By Emma Stenzel
Managing & Advertising Editor
Saint Mary’s University’s Saint Thomas More Chapel is now open for prayer and liturgical services after the completion of its interior refurbishment.
During the past two months, construction crews and maintenance staff have been cleaning, painting and reconstructing the chapel in accordance with the designs of Father James Notebaart, architect of the refurbishing and the liturgical consultant.
On Tuesday, March 13, the SMU community celebrated the refurbished chapel’s Rite of Dedication, where Bishop John Quinn consecrated the new stone altar. Along with nearly 200 attendants, special guests Notebaart, artist Alec Smith, local contractors and members of the maintenance staff were also invited to the event.
Dean for University Affairs Sister Judy Schaefer said that the refurbishment was necessary since the Saint Thomas More Chapel is a place of importance at the SMU Winona campus and needed updates. In addition, she said that the changes were made in preparation for the university’s upcoming centennial celebration.
Notebaart said that he wanted to create a different character for the chapel, giving it a “quieter” façade while incorporating the nature in the Winona area.
“We wanted to restore the material that was here,” said Notebaart. He explained that the tapestry stone used for the 7,000-pound altar was cut from the earth only a few miles away from the Winona campus. The altar also reflects the four seasons of the area, depicting different images of nature in four square medallions.
Notebaart also added lattice screens to the front of the chapel, which he said act as a gate that invites the congregation within. “The screens are placed in front of the tabernacle, and to me they say that something special lies beyond,” said Notebaart.
Though there is not yet a crucifix in the refurbished chapel, Notebaart said that a bronze crucifix will be installed in May or June.
“It’s so nice to have a beautiful space to pray in,” said Schaefer. “Several people made a comment to me that they feel more comfortable and more drawn to pray in the chapel. And that was our goal: to make it more welcoming and prayerful for everyone.”
The chapel now resumes its daily liturgy at 12:10 p.m. Monday through Friday and its weekend liturgy at 10:30 a.m. and 9 p.m. on Sunday.