Back under the blue dome: UD returns to old place with new prayers

By: Julia Hall – Staff Writer

The fresh coat of paint on the iconic blue dome means the reopening of one of the most treasured gems at UD, the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, after 14 months of renovations.

Bishop Joseph Binzer rededicated the chapel Aug. 16 for an exclusive audience. Beginning Aug. 17, the chapel opened to the public for daily Mass and Aug. 30 for Sunday Mass.

“I am most excited to see God work powerfully through a building, as well as through the people who will be in that building,” said Justin Dickman, a senior mechanical engineering major and president of UD’s interdenominational Christian organization Campus Crusade for Christ.

The chapel, which has housed the worship of UD students for over a century, will welcome the newest generation—and the largest in UD’s history—into its pews.

Since June 24, 1869, the chapel has been a place of worship and prayer for the UD community. Without a major renovation since the 1970s, the chapel was in need of a few upgrades to preserve its integrity as, Dickman said, “the heart of the University of Dayton, literally and figuratively.”

With these renovations, the university is applying for LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. This certifies that the university used green materials, designs and sustainable site development to make the chapel and to save water and energy.

The chapel renovations also include upgrades to the lighting, HVAC, sound and other mechanical systems to improve energy efficiency.

The renovations not only strive to be sustainable, but also to maintain the integrity of many of the original characteristics of the chapel.

“The iconic chapel dome, the front doors and the reredos with the statue of the Immaculate Conception were important to many in our campus community,” said Rev. James Fitz, vice president of mission and rector and co-chair on the renovation committee.

Even though many aspects of the chapel were preserved, additional new features have been incorporated.

“I believe the most dramatic change is that the chapel has a more harmonious aesthetic between windows, walls, floors, liturgical pieces and artwork, which enhance the chapel’s beauty,” Rev. Fitz said.

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The altar, ambo and baptismal font are three additional changes that contribute to the cohesion of the chapel. Practical changes were made, as well. Bathrooms are now accessible at the chapel. To overcome space issues, curved pews allow more seating. New devotional spaces and a reconciliation room have been added to attend to spiritual needs.

“An important aspect of a University of Dayton education is to search for truth grounded in faith and reason,” Rev. Fitz said. “The chapel will always symbolize the importance of the faith dimension.”

Every detail of the transformation has been mulled over by the chapel renovation committee for seven years. The committee, composed of faculty and administrators at the University of Dayton, met almost weekly for the past two years. Beth Keyes and David Schmidt of Facilities Management and Crystal Sullivan and Teri Dickison of Campus Ministry were major contributors to the planning of the renovations.

“I think everyone on the committee recognizes how important the chapel is to the life of the university,” said Sandra Yocum, associate professor of religious studies and co-chair on the renovation committee.

The statue of Mary, the mother of Jesus, still stands in the restored reredos, a decoration behind the altar, which now acts as threshold of the Eucharistic reservation chapel. Mary also appears in new stained-glass nave windows that depict her involvement in Jesus’ life.

“I believe that the space will continue this deep tradition of faith and provide even more tangible expressions in the windows and devotional spaces of our Marianist spirituality rooted in the Catholic tradition,” Yocum said.

The privately-funded renovations cost $12 million. As the campus transitions into a new school year, Dickman said, “It will be a huge boost to our campus’ spiritual lives to once again have our central place of worship functioning. The aesthetics of the chapel will hopefully enhance prayer through beauty, dignity and simplicity.”

The chapel provides a quiet, beautiful backdrop for reflection and prayer, Yocum said. Whether a student is in between classes or at Sunday Mass, the chapel stands as a religious haven from the stress of books, late nights and over-commitment.

“I have worshiped in the chapel for almost 50 years—as a student, as an alum, as a Marianist religious and as a faculty/staff member,” Rev. Fitz said. “To see the chapel renewed assures me that our faith will be celebrated in a place of beauty for many years to come.”

For more information, visit the official website of the Immaculate Conception Chapel renovations.