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Xavier's St. Katharine Drexel Chapel set for Oct. 6 consecration

Archbishop Gregory Aymond will formally consecrate the new 450-seat St. Katharine Drexel Chapel at Xavier University of Louisiana with a Mass Oct. 6 at 4 p.m.

The chapel is the culmination of years of planning, and it is the first chapel ever designed by world-renowned architect Cesar Pelli, who will attend the invitation-only Mass and reception.

The hallmark of the chapel’s design is its simplicity. The architectural team traveled to the motherhouse of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament in Bensalem, Pa., where the theme of simplicity was reinforced. That understated design element resulted in the choice of simple, pure geometric lines, a subdued color and material palette, natural finishes and an abundance of natural light, symbolic of God’s presence.

The sloping front entrance into the chapel aligns directly with the podium outside Xavier’s administration building from which Pope John Paul II delivered a major address during his historic 1987 visit to New Orleans.

The simple metal cross atop the chapel roof soars high enough to be seen by thousands of commuters traveling into New Orleans each day on I-10.

A larger-than-life corpus of the Risen Christ is the visual center of the chapel. Seen closer with its outstretched arms, it appears to float in front of the chancel screen and gives emphasis to the ascension.

A separate meditation chapel – also in the shape of an octagon – will be used as a day chapel and provides a quiet, sacred space.

The Stations of the Cross were designed by José Bedia, one of the greatest living Caribbean artists. His artwork was transformed in glass by local glass artist Laurel Porcari using a color palette that would work as a complement to the stained glass windows she designed.

The wide main entrance leads into a sky-lit space, framed by cream-colored limestone walls bearing quotes from St. Katharine (“O, Lord, grant that we may love you the way you deserve to be loved”) and St. Matthew (“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest”).

Besides the Oct. 6 dedication Mass (invitation only), here is a complete schedule of chapel events Oct. 7-11:

Sunday, October 7
Donor Mass, 9 a.m.
Father Kenneth Brown
Reception: Qatar Pavilion
By invitation only

Donor Mass, noon
Reception: Qatar Pavilion
By invitation only

Student Mass
5:30 p.m.
Reception: Qatar Pavilion
Xavier students only
Monday, October 8
St. Katharine Drexel
Social Justice/Civil Rights
Panel Discussion
6 p.m.
Open to the public
Tuesday, October 9
Citywide Gospel Choir Concert
7 p.m.
Open to the public
Wednesday, October 10
Xavier University Music Department Concert
7 p.m.
Open to the public
Thursday, October 11
Faculty and Staff Mass
Faculty/Staff only

Citywide Prayer Service
7 p.m.
Open to the public
Monday-Thursday, Oct. 8-11
Daily Mass, noon
Tours 1 to 3 p.m.
Open to the public