yisrael Adonai Elohenu Adonai Echad, or “Hear O Israel: the Lord our God is Lord alone.” This ancient affirmation ties the University’s community of faith to its Jewish roots and serves to emphasize the richness of the Catholic intellectual tradition that animates our mission and history.

The next bell down is 1,056 pounds and is exactly a yard wide at its base. Its Latin text is taken from St. Pope Leo the Great: Agnosce Christiane dignitatem tuam: “Christian, know your dignity!” This invitation celebrates each believer’s dignity in light of the Incarnation, the taking on of human flesh by the Son of God.

The third bell is 31 inches wide and tips the scales at 634 pounds. It bears a message from St. Augustine, also in Latin: Quia fecisti nos ad Te, it reads, et inquietum est cor nostrum, donec requiescat in Te. “For you have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”

The “baby bell” occupying the niche closest to the ground is a mere 27 inches wide and weighs less than a quarter of a ton. It proudly bears the title of the Vatican II document, Gaudium et Spes, otherwise known as the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. Sacred Heart University was founded in the hopeful days leading to the Second Vatican Council, and its mission owes much to the renewing spirit of the Council. The opening words of this document are a clarion call for the Church – and the University – to be engaged with all of human society and culture. It opens this way: “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted: these are the joys and the hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ.”