At the heart of the Catholic faith – and accordingly the heart of the Center for Catholic Studies –is the Eucharist. The chapel, located on the second floor of Sitzmann Hall, is a beautiful testament to the glory of God and a reminder of the Catholic Studies program’s focus.
The chapel’s interior was designed by Angelo Gherardi, a liturgical designer for St. Patrick’s Guild, a Catholic bookstore in St. Paul. Born in Chicago, Gherardi spent most of his childhood in Stazzena, Italy. He studied at the School of Design in La Spezia, Italy, and mastered graphic and engineering design in Florence and at the Art Institute of Chicago. Having worked on over three hundred churches in the United States, this renowned artist brought his expertise to the Center for Catholic Studies’ own chapel when it remodeled Sitzmann Hall in 2002. Gherardi was commissioned to create the altar and stained glass windows for the chapel.
In accordance with the chapel’s name, Gherardi’s two window designs depict classic symbols of the Precious Body and Blood of Christ. Grains of wheat and clusters of grapes decorate the green vines that wind up along the left and right sides of the windows. At the center of the rear window, directly opposite the solid wood altar, are images of a chalice and a host. A basket filled with hosts and two fish is at the center of the second window.
The chapel’s sterling silver monstrance, plated in 24-karat gold, stands ornately on the altar and holds the Blessed Sacrament during eucharistic adoration. A Spanish company, Talleres de Arte Granda, custom-built the nearly 28-inch tall monstrance for the chapel. It depicts intricate symbols of the Eucharist and hand-carved images of the twelve apostles. The monstrance, baroque in design, is a reproduction of a 16th-century Czech monstrance. For the past few semesters, eucharistic adoration has taken place in Sitzmann Hall every week on Monday. The Blessed Sacrament is then moved across campus to the Chapel of the Redeemer, in Koch Commons, for perpetual adoration during the rest of the week.
Also from Talleres de Arte Granda is the inspiring chest tabernacle, situated to the left of the altar. Measuring about 20 inches wide, 19 inches tall, and 11 inches deep, the gold-plated tabernacle was inspired by a 15th-century German reliquary. Like the monstrance, the tabernacle is adorned with images of the twelve apostles, with saints Peter and Paul at the center. The entire piece is handcrafted, and the tile roof is hand- chiseled.
Monsignor James D. Habiger, who has been a priest at St. Thomas for 27 years and a generous benefactor to the center, donated the chapel’s sterling silver chalice. The gold-plated chalice was given to him as a gift for the golden (50th) anniversary of his ordination in 2001. One of his former students commissioned a goldsmith in Mexico to construct the piece, and it is Habiger’s understanding there is not another one like it. After using the chalice himself on the day of his anni versary celebration, Habiger gave it to the newly completed chapel at Sitzmann Hall. He remembers being surprised at the similarities between the chalice and tabernacle, both gold and carrying the likenesses of the twelve apostles.
The crucifix currently on the wall behind the altar was not the first to grace the chapel. After the chapel’s dedication, the Center for Cath olic Studies commissioned Minnesota artist Theresa Bonnette to cast a crucifix specifically for the space; she sculpted the stunning, understated bronze piece that we see there today. The chapel’s first crucifix can now be found hanging in Sitzmann Hall’s lower level.
As many of the chapel’s adornments illustrate, Jesus’ twelve apostles are central figures in the lives of Catholic Studies students, faculty and staff. Their discipleship and devotion to our Lord are lights by which all are guided to follow Christ. As the twelve apostles gathered to pray with and learn from Jesus Christ, faculty, students, staff and guests gather in the chapel for Mass, silent prayer or adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. In the chapel, an icon of Jesus the Teacher, commissioned by Monsignor Habiger in honor of his parents, hangs near the tabernacle. Here, Jesus is literally surrounded again by his apostles and his disciples in the Catholic Studies community.