‘Have We a Chapel!’

Roy Gasnick, OFM In the Headlines

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM, blessed and dedicated the new chapel at St. Anthony Friary on Feb. 8. With “The Year of Faith” resonating in the background, the friar community began the rite with a heartfelt rendition of the hymn suggested by the rite:

O Christ the great foundation
 On which your people stand,                
 To preach your true salvation
 In every age and land:
 Pour out your Holy Spirit
 To make us strong and pure
 To keep the faith unbroken
 As long as worlds endure.

John, assisted by Michael Madden, OFM, first blessed the chapel itself by sprinkling holy water on the walls and then on the friars. Next, he incensed the altar and then blessed it with holy water. After a short, incisive homily by John, we then recited the Profession of Faith and in conclusion sang a plea to God for those who had strayed away from the faith: “O bring them back, Good Shepherd of the sheep.”

Actually, as guardian James Toal, OFM, noted, we had switched over to using the new chapel on Dec. 22, using the old altar, old tabernacle stand and chairs. Gerald Dolan, OFM, had the distinction of being the first priest to celebrate Mass in the chapel, while the guardian was the first to celebrate a Sunday Mass the next day. The new altar, ambo, tabernacle stand and extremely comfortable chairs, James said, arrived merely two days before the blessing of the chapel.

He goes on to say that the chapel has a distinctly masculine flavor to it, heightened by its “dark cherry-stained poplar beams and woodwork.” The almost life-size San Damiano Crucifix behind the altar and the two life-size statues of the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph the Worker on the back wall “were each hand-carved of linden wood from the famous Demetz Studios in Italy.” “These two statues” he further described, “are bordered by two framed modernistic representations of the Stations of the Cross.”

“Yet to come,” James continued, “is a very large original painting of the death of St. Francis which is being done in the style of the old masters. It will be placed on the north wall of the chapel, making it a natural place for wakes and wake services of the friars.”

Joseph Hertel, OFM, the friary vicar, said he notices several areas of improvement in the new chapel. “The sound system is a big help. This chapel is so much more quiet and, being quiet, you can focus on God, prayer and separating your mind from the business of life.” The previous chapel had no sound system.

“The San Damiano Crucifix catches my eye as soon as I enter the chapel and it entrances me,” says Roderic Petrie, OFM. “Other things which capture my attention are the view of our friary garden, that we finally have a bigger chapel, that it is well-planned and very liturgical.”

The financing for the new chapel is coming from Holy Name Province, as well as through numerous small donations and some significant gifts, according to James, who provided photos of the dedication. John Anglin, OFM, filmed the blessing. The video can be found on his Facebook page.

In addition to the chapel, the St. Anthony Friary residents have seen other recent changes to its kitchen and laundry facilities. Exercise equipment was also added in 2012.

— Fr. Roy, who served as the Province’s first communications director from 1969 to 1985, is on staff at the St. Petersburg friary. The photos of the installation of the chapel’s decorations were provided by Anthony Carrozzo, OFM, of New York City, who visited the St. Petersburg friary in February.