The new St. Mother Teresa Chapel of Johnson Family Hall
The St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta Chapel in Johnson Family Hall was dedicated by His Excellency, the Most Rev. Kevin C. Rhoades, Bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne – South Bend, on September 6. I was privileged to serve this Mass and witness as the latest chapel on our campus was dedicated as a place for the worship of God for the women of Johnson Family Hall both present and future.
Prior to the Mass, Bishop Rhoades remarked to me that he was so happy to be dedicating a chapel under the patronage of St. Mother Teresa. He said that he has been hoping for a chapel or a church to be under her patronage ever since he arrived in our diocese a decade ago. His love for Mother Teresa came, as he expressed in his homily that day, not just from an admiration of her work and the humility she had, but also because he had been privileged to speak with Mother Teresa on multiple occasions and offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for her while he lived in Rome.
The chapel, much like the life of Mother Teresa, is simple. There is nothing of particular extravagance, and yet there is a great beauty in that simplicity, as there was in Mother Teresa herself. As with many of the new dorms like Dunne, Flaherty, and Baumer, the Mother Teresa chapel has pews rather than chairs. The chapel also has a beautiful tile floor rather than carpet, something the liturgical musicians will no doubt appreciate.
As one walks into the chapel, the eye is immediately directed forward to a large crucifix hanging above the tabernacle, flanked by reliefs of the Blessed Virgin and her most chaste spouse, St. Joseph. The tabernacle itself sits on a stand that looks much like a miniature version of the altar —a wooden base crowned with a marble mensa.
While most of the chapel’s windows are simply frosted glass, the windows on either side of the sanctuary are of stained-glass. One contains the image of a peacock, the other an image of a lotus flower, both symbols of India, where Mother Teresa spent much of her ministry. At the bottom of each of these windows are three blue lines that look like waves of water. These lines pay homage to the Missionaries of Charity, the religious order founded by Mother Teresa, whose sisters wear a white habit trimmed with three blue lines.
Other decorations of the chapel include small wooden reliefs of the Stations of the Cross, which seem to almost blend into the wall, a constant reminder that the Lord’s Passion and the salvation purchased for us are with us always. Additionally, there is a small statue of Mother Teresa holding a young child. This statute serves as a reminder of the chapel’s patroness as well as our promise as Catholics and as a Catholic university to fight for the right to life, to care for the most vulnerable among us.
Perhaps the most striking part of this chapel is the brilliance with which it shines. The soft golden walls that brighten almost to a yellow behind the tabernacle remind us just as much as the sanctuary candle itself that the Light of the World is here present in the Blessed Sacrament. Mother Teresa was known for expressing her own experience of spiritual dryness, questioning at times where her faith was, and stating that “there is nothing but emptiness and darkness” within her. Yet, the lights and the color of this chapel, the brightness that they create together as an architectural symphony reminds us all that there is indeed light, hope, peace.
Bishop Rhoades encouraged the women of Johnson Family Hall to visit the chapel often and take time to be in the Presence of the Blessed Sacrament. He encouraged them to visit God in His new home not just when they were thriving spiritually, but especially when they were not. It is during difficult times, he suggested, that a visit to the chapel and time with the Lord will benefit them most.
This newest addition to the chapels of Notre Dame will no doubt bear much spiritual fruit. As the women of Johnson Family Hall come and go, the chapel and He Who dwells therein remain, ever present for those who come to Him for rest. The new chapel has already and will continue to serve as a place to worship God, to thank Him, and to contemplate Him. Above all, however, this chapel is home to the Mass, the Liturgy, the wellspring of worship where countless students will gather over the years to refresh themselves, and from the Blood and Water which gushed forth from Christ’s side, renew themselves if ever they find themselves in a time of spiritual darkness. HERE, the brightness of the chapel will dispel interior darkness. HERE, all those who labor will find repose. HERE, those who say with Christ “I thirst” will be satisfied with cups overflowing.
Patrick is a junior and proud resident of Knott Hall. He has greatly been enjoying the autumn season and has been eating far too many apples and apple pie. If you would like to share a slice of pie and a scoop of ice cream you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.