Students Desire, Labor Leads to a Second 24-Hour Chapel on Campus

Students looking for 24-hour spiritual sanctuary will have a second on-campus chapel to pray in, thanks to the efforts of their peers in Conaty Hall.

Several students have volunteered to help clean, install sheet rock, paint and adorn a new 24-hour chapel set to open in the Spalding breezeway after Easter weekend. The chapel has been an interdisciplinary project, with students from engineering, politics, drama and theology offering their expertise on how to renovate and appoint the space.

"My residents this year are great kids and I have several who are excited to do it," said Conaty Hall Resident Adviser Mario G. DeGisi, who has overseen the project’s student workers.

The future chapel was once a campus maintenance office and storage space, and needed a thorough cleaning. Students gutted the room, pulling down ceiling tiles, wall and light fixtures. They also framed for dry wall and plan to put up a new ceiling.

Mr. DeGisi, a senior biochemistry major from Medford, N.J., has put in between 60 and 80 hours building an altar and tabernacle for the chapel, in addition to shelving to hold a Bible and other meditative texts.

"I’d been talking to Father Bob (Schlageter) about going from pre-med to architecture and building," said Mr. DeGisi, who has prior experience as a cabinetry maker. "So he said ‘Why don’t you start with this?’"

The Spalding breezeway project is a follow-up to the last year’s opening of Blessed Sacrament Chapel, a 24-hour addition to the St. Vincent de Paul Chapel.

"Last year, some students came to me and said ‘why don’t we have a 24-hour chapel? We can go to computer lab 24 hours a day but we can’t pray before the Blessed Sacrament after 10 p.m.," said Rev. Robert Schlageter, OFM Conv., the director of Campus Ministries.

His reply made sense: campus officials were concerned for students’ safety and building security in the wee hours.

But their request got Fr. Schlageter thinking: if technology can drive the new 24-hour global economy, certainly it can facilitate the age-old practice of prayer in a chapel sanctuary.

The solution came in the form of an emergency phone and a door that opens with a security code available to campus residents. By February 1999, the students of North Campus were able to pray around the clock in a new, secure 24-hour chapel attached to St. Vincent’s.

"I walked in one day after hearing confessions at the residence hall," Fr. Schlageter said. "It was 12:30 a.m. and there were six kids in there."

That kind of demand for all-night access to a chapel has caught on across campus. Last fall, the students of CUA’s southern campus resident halls started asking for their own 24-hour chapel.

They’ve been willing to work for it.

"It’s going to be beautiful," said Bill Murphy, the south campus housing coordinator.