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Historic chapel closed for renovations

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Mercyhurst’s Christ the King Chapel has been the heart of the campus since 1933. Now more than 80 years old, the beloved chapel needs a facelift.

Nothing too drastic. No major changes to the architecture or overall look of the campus landmark. Just a new coat of paint, a new finish for the wooden pews, and a new lighting system to show off the iconic mural that surrounds the sanctuary.

“We have a beautiful chapel here and it’s very important to our mission and to who we are,” says President Tom Gamble, Ph.D. “We have an obligation not only to preserve what we’ve been given, but to pass it on to future generations better than we found it.”

More than $400,000 has been donated to fund the updates, according to Msgr. David Rubino, Ph.D., vice president for external affairs. The entire project is being funded by gifts and grants from generous donors, including a 50th anniversary gift from the Class of 1964.

When Mercyhurst opened in 1926, the Sisters of Mercy were deep in debt and reluctantly put off thoughts of a chapel at the east end of Old Main. More than five years passed before the O’Neil family donated the money to build the chapel and the adjoining tower that now bears its name. The project was completed in 1933. Two years later, the Queen’s Chapel was added to the north, and the huge five-walled mural was painted behind the altar.

The chapel still looks very much like it did then, except for modifications in the wake of Vatican II – removal of the communion rail and addition of a forward-facing altar.

Fr. Jim Piszker, chaplain at Mercyhurst since 1998, says that’s as it should be. “Trying to change this Gothic space into something modern just wouldn’t work,” he says. ‘This architecture is timeless and so much identified with Mercyhurst. I can’t imagine doing anything that would disrupt that.”

The work began in early January and the chapel is expected to remain closed through the end of March. While the restoration goes on, Sunday Mass is being celebrated in nearby Taylor Little Theatre, and daily Masses in Prince of Peace Chapel in the student union.

To learn more about the project, or to make a donation, contact Rubino at 814-824-3034 or drubino@mercyhurst.edu