It was a nine-month exile from the place St. Ambrose faithful called home. But the transformative $5.2 million renovation of Christ the King Chapel was worth the absence, and made the celebration rededicating the chapel Dec. 9-10 a true homecoming for all Ambrosians.
Nearly 600 people attended the first Mass in the renewed chapel, with Francis Cardinal George of the Archdiocese of Chicago presiding. The day was reminiscent of the 1953 dedication ceremony, at which a prior archbishop of Chicago, Samuel Cardinal Stritch, first christened the chapel as
Christ the King.
For those who knew the chapel in its first incarnation, it was also a day of amazement. Gone are the leaky roof and water stains on the walls. Gone are the chill of winter and swelter of summer. Instead, sunlight streams in from a skylight, making the chalk-gray walls appear luminous and highlighting the open orientation of the pews curving toward the altar.
St. Ambrose's chaplain, Rev. Chuck Adam '82, says the chapel's new configuration encourages more participation in the Mass. Before, the altar stood at one end of the sanctuary in a pre-Vatican II configuration, when it was common for celebrants to be distanced from worshippers.
Then, the Mass "was always something that people watched and observed," Adam says. Now, Ambrosians are finding the renovated chapel a more inviting and peaceful place to pray, with the soothing sound of trickling water in the new baptismal font to aid contemplation.
Since the December rededication, another space becoming popular for prayer and contemplation is the new Chapel of Reservation in the area that was formerly the south entrance. Now, a Father Edward Catich-inspired stained glass window designed by Tom Chouteau '51, one of Catich's protégés, lights the Holy Eucharist in the center of the chapel.
By bringing everyone closer together-priest and congregatio -communicating with God becomes more comfortable, Adam says. In fact, Mass attendance has increased since the renovation. "The chapel is a strong symbol for the university, one of our most important buildings on campus," he says. "Our Catholic heritage is crucial to our identity, and this building helps us celebrate that."