By Linda Scherer
WINSTED, MN Holy Trinity parishioners had a special opportunity to be part of a Eucharist procession Dec. 3 to establish what is believed to be the first-ever chapel in their school.
Fr. Tony Hesse, Holy Trinity parish priest, said the ceremony was new to him, and something he had never been part of before.
“That is why we really wanted to invite the kids of all grades to come to it, to watch, and be part of. To witness the reverence of the ceremony that is a tradition of the church,” Hesse said.
The ceremony was to celebrate and bless a school chapel which was recently completed on the third floor of the high school, next to the media center.
The reason for having a chapel in the school, according to Hesse, was for students, faculty, and staff to have a place to go, when they feel a need to pray during the school day.
In creating a safe environment for students, having a chapel in the school gives them easy access without leaving the building and crossing the street to go to the church.
Hesse said the idea of putting a chapel in the high school wasn’t something he wanted to take credit for.
“I felt this nudging the whole time and I want to give credit where credit is due to our Lord,” Hesse said. “It was because of that constant nudging, I felt it was something I needed to do. We were blessed to have a room available in the high school.”
The first step in establishing the chapel was to contact the New Ulm Diocese to get permission to have a tabernacle placed in the school, which is where the Eucharist is kept.
The Catholic church believes that the Eucharist, or blessed sacrament, is the body of Christ, and Hesse wanted the blessed sacrament in the chapel to bring Christ into the school in a sacramental way.
“Not to say he was never there to begin with,” Hesse said. “By bringing Christ into our school through the Eucharist, my prayer is that it will inspire all of us to be Christ-like. My hope is we will be more like our Lord, not only in avoiding temptation and sin, but if we do, we can turn to our Lord for help to forgive, and to be forgiven.”
“So when people walk into our school, what they see is an image of Christ as people. They can see when they walk into our doors that Christ is here,” Hesse added.
The diocese not only gave its permission to have a tabernacle in the school, but planned the ceremony for the Eucharist procession.
Once Hesse had been allowed to proceed with the project, the work began to transform the one-time classroom into a chapel.
“I definitely saw Christ’s presence, even before we blessed the chapel,” Hesse said.
Volunteers stepped forward to help as soon as they learned about it. There were so many people who gave their time and talent to prepare the chapel, that Hesse was afraid to start listing names for fear he would leave someone out.
Students painted the walls after a parishioner puttied and taped the walls and ceiling. People helped move pews and kneelers that had been removed from the church to provide better seating for the handicapped. Other volunteers anchored them to the school floor so they would be stable.
The chapel altar was made by a gentleman from Winsted several years ago; the crucifix that once hung above the altar in the church was touched up by one of the teachers and hung in the chapel.
An extra tabernacle to store the Eucharist was available from the church, and a set of Stations of the Cross were found in the sacristy.
The formal ceremony to bring the Eucharist to the chapel followed an all-school Mass. The remaining Eucharist from the Mass was placed in a ciborium (a special container with a cover).
Placing the Eucharist under his humeral veil (shawl), Hesse stepped under a canopy carried by the altar boys.
The procession was led by the Knights of Columbus in their finery, while all those present sang the song “Sanctuary.”
In the high school, because the chapel is small, a video camera was used to film the ceremony and display it on a screen, outside the room. When there wasn’t any room left inside the chapel, others watched the ceremony on a screen in the hallway.
Inside the chapel, the younger children were given front-row seats, close to the altar, and paid close attention to what was taking place. Hesse placed the Eucharist in the tabernacle, and then blessed the chapel and everyone present.
At the end of the ceremony, the children’s voices could be heard above the adults when they sang “This Little Light of Mine.”
“It is one of the joys of priestly ministry to see how everything comes together and so many people coming together, reaffirming that this was something that God wanted us to do,” Hesse said.
Besides using the chapel for individual prayer, Hesse also plans to say some of the school Masses in the new chapel because it allows the children to be much closer to the altar and be a part of the service.