Friday, June 10, 2011

Found! The Brady Hall Chapel

BRADY HALL, BUILT IN 1930-31, was supposed to be the first of several College buildings constructed one after another in the early 1930s. Thanks to the Great Depression, it ended up the only building for quite awhile. From 1931 until Christmas Eve, 1939, Brady was everything to everybody, students and sisters alike, from dorms to dining hall, labs to library, classrooms to convent to chapel.

John Deeb of Chalon Facilities and I have spent a little time here and there looking around for the former chapel in Brady. The old blueprints showed a couple of small dorm rooms on the 2nd floor with the partition removed. A purple pebbled-glass window in the Student Lounge opposite the elevator was a hint that this was the place. Finally, a passing mention in an old article confirmed it. The room, it said, was too small for pews so they used a dozen or so padded kneelers. The altar was made of painted white wood, and overflow attendance left people out in the hallway on folding chairs. Everybody turned out for the daily 7 a.m. Mass in those days.

We even know about the tiny Stations of the Cross, because they were later photographed and enlarged, hand-tinted and placed in Mary Chapel, where they remain to this day. But what did the Brady Hall chapel actually look like?

I stumbled today on two tiny snapshots. I've posted them here. The handwriting on the back says that they were taken the day before the very last liturgy celebrated in the little temporary chapel. That must have been a few days before Christmas Eve in 1939, which is considered the inaugural Mass of the new Mary Chapel. (It was formally dedicated by Bishop Cantwell on the Feast of the Ascension in May, 1940.)

I'm sure that both students and faculty had mixed emotions about the move. They were undoubtedly delighted with the beautiful new Mary Chapel, but the memories of crowding the entire Mount family into a tiny space for worship must have lingered for a long time. If you've ever wondered why Mary Chapel has such small Stations of the Cross in such a soaring space, that's why -- a little memento went with the community to the new church.

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