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Gannon Celebrates Dedication of Mary, Seat of Wisdom Chapel

Published: 04/18/2021

Mary, Seat of Wisdom Chapel at Gannon University

Mary, Seat of Wisdom Chapel at Gannon University

Gannon University formally re-opens its Mary, Seat of Wisdom Chapel during a Mass and Rite of Dedication ceremony at 1 p.m., Sunday April 18, 2021. 

The re-opening comes after significant renovations that enhanced the Mary, Seat of Wisdom Chapel as a longstanding place of prayer and worship that inspires our students, colleagues, alumni and friends in their faith journeys.

Gannon President Keith Taylor, Ph.D., said the Chapel is an important symbol of Gannon’s identity as a Catholic institution.

“(The Chapel) is a gorgeous place that we have invested our heart and soul into because it’s the heart and soul of who we are as a Catholic University,” Taylor said. “Our ability to come together as a Catholic community in a Catholic institution is important to who we are. Whether we’re there to celebrate daily and weekly masses or the birth of Christ, it will be a place that moves us as an institution when we walk into it, and the aesthetic in the building will be moving and powerful. People can go there and be in a place where God is the ‘wow.’”

The University announced plans to renovate the Mary, Seat of Wisdom Chapel at 520 Peach St. after it closed in May 2019 due to a gas leak that was discovered below the Chapel. The source of that gas leak was an abandoned gas well.

Thanks to a lead gift by Monsignor Robert L. Brugger ’62, a longtime priest in the Catholic Diocese in Erie and a trustee of the University, a $2 million campaign was launched to help fund renovations to this campus landmark.

The gas well was re-drilled and capped after a significant amount of work to the area around the Chapel. Two buildings – the Student Services Building and the Pontifical Center – were demolished to make way for drilling equipment to get to the well, which was directly beneath the Chapel. Both of those buildings had been identified in the University’s 2009 master plan as needing to be taken down because they were well past their useful lives.

The work on the well was finished in early November 2019 and the Chapel’s north wall was rebuilt.

Over the next several months, a team from across the University and community came together to plan and reconstruct the Chapel, enhancing the structure’s appearance and amenities to provide a spiritual home for Gannon family and friends to grow in their spiritual walks.

As part of the initiative, the Chapel saw renovations to its sanctuary along with the addition of new wooden pews, a baptismal font, statues of Mary and Joseph, Stations of the Cross, and other features.

Original to the sanctuary is the Crucifix that hangs over the sanctuary with a figure of Jesus that was painted by an artist in Pittsburgh and acquired by the University in the 1990s.

The sanctuary additionally features the original stained-glass windows that were designed by Erie local artist John Vahanian and dedicated to Monsignor Addison Yehl by the Delta Sigma Phi alumni. These windows were first dedicated on Oct. 1, 1993 and will continue to be a source of artistic and religious inspiration and reflection for the Gannon community.

In the updated Narthex of the Chapel is a stained-glass panel, “Gratitude.” It was conceived and crafted by local artisan Donna Styborski Reese and commissioned in 2021 to serve as part of a recognition wall highlighting donors who contributed to the campaign for the Mary, Seat of Wisdom Chapel.

The Chapel’s transformation also includes the development of Kraus Hall, named for Dean Gerald R. Kraus and his wife, Beatrice, through a generous gift by Gerald A. Kraus, Ph.D. ’64 and Ann Kraus. The room will serve as a common area for students to gather in fellowship following Mass or during reserved group events.

Among other updates, the Chapel now has a state-of-the-art audio-visual system for events, a courtyard reflection garden that honors Monsignor Richard Sullivan, a restored Sacristy, more restrooms, a kitchen and a parking lot.

The beginnings of a Christian church on the site go back to 1860, when the congregation of the First Presbyterian church dedicated a brick edifice with a towering steeple. That original building was partially destroyed by fire in 1920 and not fully restored until 1940. A second fire in 1944 completely destroyed the building.

The present church was built in 1950. Its congregation merged with the Presbyterian Church of the Covenant in January of 1981 and is now the First Presbyterian Church of the Covenant on West Sixth Street. Gannon University purchased the property that year with a vision of continuing the church as the University Chapel. The Chapel was dedicated on Oct. 8, 1989.

“This Chapel is a special sign that we are the pilgrim church on earth on a journey to heaven,” said Father Michael Kesicki, chaplain and associate vice president of University Mission and Ministry. “My hope is that all who come into this place, especially our students, may discover here the encounter of God’s mercy and the friendship of the saints who accompany us on the way to virtue and goodness.”

Register for this livestreamed event at https://www.gannonalumni.org/event/ChapelBlessing

A recording of the livestreamed Mass and Rite of Dedication of the Mary, Seat of Wisdom Chapel will be available following the event at https://www.gannon.edu/chapeldedication