The 60-year history of St. Pius X was revisited Nov. 16 with the prayerful dedication of parish buildings to the memory of three former pastors and to Archbishop Philip Hannan, who spent part of his retirement as a resident of the rectory.
In an added cause for celebration, the parish’s new adoration chapel – a free-standing structure that tracks the modern architectural style of St. Pius X Church – was dedicated to Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos by Archbishop Gregory Aymond.
“May all who gather here in faith experience the presence of Christ, who promised to always be with those gathered in his name,” prayed Archbishop Aymond, before sprinkling the adoration chapel’s outer walls with holy water and placing the Blessed Sacrament into a simple wooden tabernacle.
Inspired by Msgr. Doskey
While the chapel bears the name of Father Seelos – the 19th-century Redemptorist pastor of St. Mary’s Assumption Church whose work with yellow fever victims precipitated his own death from the disease at age 48 – its serene meditation garden honors Msgr. Clinton Doskey, St. Pius’ third pastor. Partly hidden by walls, the patio-like space has the feel of a secret garden, featuring low-slung troughs for seasonal plantings, a single concrete bench and a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Father Patrick Williams, pastor of St. Pius, said the chapel/garden project was sparked by his parishioners’ desire to permanently honor Msgr. Doskey after his death in April 2012. They decided a meditation garden would be a fitting tribute to Msgr. Doskey’s rock-solid faith and devotion to prayer.
“He would often be in the big church (praying) by himself for a while after Mass; I think you could just tell by his life that there had to be something interior to make him the kind of person that he was,” recalled Father Williams, who arrived at St. Pius in 2007 as parochial vicar and became pastor upon Msgr. Doskey’s 2009 transition to pastor emeritus.
Father Williams and a committee of parishioners worked with architects Eskew+Dumez+Ripple and Voelkel McWilliams Construction to ensure the 600-square-foot chapel stayed in harmony with the larger church, completed in 1966 in the “church-in-the-round” style. Clear, wall-length windows and high ceilings – courtesy of a steeply pitched roofline – light the chapel’s spare interior.
Rather than affixing a traditional cross to a wall or suspending one from the ceiling, an “architectural cross” was created for the chapel’s interior by bumping out strategic portions of the wall flanking the tabernacle. The space’s powerful simplicity is enhanced by the tabernacle itself: it is unadorned and recessed into the wall.
The chapel, funded by parishioners and friends of St. Pius, will be a place of weekday adoration from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. (except on Wednesday, which will have exposition from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m.). The main church will continue to host a Holy Hour of eucharistic exposition, confession and benediction each Wednesday from 6 to 7 p.m.
Father Williams said he hoped the placement of the adoration chapel – at the geographical center of St. Pius and just steps from the church – would remind parishioners that the eucharistic Christ is always at the literal and figurative center of parish life. The new facility also will offer them another place to go “for quiet and prayer,” he said.
“We have always had Christ as the heart of this (faith) community,” Father Williams observed. “It’s evident in our church, in its unique style, with the altar of sacrifice at the center to remind us that the center of our lives is Christ offering himself to us and challenging and inviting us to offer ourselves to one another.”
Before the chapel blessing, about 300 parishioners, led by Archbishop Aymond, Father Williams and Father Jonathan Hemelt, parochial vicar, crisscrossed St. Pius’ oak-shaded campus to learn about the man attached to each newly blessed and dedicated building:
• The youth center was dedicated to founding pastor Father Michael Killoughey, who led St. Pius from 1953-63 and who was an early proponent of Catholic radio and television.
• The gym, already named in honor of Msgr. Arthur T. Screen, was rededicated to the late priest, who shepherded St. Pius for 28 years beginning in 1963. Msgr. Screen’s archdiocesan posts included directing the Catholic Youth Organization from 1947-66, and the Office of Vocations from 1948-62.
• In addition to the meditation garden, the parish center was dedicated to Msgr. Doskey during the blessing ceremony. His 58 years in the priesthood included being tapped by Archbishop Hannan in 1966 as the founding director of the Social Apostolate. He served at St. Pius from 1991-2012.
• The Multi-Purpose Room, the parish’s main meeting space, was dedicated to Archbishop Hannan, who lived in retirement at St. Pius for several years in the early 2000s at the invitation of Msgr. Doskey, his longtime friend.
Beth Donze can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.