COLUMN: Chapel open house Saturday

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After two years of labor, a family chapel coming ever closer to completion will see a dedication of sorts Saturday. Let this column serve as your invitation to attend an open house that afternoon.

Alas, all of the small details won’t be done, but I’ll be working hard these final days to get the project as close to finished as possible.

As I’ve shared in this space from time to time, the chapel idea took shape after a visit to a historic German farm that included a chapel overlooking a fertile valley. I had long admired and found inspiration in the small roadside chapels and wayside shrines that dot areas of Europe. I decided to undertake something similar but have to admit I underestimated the work and time involved.

In the spring of 2009, Mike Simon and Josh Harris poured the concrete walls using the insulated forms they use to build new homes. I wanted a chapel simple and sturdy in design and walls of 6 inches of steel-reinforced concrete do the job. They also make the interior quiet, another nice feature. The east end of the chapel is rounded and that architectural feature, which looks very nice, is wreaking havoc in some of the last-minute details, including the ceiling.

I installed red-oak tongue-and-groove hardwood on the rectangular 30-by-40-foot portion of the building and my plans for this past Saturday and Sunday included staining it. The round area was also to get hardwood though my poorly equipped brain wasn’t yet sure which direction to run the wood. I hope the circular part of of the chapel ceiling is done by Saturday.

The floor will remain its simple concrete until I figure what I want it to look like. I might have enough hardwood to finish the front of the chapel in wood, which will look nice. With marble and granite rather pricey, I’m looking at a ceramic or travertine floor.

Several people have helped make the chapel a reality, including family and friends. My brother-in-law has been generous with his time, as have my brothers. Friends gave a welcome hand sanding hardwood and were to help in some of the final weekend plans. In addition to staining hardwood, jobs included blowing insulation atop the ceiling, painting the concrete stuccoed walls, trimming out the six windows, hanging four chandeliers, resealing the front of the chapel and installing two entry-way light fixtures.

The interior decor is still a work in progress. Temporary chairs will serve the job Saturday though I’d like to find pews or nice wooden chairs.

Tony and Julie Thomas presented me the gift of a lifetime, the altar from the former St. Mary’s Church in Derby. It will be on display Saturday. They’ve also loaned me some of the church’s statuary and a baptismal font.

Constructing the chapel has helped me in a lot of ways. It’s taught me patience and given me confidence that I can learn to do new things. It’s also taught me that I need help with some jobs.

The project has taken me longer to build and cost more money that I’d planned but it seems everyone I’ve met who has built a new home has said something similar. I’m happy with the results.

The open house is from 1 to 5 p.m. Everyone is invited to take a look that day or anytime. After the open house, the first Mass will be celebrated in the new chapel.

While the chapel is not intended for public services, its doors will always be open. I see it serving the same way as the roadside shrines I’ve seen and prayed at in Germany, France, Austria and Belgium.

My chapel is dedicated to the Vierzehnheiligen, or 14 Holy Helpers, a group of saints who have been invoked for centuries.

I’ve visited the pilgrimage church of the Vierzehnheiligen near Bamberg in Bavaria several times.

Here’s a listing of all the 14 Holy Helpers, a few of whom might be familiar to some folks.
• St. Vitus
• St. Christopher
• St. Dionysius
• St. Cyriacus
• St. Eustachius
• St. Giles
• St. Margaret
• St. Catherine
• St. Barbara
• St. George
• St. Blase
• St. Erasmus
• St. Pantaleon
• St. Achatius

Directions from Troy: Take Indiana 545 north to New Boston.

On the north side of New Boston, turn right (east) onto County Road 1200 N. Go about 1.5 miles on this chip-and-seal road and then turn left (north) onto County Road 1375 E.

The chapel and farm are at the end of that road, less than a mile away. The chapel spire, the work of Joe Helming of Jasper, will be hard to miss.

I hope to see many of you Saturday afternoon.