Franciscan Sisters Bless and Dedicate Renovated Chapel

by Sister Julie Ann on March 13, 2008

St. Rita ChapelWith renovation complete, the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity witnessed the blessing and dedication of St. Rita Chapel, tabernacle, ambry and San Damiano Crucifix the first Sunday of the 2008 Lenten Season.

This quiet, small chapel found in the section of the Motherhouse home to the sick and infirmed members of the community was chosen to provide an environment, in the presence of the Eucharistic Lord, to reflect on the San Damiano Crucifix so dear to both St. Francis and St. Clare. Sister Mariella Erdmann, art professor and artist in residence at Silver Lake College, wrote this particular icon, a visual text recounting the Passion of Jesus according to St. John’s Gospel which historically summoned forth St. Francis’ conversion and commissioned him to “rebuild God’s Church”. St. Clare, too, daily gazed on the original crucifix in the small chapel of San Damiano in Assisi, Italy where she resided  from  1212 until her death in 1253. It was later moved for greater protection to the new monastery of St. Clare within the city walls. Sister Mariella personalized the events viewed in her depiction of the image by including foundresses of the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity in its base.

TabernacleRichard Hartman, who serves in the Motherhouse Maintenance Department, crafted the tabernacle, ambry, pedestals and prie-dieux out of lumber harvested from the woods on the Franciscan Sisters’ property. The symbol on the front of the tabernacle was also designed by Sister Mariella. ‘My God and My All’ are words attributed to St. Francis. The ambry-repository will hold the Oil of the Infirm after the new oils are blessed at theAmbry Green Bay Diocesan Chrism Mass on March 18, 2008.

Pause and consider this memorable moment:

…A few days had passed when, while he (Francis) was walking by the church of San Damiano, he was told in the Spirit to go inside for a prayer. Once he entered, he began to pray intensely before an image of the Crucified, which spoke to him in a tender and kind voice: “Francis, don’t you see that my house is being destroyed? Go, then, and rebuild it for me.” Stunned and trembling, he said: “I will do so gladly, Lord.”…he was filled with such joy and became so radiant with light over that message, that he knew in his soul that it was truly Christ crucified who spoke to him.

Legend of the Three Companions Chapter V, 13


8 thoughts on “Franciscan Sisters Bless and Dedicate Renovated Chapel”

  1. During this lenten time I have found myself drawn to the San Damiano Crucifix in this prayerful chapel with a focus on the figures beneath the arms of Jesus. (Jn.19:26-27; 4:53)

    Mary, Jesus’ Mother, the Beloved disciple, Mary of Magdala, Mary of Clopas, and the Centurion are those closest to Jesus at the time of his death. They are the COMMUNITY OF FAITH assembled under the arms of Jesus enthroned on the cross. This is an inclusive community of Jews and Gentiles, women and men, young and the old. (Gal.3:28)

    Behind this community is a bright light. The theme of Jesus as the Light of the world (Jn.8:12)The faith community lives in the light of Christ.

    The blood of Jesus drops down into and onto the community of faith. This inclusive community of faith, protected under his arms, living in his light, is nourished by His body and blood.

    We are part of this community. We are called to place ourselves, especially during this time of Holy Week, beneath the cross of Jesus with this inclusive community to learn to live in His light.

  2. Sister Pat Sevcik says:

    The San Damiano Cross in this intimate space is beautiful! I love to pray in this small chapel and I find calm in the simplicity of the space. God be praised here and in all of the artisans who helped to create the artifacts. With Francis and Clare, I come to gaze, consider, contemplate and imitate Him who gave His life that all my live.

  3. St. Rita’s Chapel looks so beautiful and tranquil. How privilege the Sisters who can come and bask in its quietness. How pleased our God must be in the talents of His servants. We thank God for all you have done.

  4. Thanks, Gloria, for your comments.

    While reading the text of Pope Benedict XVI’s message for the 45th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, celebrated this year on April 13 in the March 5, 2008 edition of L’Osservatore Romano, I was struck by the theme: “Vocations at the service of the Church on mission”. St. Francis’ call ‘to GO, rebuild the Church’ is reflected in this quote from Pope Paul VI concerning “the apostles of our times… Thanks to their consecration they are eminently willing and free to leave everything and to GO and proclaim the Gospel even to the ends of the earth. They are enterprising and their apostolate is often marked by an originality, by a genius that demands admiration. They are generous….”

    We, too, are called to be religious women of Gospel-action. Are you?

  5. Sister Mariadele says:


  6. Sr. Delores Wisnicky says:

    The Chapel looks lovely. I am eager to experience the power of the Cross there.
    Francis knew the power of the cross and what Jesus said to him. I believe we can open ourselves up to miracles too.

  7. srosangela says:

    Having visited the newly renovated Chapel, I find it very beautiful and a peaceful place to pray or just gaze at the crucifix.

  8. Recently students at a UW campus chose a prayer attributed to Thomas Merton for use during their Busy Students Retreat. Monastic-enclosured Merton is known for this definition as well: “spiritual direction is, in reality, nothing more than a way of leading us to see and obey the real Director-the Holy Spirit hidden in the depths of our soul.”

    Francis’s San Damiano Crucifix experience is a graphic example of following the way of the Spirit. Action is an important step–“Go, rebuild my church.” Consider our Franciscan retreats for single young adult women:

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