The chapel at the St. Cloud Hospital is currently undergoing an enhancement project. Work began Jan. 23 and includes installing safeguard systems, restoring original elements and adding visual improvements.
“The project is designed to enhance the welcome of the chapel and to restore materials and elements of the chapel’s original design,” said Chris Reicher, liaison between the Chapel Project Planning Group and the various contractors who have been hired to do the work.
“[The project will] bring elements of nature and creation to the heart of the hospital so that people can be wrapped in the beauty, grace and healing of God’s creation.”
Reicher, who also works in music and liturgy ministry at the hospital, said the initial planning began in July 2015. The following September, the hospital hired John Buscemi, a nationally recognized designer of liturgical environments.
Before the project began, Reicher dove deep into the archives of the hospital, which was built in 1926, researching back to original letters exchanged between the Benedictine sisters and the architects who were located in Chicago.
“Whenever construction projects in historical buildings are planned, it is important to go back in history to figure out the best ways to maintain the integrity of the structure and the designers’ intentions,” he said.
In this case, he said, that history goes back to the Ojibwe people who lived in the region along the Mississippi River.
“They saw the river as their protector, it was a river of life, a river of healing. I think those are the same attributes the [Benedictine sisters] recognized when they located the hospital there,” he said.
“Early letters depicted how important it was to the sisters for patients to be able to look out and see the river and be calmed by it. They were very attuned to how God’s gifts in nature would impact the health of the people in the hospital,” he said.
That’s why the planning group decided to remove the existing brick wall that separates the chapel from the main corridor and add a “Creation Window.”
The Creation Window will be hand-painted by local artist Bob McCoy and depicts a pastoral scene of flowing water, trees, crops, sky and sun.
A Scripture passage from Ezekiel will be inscribed nearby that reads, “I saw water flow from the Temple, bringing its life to the world.”
There also will be a large panorama of the Mississippi River positioned on the corridor wall facing the chapel.
Reicher has uncovered numerous historical facts, which the planning group has incorporated into the project, such as restoring the original Terrazzo flooring, which has ties to the Winona area, and the Kasota stone floors that came from Mankato.
Additionally, the short wooden wall at the back of the sanctuary will be removed, Reicher explained, and a bronze tabernacle circa 1920s — positioned on a stone column — will be returned to its original position centered under the Great Arch.
“A simple canopy echoing the arch will shelter the tabernacle, and the Sacred Heart Mosaic will be extended to the floor to serve as its backdrop,” he said.
The holy oils, used every day to anoint patients, will be positioned in the ambry on the side wall of the sanctuary. Lighting will focus on the altar, ambo and presider’s chair during liturgy. Outside of liturgy, the tabernacle and mosaic will also be lit.
During the renovation, weekend liturgies will be held in Hoppe Auditorium on the level just below the chapel. Weekday liturgies and 24/7 prayer are being held in the St. Benedict conference room, adjacent to the chapel near the Lakes lobby.
All of the contracting is being done through local contractors, with McGough as the general contractor.
The project, which has an estimated cost of $565,000, is expected to be complete by Palm Sunday, April 9. Funding for the fire detection/sprinkling system and lighting system has been provided by the hospital while funding for the liturgical enhancements comes from private donors through the CentraCare Health Foundation.
“Many donations have already been given in honor of [the late] Father Pat Riley and Father Al Stangl and others on the hospital staff who have served patients and their families with compassion and care over the years,” Reicher said. “We want this to continue to be a place of healing and comfort for all.”
Donations to the hospital project may be sent to CentraCare Health Foundation at 1406 Sixth Avenue N, St Cloud, MN 56303.