by Joe Bollig
ST. MARYS — Call it a coincidence, call it an accident, call it what you will. There is an unplanned feature of the new eucharistic adoration chapel at Immaculate Conception Parish here that inspires Jenna Aubert.
The chapel has a monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament on the eucharistic adoration altar. If Aubert kneels at a certain place during her assigned 5 to 6 p.m. time on Tuesdays, she sees something special in the circular, glass window of the monstrance.
A circular window in the back wall projects its image — the Blessed Mother and the Infant Jesus holding a chalice with the consecrated host — onto the circular glass window of the monstrance, aligning perfectly.
“They’re both looking [toward me] as I adore Jesus,” said Aubert.
There was nothing coincidental about the wooden adoration altar that graces the new chapel, however.
When Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann blessed the chapel and Our Lady of Lourdes grotto outside Immaculate Conception Parish on Jan. 15, he was joined at Mass by pastor Father Justin Hamilton, who concelebrated, and Deacon Jody Madden from Atchison, who assisted.
But he was also assisted by an altar server who had already made quite a contribution to the day.
That server was high school junior Luke Trausch, who, under the guidance of his shop teacher Keith Aubert, had built by hand the entire wooden adoration chapel altar as a shop class project last spring.
A place of pilgrimage
“It’s a joy to be with you and always a privilege and a pleasure to come to this parish dedicated to Mary under the title of the Immaculate Conception in this city named after the mother of Our Lord to celebrate Mass with you today,” said Archbishop Naumann.
“However, today is even more special, because I will have the joy of blessing the new Marian grotto with the image of Mary portrayed as she appeared at Lourdes,” he added. “It was at Lourdes that Mary revealed herself to the young girl Bernadette Soubirous, identifying herself under the title Immaculate Conception.”
He hoped that it would be a place of pilgrimage for people seeking the intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes for spiritual renewal and healing.
“Today is also special because . . . we’ll bless the newly erected adoration chapel,” he said. “There are no coincidences with God. So, it’s with special joy I dedicate and bless this newest adoration chapel in the archdiocese because we do so at the beginning of a three-year national pastoral initiative of Eucharistic Revival.”
The new eucharistic adoration chapel is on the south side of the church. With a native limestone exterior to match the church, it is partially new space and renovated existing space.
It was designed to be accessible by an outside door for those in wheelchairs or with physical impairments. It is accessible to the sanctuary upstairs by means of a curving staircase and through a storage room. Adoration is 24 hours a day, seven days a week, except during Mass.
It’s a jewel box of a chapel with a design that echoes the sanctuary with dark blue ceiling, Gothic-style lighting, stenciling and dark wood trim and wainscoting.
“Utilitarian designs are not fitting for a sacred space because we’re not there purely for utilitarian reasons,” said Father Hamilton. “We’re there [in adoration] to ‘waste’ time with the Lord and to be lavish with him. It’s kind of like the woman who poured ointment on the feet of the Lord.”
The chapel has a narthex (entryway) with a sliding door to close it off from the adoration space. The chapel has the adoration altar on a predella (raised platform) flanked by two paintings: the boy Jesus found in the Temple on the left, and the Samaritan woman at the well to the right. It has one pew and some chairs. Off to the right of the chapel is a library room with a desk and a bookshelf, and a bathroom.
The back wall of the 245-square-foot chapel has three circular stained-glass windows: the Sacred Heart of Mary on the right, the Sacred Heart of Jesus on the left, and the Blessed Mother and the Infant Jesus in the center. There is a circular stained-glass window of a pelican in the library, a bird with ancient associations with Christianity.
The library desk and a statue of Jesus were donated in memory of Marikay Zemek Fox. A statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary was donated by Al and Lucile Fox. A reproduction of an 18th-century Sacred Heart of Jesus painting, in the narthex, was donated in memory of the late 7-year-old Makalyn Isabelle Aubert. Because of her heart ailment, she had a special devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Construction of the chapel began in October 2020 and was completed in September 2021. The cost was approximately $456,000. Sabatini Architects of Lawrence designed the structure. AHRS Construction, Inc., of Bern was the general contractor.
The grotto, on the east side of Centennial Hall (the parish hall), has a fan-shaped area with a brick walkway extending to the sidewalk. Some of the bricks feature sponsors’ names. It has five limestone benches in an arc facing the grotto, which is a simple limestone structure consisting of a barrel vault and closed back. Large, rough limestone blocks form a retaining wall behind the grotto.
The white-painted concrete statues of St. Bernadette and Our Lady of Lourdes were donated by the late Robert Meyer and his son Joe Meyer. Originally, the statues were from St. Francis Hospital in Topeka. Additional lighting and a Marian garden are planned for the future.
The grotto was built between September and November of 2021. The cost of construction was approximately $38,000. The grotto was built by Zach Gellegos of Flint Hills Masonry in St. Marys, and Josh DeVader of DeVader Concrete in Maple Hill.