- Go Forth
by Fr. Joseph Hill, SJ, Chair of Campus Ministry
“Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them.” (REV. 21:3)
Throughout the Scriptures we hear stories of how God revealed himself in a specific place, turning it into a sacred space. Jacob had the vision of the ladder to heaven at Bethel and built a shrine there (cf. Gen 28). God revealed himself to the people of Israel on Mount Sinai (cf. Exod. 19), which became the mountain of God. When Solomon built the first temple in Jerusalem, a cloud descended from heaven and filled the inner sanctuary, thus turning it into the Holy of Holies of God’s presence (cf. 1Kgs. 8). Jesus was born in the stable in Bethlehem (cf. Lk 2), died on the cross at the place called Golgotha, outside Jerusalem (cf. Mk 15).
Those places have become holy sites, destinations for pilgrims throughout the centuries. SLUH is not the Holy Land. Yet, the chapel in the middle of Backer Memorial contains elements of all of these places. It is the location where angels descend and ascend between heaven and earth during the liturgy, and where the new covenant is continually renewed, and where the tabernacle of Christ’s presence is held, and where the faithful continually participate in Jesus’ birth and his death and resurrection. So it is with great devotion and honor that we have now taken up the task of renovating the chapel as part of the execution of Go Forth. A team of Campus Ministers, teachers, administrators and architects have met several times over the course of this past year to develop the design for the renovation. We have been guided by the principle of creative restoration and trust in the Holy Spirit.
Although we have not finalized the plans yet, there are some elements that we envision and are eager to share. We will open up the original skylights, letting much more natural light into the chapel. We hope to put windows back into the walls, so that the sacred space will be more visible in the hallways of the school. The south doors of the chapel (closest to the altar) will be closed, in order to return the side chapels, dedicated to Our Lady and St. Joseph, to greater prominence visually.
It is a very exciting project, and we are deeply grateful to the benefactors whose generosity is making it possible. We hope that the renovated chapel will renew this sacred space so that all of our students, faculty, staff, parents and alumni will experience it as a place of encounter with God.