Saint Francis Chapel, made possible by the generous donations of Mrs. F. J. O’Neill and the F. J. O’Neill Charitable Corporation, is the main student chapel at John Carroll University. The chapel serves as the site of our weekend masses, penance and prayer services, weddings, and personal prayer by individual members of the University community. Within the main chapel is the Eucharistic chapel, known as the “Lady Chapel,” the site of most of our weekday liturgies.
The location was set aside in 1923 for a 5,000 seat Gothic chapel designed by Cleveland architect Bloodgood Tuttle. These plans proved to be too magnificent ever to leave the drawing board. In 1929 foundations were dug for a 1000 seat Memorial Chapel, which the Depression kept from completion.
In 1947 a wooden frame building was erected on the abandoned foundation and used for ten years, first as a gymnasium and later as the offices of the School of Business. It was painted to resemble the brick of the rest of the campus, but the color was never true and it soon became known affectionately as “the Pink Barn.” In 1970 the building was renovated, faced with brick, and became the Fritzsche Religious Center. It included a small chapel and a multipurpose room where Sunday masses were celebrated. Finally, the entire building was renovated by architect Peter van Dijk and dedicated by Bishop Anthony M. Pilla on December 10, 1987.
Partitions were removed to open up the generous space and reveal the original wooden trusses of the roof structure. Skylights and a narrow clerestory were cut to admit more natural light. A new facade of Indiana limestone, in a basket weave pattern, provided a setting for the Saint Cecilia rose window. The patroness of organists is surrounded by angelic musicians. The window, made in Munich in 1906 by Georg Boos Studios, was salvaged from Saint Martin’s Slovak Church in downtown Cleveland and donated to our chapel by Mr. and Mrs. William H. Gardiner, a most generous and deeply appreciated patron. Modern abstract windows, designed by Charles Lawrence and crafted locally by the Poremba Studio, admit light softly to the body of the chapel. Cold Spring green granite, piercing the facade and side wall, delineates an intimate Eucharistic chapel, within, but on a different axis from the larger room. The green slate floor of this Lady Chapel is from Vermont and further sets this area apart from the main chapel which is roughly floored in black Pennsylvania slate.
The alcove of the Lady Chapel enshrines an enamel and copper icon of the Virgin and Child, by Mary Ellen McDermott of the Cleveland Institute of Art, its design based loosely on the seal of Archbishop John Carroll. The tabernacle and candles are the work of the late silversmith Solve Hallquist. Local artist Pamela Argentieri crafted the silver evangelary cover and electroformed copper holy water basins, one of which bears the ancient palindrome NIYON ANOMHMATA MH MONAN OYIN [“Wash your sins, not just your face”]. Both basins are developing a characteristic green patina that matches the copper patina of the main candlesticks, the large outside cross, as well as the dappled green of the chapel walls and woven green of the chair fabric. The sanctuary is a curving platform of natural teak wood, the altars are blocks of the same material. All the woodwork, including the massive and intricate frame of the rose window is the award-winning work of Leo Leiden.
Figurative art has been minimized to maintain the simplicity of the room. The stations of the cross are done in porcelain with a raku glaze by Suzanne Marie Young. The colors were chosen to harmonize with the stained glass. She also added a fifteenth station of the risen Christ and an icon of Saint Francis Xavier, both of the same material.
A white reredos serves as a backdrop to the liturgy. In front of it, the main crucifix, a bronze by Megan Dull, provides a central but not demanding focus. As the liturgical year goes by, large batik banners featuring the four evangelists from the Book of Kells, change places on the reredos. They are the work of Bernadette Madden of Dublin, Ireland. The Mellen Organ, the work of Patrick Collon, stands in the northern corner of the room, one of four Spanish-style organs in the United States.
Saint Francis Chapel is situated at the crossroad of University traffic, a quiet center in the midst of a busy campus, a gathering place for our community of faith at worship, a refuge for the prayerful student in the late night hours or at any time of day. It is a symbol and expression of this University’s Jesuit Catholic heritage and its commitment to spiritual values.
Among our many patrons we acknowledge and are thankful for the following:
- The Chapel of Saint Francis was built with a $1 million gift from Mrs. F. J. O’Neill and the F. J. O’Neill Charitable Corporation to honor the memory of Francis J. (Steve) O’Neill.
- Rose Window – Mr. and Mrs. William H. Gardiner
- Stained glass window – The Estate of Jack M. Nelan
- Stained glass window – Dr. and Mrs. Vincent Opaskar – In memory of Charles J. Centa, M.D.
- Stained glass window – Michael V. Kowalski ’67 – In memory of Judith Marie Mullen Kowalski.
- Stained glass window – James F. Woodward Jr. ’64 – Dedicated to the Woodward Family
- Stained glass window – Bob and Dolores Hope – In Memory of William Henry and Avis Hope
- Stained glass window – Mrs. Alice Powers – In memory of John K. Powers.
- Stained glass window – Mr. and Mrs. John D. Schubert
- Stained glass window – Lawrence P. Kelley ’35 and Rt. Rev. Msgr. Norman P. Kelley ’32 – In loving memory of their parents, Thomas J. and Olive R. Kelley.
- Stained glass window – Mr. and Mrs. Halim Habib – In honor of the Normal Joseph Family and in memory of Bedie N. Joseph.
- Holy Water Font – Jack Mathews – Dedicated to the poor of the world and given in memory of John and Marie Mathews and family by their son John ’50.
- Holy Water Font– Thomas F. Patton – In memory of Arline Patton
- Stations of the Cross – Marilyn R. Kuczynski – In memory of her father, Henry T. Kuczynski
- Icon of Mary – Mrs. Nancy O’Neill
- Ambo – James R. and Michael F. Marguerite – In Memory of their father, M.L. (Bud) Marguerite.
- Four Batik Banners – Given in the name of Rev. Mr. and Mrs. Bartholomew J. Merella ’57 and family
- Organ – The Mellen Foundation – In memory of Louise E. Mellen
- Main Altar – Class of 1955
- Altar in the Lady Chapel – Dr. and Mrs. J. Peter Fegan, ’59 – In memory of Joseph P. Fegan
- Altar of Repose in the Lady Chapel – Mrs. J. Harrington Glidden – In memory of her husband.
- Main Processional Cross – O’Toole Charitable Trust
- Processional Crucifix in the Lady Chapel – Mr. and Mrs. Austin O’Malley
- Wall Cross – Ronald and Susan Petnuch ’82
- Tabernacle – Marilyn R. Kuczynski – In memory of her grandparents, Walter and Mary Bukala
- Sacristy – The Sutphin Family – In memory of Albert & Mary Sutphin