‘Spend Time With Jesus’: Beauty and Sanctity Meet in Columbus Adoration Chapel
Since the chapel officially opened on July 25, 2020, it continuously draws people not only from St. Catharine’s but from other parishes and the area, too.
“The beautiful and the good, ultimately the beautiful and God, coincide,” said Pope Benedict XVI while he was a Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, writing in The Spirit of the Liturgy.
His words ring true for the adoration chapel at St. Catharine Catholic Church in Columbus, Ohio.
Beauty draws the faithful in, starting with the stonework façade, which includes a mural — depicting the Blessed Virgin Mary giving the rosary to St. Dominic and St. Catherine of Siena, while angels, praying priests and nuns “watch” in awe — that is an exact copy of the one in the Dominicans’ Angelicum in Rome.
The mural was the idea of Father Daniel Dury, the former pastor, who built the chapel. He had high-definition photos taken of the original, printed on canvas, and applied to the wall.
Then joining this mural is a smaller scene highlighting the coronation of the Blessed Mother in the lunette above the arched doorway. In matching arched shrines on either side, there stand statues of Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd; and Blessed Solanus Casey, the humble porter. Gold letters gleaming above the doorway proclaim the reason for entering: Ecce Agnus Dei.
Jesus is adored in the large Host within a golden-sunburst monstrance standing on a beautiful white marble altar within the chapel’s sanctuary.
Large, kneeling marble angel statues support the altar. In the semicircular apse behind the altar, the central of three arches holds a crucifix while the other two showcase magnificent stained-glass windows of the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart.
In the apse high above the monstrance, the circular Holy Spirit window, with its colorful sunburst rays, was specially made for this chapel. Nearby, two mural angels seem to float effortlessly above the Eucharistic Lord on the altar below. Between this heavenly view and the monstrance, large letters around the sanctuary arch proclaim: Sanctus - Sanctus - Sanctus.
“The whole chapel is modeled after the Portiuncula near Assisi, where I’ve been frequently and really fell in love with the chapel where St. Francis prayed,” Father Dury said of the design. “I wanted to model on that stone, rustic, really prayerful environment.” That it does, with its stone pilasters along the wall that seem to support the wooden ceiling.
The walls not only display the Stations of the Cross, but carry stained-glass windows high above. Father Dury found the windows of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts on a website, while those in the chapel’s walls were obtained from a closed convent in the diocese. In these windows, the quartet of St. Catherine of Alexandria, St. Mary Magdalene, St. Patrick and St. Francis de Sales becomes a part of St. Paul’s “great a cloud of witnesses,” as they appear to be looking over the adorers.
More saints appear at the sides of the sanctuary in the form of two life-size statues standing under decorative wooden canopies. To one side is a rendition of St. Catherine of Siena, the parish’s patron. To the other is a depiction of Pope St. John Paul II. Both are wood and handcarved in Italy
“He is one of my inspirations to become a priest,” Father Dury explained of honoring John Paul II. “I said we need him up there because he’s so inspirational and helped bring down communism and started World Youth Day.”
The cloud of witnesses around the faithful praying in the chapel also includes large paintings of Padre Pio and St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American saint. The long corridor from the church to the chapel displays paintings of Sts. Teresa of Calcutta, Josephine Bakita and Maximilian Kolbe. In fact, the chapel is actually inside of a larger atrium that connects the church and the parish hall.
Since the chapel officially opened on July 25, 2020, it continuously draws people not only from St. Catharine’s but from other parishes and the area, too. “Build it, and they will come,” as the saying goes.
Brendan O’Rourke, the adoration coordinator and parish director of communications, explained that the idea was to leave the chapel open and unlocked, with free access for the faithful when the Lord is exposed: “That’s really enabled people to come and go whenever they want.”
He has impressed upon the committed adorers who take a weekly hour or more that “they’re ministering to the Lord by loving him and being with him, but they’re also ministering to others, because they’re there; in setting apart that time, maybe a mom who’s on the way home from work can only pop in for 20 minutes — and because we’re standing guard with Jesus, then they can stop by. So they’re like doorkeepers, in a sense, for those who want to come just for a brief visit with Jesus.”
And come they do.
Because the church and chapel are centrally located near major highways, Father Matthew Morris, the pastor, said people “can get to us fairly easily. So a lot of people who are working downtown can make an early-morning or late-evening detour” and “add adoration to their schedule.”
The chapel also draws families with young children. As O’Rourke said, “We’re really trying to just make it normal to go spend time with Jesus.” During Vacation Bible School, the youngsters were brought to spend some minutes with Jesus.
“We want them to know that Jesus is alive, and he’s their friend,” O’Rourke added. “I think this is really what’s going to cultivate vocations.”
“The biggest thing that people are experiencing is peace,” said Deacon Christopher Reis. During the pandemic, “people would just come there to sit and experience peace — Catholics and non-Catholics.”
The chapel is also a source of opening doors. “When we have our big community festival, people come and ask, ‘What’s that? What’s going on there?’ All they know is there’s a great deal of peace there. It’s a great opportunity to evangelize.”
Father Dury recalled the time when one woman who was leaving the chapel told him she “was not Catholic, but I love coming here to pray.” He said she “felt drawn to the Eucharist, obviously — whether she knew it or not.”
Added Deacon Reis, “Architecturally, the beauty of the symbols of the Church are there. It’s a great environment in which people know that this is holy ground. And they revere it and just want to be with the Lord.”
The Marian mural on the façade is also a reflection of the Marian devotion that has carried into the adoration chapel — for where Jesus is, his mother is also.
Parishioner Mary Vautour, a regular adorer since the chapel opened, explained how during adoration she “felt the Holy Spirit tell me to make a rosary board” for the chapel. So she and her husband designed one; she made rosaries and put them on the board’s hooks. “That way, people have a rosary every time they enter to pray,” she said. “Father Morris always blesses them.” She is amazed that already close to 450 rosaries have been picked up from the board. “I heard that when you’re holding on to the rosary, you’re holding on to the Blessed Mother’s hand. So I just keep making them. And then I trained one of my friends, and she makes them with me.”
And the chapel reflects the community, O’Rourke explained, with “kids stopping in to make a whole hour before going to high school in the morning. And there are college kids and young adults and others coming from Ohio State. There’s really a movement among the youth who go to daily Mass, and they make a Holy Hour every day. It’s just a real movement of the Holy Spirit, for sure.”
Father Morris regularly sees the vocational effects. “When I go in there, sometimes they’re not parishioners; they’re either seminarians or they’re actively discerning. So this is a great spot to for vocational discernment,” he said.
That includes marriage.
“We’ve had a lot of proposals because they go to the adoration chapel together,” he said. “Jesus is a pretty good matchmaker for our area!”