Most of St. Thomas University’s faith community has accepted the relocation of its chapel, but bitterness remains about the administration’s lack of consultation.
Adam Blanchard, a second year religious studies and Catholic studies major, created a Change.org petition asking STU administration to reconsider the move on Thursday. In one day, it gathered nearly 200 signatures in support.
“Even though the decision has been made and many in the community have accepted it and are sort of grieving the loss of the chapel, I think it’s a good way to say, ‘for the record, this is what the students think,’” said Blanchard.
The announcement was formally made to the faith community after mass on Sunday, Jan. 4, though reports of the change were leaked to local media last Dec. 26.
“Unfortunately we had to hear about this through a rumor,” Blanchard said. “The students who are affected by this decision and members of the faith community were not consulted.”
Members of the campus faith community expressed concern that the new location in Holy Cross House, currently a banquet hall, is too dark and uninviting.
Marjorie Aitken has found peace in the current chapel in George Martin Hall since she began going to mass there almost 50 years ago.
She designed the stained glass window depicting the Virgin Mary, one of two stained glass works of art that help foster the bright and open nature of the chapel.
“I feel [the windows] belong to the university, and the university will make a decision on where to put them. But as the artist who made one of them, I would like it to remain where it is,” Aitken said, adding that around noon, “the sun shines through and the whole place really sparkles.”
Dr. Gillian Thompson, a UNB professor emeritus, argued for just downsizing the chapel in GMH with St. Thomas president Dawn Russell two days after Russell dropped in after mass to deliver the news of the relocation.
“The argument is that the changes are being made for students… but if they weren’t involved with the making of the decision then I think its time we find out if they really are for this,” said Thompson.
Thompson has reconciled to the decision as well. She believes cooperation is key to making sure the new chapel offers the same experience as the old.
“I have a rather delicate role in all of this,” said the STU parishioner of over 40 years. “Because I think it’s a done deal, it doesn’t matter if I like it or not.”
Thompson sees her role is helping her friends make the transition to the new chapel.
“The reality is that we’re going to move, and I want that to be as easy for people as possible.”
STU communications director Jeffrey Carleton said the school is beginning to plan the project ,which is expected to be finished by summer.
“It’s always a little more complicated and a little more involved than you first imagine, but at the same time the work is underway,” he said.