Tulane’s new Catholic chapel reveals a blossoming of faith

By Mason Pearcy, Tulane Catholic Center

The summer before I started my freshman year at Tulane, I received a flyer in the mail advertising the grand opening of the Tulane Catholic Center. Amidst all of the other events that were advertised to new students, that was the only one I circled on my calendar.

I did not fathom then just how much of a home that building would become for me over the course of my years at Tulane. That space is where I met some of my closest friends, learned to take ownership of my faith life and re-encountered Jesus in the celebration of the Mass.

Four years later, I anxiously awaited the unveiling of the new chapel renovations with the same anticipation and childlike joy with which I had awaited the grand opening as an incoming freshman.

Archbishop Gregory Aymond celebrated the Nov. 6 dedication Mass and blessing of the new chapel. It was a beautiful and unique ceremony. As with all new churches, the ceremony begins with the chapel in the dark, and the altar laid bare without linens.

Archbishop Aymond blessed water and then, during the sprinkling rite, blessed the entire church, then anointed the altar and the walls with chrism oil as well as Incensed the altar, chapel and the assembly.

The altar was then dressed for the first time, the lights of the chapel were turned on and the Paschal candle was brought forward.

Archbishop Aymond explained in his homily how the chapel was dedicated to the Lord as a truly sacred place for Tulane students and the faith community to come together as a family to worship Christ and grow deeper in their faith.

The new chapel, whose construction began in May, will continue to be a place where college students encounter Jesus in the sacraments. The altar has a relic of St. Martin de Porres, the saint after whom the chapel is named.

“The chapel’s beauty points to God’s beauty,” said John Nuttli, a Tulane sophomore, who also is sacristan at Tulane Catholic. “Worshipping God in this space, we partake in a reality extending all the way to heaven.”

Now the chapel will truly look and feel like a sacred space made to house the “Holiest of Holies” – Jesus in the Eucharist.

Church more than a building

This summer, I traveled to France for my friends’ wedding. It was a gift to worship in beautiful, old Gothic churches; they are more than expensive, extravagant edifices where congregations worship. They, themselves, were physical expressions of Christ’s presence.

Worshipping in those magnificent spaces was otherworldly. The light shining through the intricate stained glass gave me a glimpse to the splendor of the love and mercy flowing from Jesus. The vaulted ceilings lifted my gaze literally straight to the heavens.

The new chapel at Tulane Catholic will likewise allow students to encounter Christ in his divine majesty, uncovered by the beauty of the new worship space which is about the same size as the former chapel.

Just as the blood, sweat and tears that went into construction and design of these churches bore fruit in the lives of many, so will the work done by Dominican Father Thomas Schaefgen, Tulane Catholic chaplain and director, in making this new chapel a reality. The donations, big and small, from numerous donors who generously gave of the fruits of their labor, will transform how students on Tulane’s campus worship God. Those gifts have eternal consequences.

My friend Anna Dobard, a senior at Tulane, beautifully put it this way: “The Mass is the most important part of our faith, and churches should reflect the beautiful sacrifice that we witness each time we attend. I’m really excited for the new chapel to reflect this beauty for Tulane students and that I get to experience it in my last year here!”

Growing as faith community

Four years ago, I was a new freshman whose faith was reawakened in the community formed within the space of the Tulane Catholic Center. Now, I am sponsoring two of my closest friends in RCIA as they prepare to enter the church and serving as my friend’s confirmation sponsor.

It will be so special to see them receive these sacraments in this new space. I cannot wait for them and my entire Tulane Catholic family to become saints in this beautiful chapel.

Masses at Tulane Catholic Chapel are Monday, Wednesday and Friday at noon; 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday; and 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Sunday. The center is open 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Adoration is Sunday through Thursday from 8 to 11 p.m.

Mason Pearcy earned an undergraduate degree in finance and is currently pursuing an master’s in accounting at Tulane University.

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