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Christ the King Chapel Celebrates 60 Years

November 2013 | by Rev. George McDaniel '66


As Christ the King Chapel enters its seventh decade as the spiritual center of our campus, SAU historian Rev. George McDaniel '66, professor emeritus, shares these thoughts on the chapel's essential role in the Ambrosian community: 

Christ the King Chapel was built in the early 1950s as part of a master plan for several new buildings on campus. But the chapel was to be the center, the focal point. As the architect described it, the chapel tower would become the "main axis" of the campus and would reflect the theme of the cross and the crown emblematic of Christ the King. Writing to the priests of the diocese, Bishop Ralph L. Hayes said it would be a "worthy place at our Diocesan college to house Him whom we all serve and love."

The chapel was dedicated on Dec. 2, 1953, with Jesus Christ present in the tabernacle, present in the breaking of the Word and Bread at Mass, in the celebration of the Sacraments, and present in the gathering of students and faculty, exemplifying the Words of Jesus, "Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in their midst."

Christ the King Chapel became, and remains, the defining sign that this is a Catholic campus.

For 60 years, students have celebrated the rhythms of the liturgical seasons. They came to the chapel for solace at the death of a president. In times of war and civil unrest. At the illness or death of friends or classmates or family. In their uncertainty and fright after the attacks of 9/11. They came to rejoice in victories, good grades and happy news from home. They returned to be married in the chapel and to celebrate the births of their children. It is from the chapel that they go out to service projects, or to demonstrate in the streets in protest, or to collect money or goods to help those in need. These actions become sacramental because they flow from the gospel message proclaimed in the chapel.

Sixty years ago, as the chapel was dedicated, an alumnus from 40 years earlier wrote, "For a thousand years, day and night the Chapel of Christ, the King, will sing praises to God. It will live intimately with you. I like to think of its tabernacle enshrining the youthful Christ, the Christ of the Campus. To young men and women through the ages it will import virtue and strength and love and goodness that will beget leaders in character, leaders in faith and truth."

In their words: What the Chapel has meant to alumni, students and parents

Jennifer Kelley '97
"I loved the acoustics. I sang in the University Chorale for several years and participated in many Masses, concerts and a gorgeous Requiem we sang there in memory of a fallen soldier from the gulf war. I also love the Stations of the Cross that were created by Father Catich."

Monica Gill '94
"Christ the King chapel meant memories of being a lector and Eucharistic minister, while overcoming my fear of being in front of people."

David Pena '91
"What Christ the King Church meant to me and greatest memory is it peacefulness and sense of strong community services right around advent time."

Julie (Weaver) Gardner '82
"I got married there two months after I graduated in 1982. This year we celebrated our 31st anniversary."

Jim Solova
"We stop in every time we visit our son at St. Ambrose; it's a beautiful Chapel and a nice place to thank God for a nice life."

Katie Spain '02
"I believe I was privileged to be a workstudy student for Campus Ministry. Some of my most treasured memories are with the other students I worked with in the lower chapel. It is hard to describe what a physical place meant to me, yet I can tell you exactly how it made me feel. As a young adult, with millions of choices to make, it was a place where I could go and sit quietly to reflect on my life goals, dreams and even mistakes I had made. It gave me hope that our God is a gracious and forgiving Lord. I would often go to the chapel alone to play piano and simply pray that I would make the people I knew, proud of who I would become after completing college. Most importantly, I want to remind people of the place and the days when students turned to God, when they were in that church representing joyful hearts at Midnight Mass or the Feast of St. Ambrose. and the days our hearts hurt and we wept in sadness after the 9/11 tragedies. Christ the King was not just a church to me, it was comfort, it was home, it was full of love and it was full of young dreams. I hope and pray that for many years to come, students will gather there and then come back, to remember their glory days, as alumni."

Nikki Boland '12
"A wonderful place to gather as friends and family...my aunt and uncle got married there and now some of my fellow alumni are doing the same. Wonderful site and atmosphere!"

John J. O'Neil '00
"I walked down to the church often the night before a test barefoot while living in Hayes Hall."

Lynda Flannery
"My son is a freshman. The view from his room on orientation day was the this beautiful tower. It was so comforting to see this massive structure and feel that my prayers were answered that he attend a Catholic university. The chapel is just amazing and we especially loved the stations of the cross depicting the young in jeans venerating Jesus. I post photos of us attending mass when we visit."

Share your memories of Christ the King Chapel at ambrosezine@sau.edu.

MORE LIKE THIS:AmbroseZine, Campus Ministry, For Alumni, For Parents, Institutional-Campus, Video / Photo

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