ALLEGANY, N.Y. — For decades, St. Joseph’s Oratory has been a beautiful, if little used, building in the middle of St. Bonaventure University’s campus.
Now, thanks to the efforts of Ross Chamberland, OFM, and some generous donors, the oratory has been renovated and will serve as a chapel for Eucharistic adoration — 24-hours a day, seven days a week — at the heart of St. Bonaventure University.
Christ at the Heart of Campus
The small, ornate structure was built in 1927 as a place to celebrate the Eucharist, and it was used frequently when the campus was home to a seminary and a convent. After seeing little use in recent years, Ross is glad that the oratory will house the Eucharist again.
“It’s a powerful thing having the Blessed Sacrament in the center of campus, always there, always present,” he said in a press release. “Christ is going to be physically present right there in the oratory in the heart of our campus 24 hours a day.”
The oratory renovation project was an initiative of SBU’s Lateran Center for Catholic Identity, which focuses on finding ways to promote the university’s Catholic-Franciscan mission through campus programs and activities.
“It became clear that one way we could really improve was by having a more intentional public commitment of the power of prayer and the presence of Christ on campus,” said Ross, who is director of the center.
The renovation project began with a gift of $5,000 from Andy LaVallee, a friend of Ross. Though LaVallee had never been to St. Bonaventure, he is interested in the spiritual well-being of young people and is a believer in Eucharistic adoration. St. Bonaventure alumni also contributed donations to make the $10,000 transformation possible. Fred Dilger, OFM, designed the restoration and renovation project.
Renovations Allow 24-hour Access
Built in the Lombardic, or Early Christian Byzantine, style of 12th century northern Italy, St. Joseph’s Oratory was constructed from irregular, handmade red brick, and features unglazed terra cotta as part of its ornamental and structural work, and roof tiles. The architect, Chester Oakley, also designed other campus buildings — including Devereux Hall, De La Roche Hall, and the Friedsam Memorial Library — in a similar style.
The oratory’s recent renovation has salvaged its original Italian flooring, which was previously covered by a carpet. The walls have been freshly painted, and a new iron light fixture is suspended from the ceiling in the middle of the room. Three oak panels now form a backdrop to the oratory’s statue of St. Joseph the Worker, which previously stood alone against the wall.
In the center of the oratory is a beautiful custom-built tabernacle shaped from oak wood salvaged from a previous refectory on campus. Three of its walls are glass, so the monstrance and the Eucharist inside can be viewed from any seat within the circular chapel. The monstrance was purchased especially for the oratory, and the tabernacle and the oak panels were crafted by Joseph Questa, SBU’s crew chief for carpentry.
Students will be able to access the oratory 24 hours a day thanks to a new security system that allows them to use their Bonaventure ID to unlock the chapel. Visitors who do not have a personal access card may obtain a guest pass by contacting Ross. The chapel is supplied with heat, so it can be used in any season.
Dedicated on Vigil of Feast of the Ascension
The renovated oratory was dedicated on May 4 following the 4 p.m. Vigil Mass of the Feast of the Ascension offered in the university chapel, during which the Sacred Host was consecrated for use in the oratory. Following Mass, the host was transferred to the oratory during a solemn procession, with Ross carrying the monstrance under a baldacchino, or traditional canopy. The host was placed in the new tabernacle, and the oratory was blessed.
Participants in the Mass and blessing included students, faculty and staff, and alumni, as well as university president Sr. Margaret Carney, OSF, and SBU friars Francis Di Spigno, OFM, Kyle Haden, OFM, Joseph Kotula, OFM, Kevin Kriso, OFM, Dominic Monti, OFM, and Peter Schneible, OFM. Also present were priests and parishioners from Olean’s St. Mary of the Angels Church, including the vicar forane, or dean, for the region, Rev. Gregory Dobson of the Diocese of Buffalo, N.Y.
The oratory is just one of several projects undertaken by The Lateran Center for Catholic Identity. Founded in 2014, The Lateran Center also assists various university departments by serving as a catalyst for program development, special events and student recruitment.
“Everything associated with the new LCCI, from the establishment of a residence for men discerning priesthood, to retreat development to various forms of student outreach, is rooted in prayer and adoration of the Lord Jesus,” said Ross, who was ordained in 2015. “The Lord is the center of everything we do and who we are, so we start there. If you are familiar with the power of Eucharistic adoration, you know the transformation that awaits not only the individual students who enter through the heavy oak doors, but the entire campus community as well.”
For more information about and photos of the oratory, visit https://b16jp2.com/sbu-oratory.
— Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province and a graduate of St. Bonaventure University.
- “St. Bonaventure University to Offer Residential Discernment Community” — Nov. 19, 2014, HNP Today
- “Giving Thanks: A Reflection” by Ross Chamberland, OFM – Nov. 20, 2015 HNP Today