Deb Wagner
Freelance Writer
December 6, 2016 // Local

Chapel renovation draws volunteers and adorers

Deb Wagner
Freelance Writer

Among the components of the restored Guerin Chapel, St. John the Baptist, Fort Wayne, are pews repurposed from pastor Father Andrew Budzinski’s home parish of St. Pius X, Granger.

In 1939 and 1940, parishioners and volunteers worked together to renovate a chapel built for the Sisters of Providence, who taught at St. John the Baptist School on Fairfield Avenue in Fort Wayne. The teaching sisters lived upstairs from the church. The chapel became known as the Guerin Chapel, named after Sisters of Providence foundress St. Theodore Guerin. But by the 1980s, the sisters’ community had left the area and the convent sat vacant. The eucharistic adoration chapel, which was now allowed to be used by the public, became a haven for adorers. As time passed, however, their numbers dwindled and the upkeep of the chapel diminished.

In 1992 Father William Kummer expressed his desire for it to be staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. New stained glass windows were designed and made by parishioner Jim Steinacker.

But after a few years, the parish found it difficult to staff the Guerin chapel with at least one adorer every minute of every day. It began to close at 9 p.m. every night. By 2009, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades and Father Cyril Fernandes deemed it necessary to reduce the chapel’s hours to Mondays and Tuesdays from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. An Adorers Committee was formed to revitalize the chapel, but it never really gained momentum.

In early 2016, a parishioner who had originally installed the building’s carpet wanted to clean it in order to make the chapel look more appealing. A married couple in the parish wanted to paint the walls. In April, Father Andrew Budzinski, pastor of the parish and someone described as an “ardent fan of eucharistic adoration,” gave his support to the restoration project. Momentum began to build.

At the first committee meeting a wish list was developed and one of the items on that list was pews. Father Budzinski suggested committee members peruse a website that sells second-hand church goods.

There was indeed a listing for church pews, from St. Pius X Catholic Church in Granger. St. Pius X was Father Budzinski’s home parish for the three years immediately preceding his entrance into the seminary.

“As it turns out, the pews we received (in gratis) from St. Pius X are from the very same section I sat in: The same pews on which I discerned my vocation are coming to the St. Mother Theodore Guerin Chapel at St. John’s,” he said. In fact, a total of 12 pews arrived in June from St. Pius X. In addition, 12 chairs will arrive in January.

The restoration of the chapel happened without the use of parish funds, but with the talents of many volunteers. The electrical work and painting were donated. The transportation of the pews and chairs, storage of them prior to installation and workspace to reupholster and cut the pews to size were also donated by a couple who are parishioners.

The monstrance was gifted to the Guerin Chapel by the Sisters of Providence in 1992. A design framing the archway into the sanctuary was recently stenciled and painted by a doctor who donated her time to paint the exact design found on the monstrance. She also helped with the positioning of the stars on the ceiling of the chapel.

The stars and the constellations painted on the chapel’s ceiling are an image of what would have been seen in the night sky in Fort Wayne on Oct. 19, 1930, the date that St. John the Baptist Church was founded. The beams on the ceiling are painted with the Latin words the priest says before and after the elevation of the host during the consecration at Mass. One beam says, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,” and the other, “Blessed are those who are called to the Supper of the Lamb.”

A parishioner from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parish in Fort Wayne designed and built not only the recess niche that has become the entry way to the chapel nearest the chapel library, but also the two “prie dieu,”or kneelers, in the chapel.

The library is open for use when the chapel is open, Mondays and Tuesdays from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., and is stocked with books and some local history items that have been donated. The desk, table and wingback chairs will hopefully help visitors feel welcome and comfortable while they experience the Lord’s goodness through the written word.

“Our hope is that St. Mother Theodore Guerin Chapel at St. John’s returns to a 24-hour eucharistic adoration chapel through an increase in the number of adorers,” said a committee member.




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