Today, Thomas More College in Crestview Hills, Ky., celebrates the realization of a long-held dream to build a free-standing chapel with a Dedication Mass held at Mary, Seat of Wisdom Chapel at 3 p.m. More than 300 students, staff, faculty, alumni and supporters of the College are expected to attend the ceremony, which will be performed by The Most Reverend Rogers J. Foys., D.D., bishop of the Diocese of Covington and chancellor of Thomas More College. Numerous students, staff, faculty, alumni and supporters of the College will participate in varied roles during the service.
Thomas More College President Sr. Margaret Stallmeyer, C.D.P., shared her enthusiasm for the project, “Mary, Seat of Wisdom Chapel, located in the center of campus, gives testimony to the Catholic, intellectual tradition where faith and reason are intimately related. This project has been made possible by the generous support of many who share our vision for providing a sacred space here within the heart of Thomas More College. It is my prayer that all who visit will find this a reflective space and a place of blessing.”
Bishop Foys offered his sentiments about the new chapel, “In years to come may all those who visit Mary, Seat of Wisdom Chapel remember those who have gone before them who have provided them with this wonderful house of the Lord. It is truly a great gift to our Thomas More College community as well as for the community at large.”
The groundbreaking of the $4.2 million Mary, Seat of Wisdom Chapel began in August of 2012. The 8,500 square foot chapel seats more than 300 people. Measuring as high as 35 feet, the stained glass windows are a true focal point. A center window features Mary with her Divine Son (the source of wisdom) sitting upon her lap, illuminating the chosen patroness for the chapel and ushering in colorful light within the sanctuary. “In the conception and construction of the chapel, we’ve utilized the services of local architects, builders and artists to create a spiritual home that welcomes our students, alumni and friends to grow stronger in their faith while experiencing the beauty of this space,” Stallmeyer added.
Joseph Hayes, Robert Ehmet Hayes & Associates in Ft. Mitchell, Ky., was the lead architect on the chapel design, which was actually conceived in partnership with his late father, Robert Ehmet Hayes, in 2000. “Designing and administering construction of the chapel was a highlight for the firm, having been given the opportunity to create an experience that allows people to be inspired and grow, and to design a masonry building that will age gracefully and stand the test of time,” Hayes said. (Among some of the most recent projects completed by the firm are St. Charles Personal Care Center, St. Barbara Church, award-winning Thornwilde Elementary and phased construction at both Beechwood Schools and Woodfill Elementary.)
Klenco Construction managed the construction of Mary, Seat of Wisdom Chapel. Klenco is located in Taylor Mill, Ky., and is led by President Chris Klensch and longtime Vice Presidents David Middendorf and Mark Baumann. Jay Guenther provided day-to-day supervision on the site, managing a team of dedicated field employees. “It has been a pleasure and an honor to have worked with the College, architect and engineering team members the past 14.5 months to bring such a symbolic structure to fruition on the campus of Thomas More College and to the Northern Kentucky Community,” Baumann said.
Sr. Emmanuel Pieper, St. Walburg Monastery in Covington, Ky., designed the stained glass windows in the chapel. She is a freelance artist and is regularly commissioned by individuals and businesses for her artwork. She previously taught art at Villa Madonna Academy for 41 years. Pieper worked closely with stained glass artist David Duff, Classical Glass, in Cincinnati, whose team helped bring her designs to life.
The altar furniture was built and donated by Joseph R. Kohrs, a former member of the Thomas More College Board of Trustees and an alumnus of 1982. He is president of Kohrs, Lonnemann and Heil Engineers in Ft. Thomas, Ky., and engineered the mechanical and electrical system for the chapel. He builds furniture as a hobby, and decided to volunteer his time, materials and talent to the project. The wood used for the chapel furniture is cherry and came from Boone and Kenton Counties. Landscaping of the chapel was provided by Reminiscent Herb Farm Nursery and Landscaping in Florence, Ky.
Mary, Seat of Wisdom Chapel includes a meditation chapel that is open 24 hours a day. Mass is held Monday-Friday at Noon and Sundays at 8 p.m. with exception of holidays and College breaks. For more information about Thomas More College, visit thomasmore.edu.
(Provided by architecture firm, Robert Ehmet Hayes & Associates)
As a campus focal point and a physical embodiment of the faith- based spiritual mission for Thomas More College, the Chapel design emphasizes both the vertical connection to God and the horizontal connection to the campus and community. Based upon radiating circles, like ripples in a pond, the design centers on the altar, representing Christ’s sacrifice and marking the spiritual heart of the campus. The radiating circles imply the impact of Christ outward into the community through the Thomas More students. The ceiling soars to a high point over the altar with radiating seating focusing toward the altar. The Chapel was oriented for maximum north light to allow worshipers to be able to have a visual connection with the sky and surrounding landscape. At the entrance to the Chapel, a bell tower faces the open lawn and calls upon the tradition of both churches and college campuses to mark an important place with the sound of bells, held high to transmit across the campus. At the peak of the bell tower, a 15-foot tall cross highlights the tower and identifies the Chapel as a place of worship. The Chapel’s materials were chosen for warmth and longevity, using exposed brick and wood to relate to the Thomas More campus. With seating for 310, the Chapel provides an intimate setting for individual prayer and reflection, community worship, as well as weddings. The heating & cooling system incorporates an energy efficient geothermal system. An exterior amphitheater provides an informal gathering place for students and staff. This Chapel will be the place to remember and celebrate the mission and ministry of Thomas More College.
About the main stained glass windows …
The Christian Life
This window is dominated by an angel with a large brazier of incense. In the Christian faith, incense is offered to God alone. Through the lower part of the window, flow the waters of baptism interspersed with the sign of the cross, symbols that establish our Christian dedication. In the Eucharist, symbolized by the grapes and wheat, the Christ-life begun at baptism is sustained in us and made fruitful in the Church and the world.
Mary, Seat of Wisdom
Mary as Seat of Wisdom is the chosen patroness for this chapel. In this titular window, Mary with her Divine Son, the source of wisdom, sits ready to dispense that grace to those who sincerely ask it of her. Other symbols from the Litany of the Blessed Virgin adorn the window: Star of the Sea of Life, Queen of Peace, Mystical Rose and Tower of Ivory.
In this window, an angel holds aloft the flame of learning, the essence of the existence of this college, the reason for the dedication of its teaching staff and the hope of students in attendance here. The diamond-shaped symbols represent the major components of a liberal arts education — humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and the professions.
Sanctuary – Flames
Flames of fire have symbolized many things in the history of the arts: love, wisdom, learning, creativity and in the New Testament, the gifts of the Spirit. In the window above the altar, the series of flames invites the viewer to meditate on this symbol in his or her personal life: the flame of love, deep and true, the flame of learning, in life-changing light, and the flame of the Spirit enhancing the God-life in the soul. The symbol of flame speaks to all of us in varied ways.