The chapel that love built: St. Mark school chapel renovated
HUNTERSVILLE — St. Mark Catholic School opened nearly 10 years ago in what was then a rural community outside Charlotte. The schools' walls were all white and ripe for transformation. All they awaited was the vision of the parents, children and a church community that would build Catholic culture at the new K-8 school.
One of the dreams that had been in the minds and the hearts of the St. Mark School community from the beginning recently came to fruition on Feb. 15, the day after Valentine's Day, when the Sacred Heart Chapel that sits at the heart of the school was rededicated by Monsignor Richard Bellow, pastor of St. Mark Church, after a four-week renovation.
Pictured above: (from left) St. Mark School eighth-graders Brooke Martel and Faith Morgan participate in Adoration in the newly-renovated Sacred Heart Chapel on Feb. 15. (Photos by Jeannie DeSena for Catholic News Herald).
"Prior to the renovation, the chapel was just a room in the school...nothing pointed to it. Now the outside, as well as the inside, draws the kids into God's house," Monsignor Bellow said.
All the work was done by volunteers so the complete transformation cost just $3,000 for paint, renovation and construction supplies, according to Gail Ferraro, the president of the St. Mark PTO, who has been at the school from the beginning and whose fifth child will graduate from St. Mark next year.
"This has truly been a vision that started more than nine years ago," Ferraro said. "The vision was always there to make the chapel beautiful, from the inside out. It was a labor of love."
All of the items in the chapel have been donated over the years, and it meant a great deal to the school community to keep what had already been given in love and incorporate them into the renovation.
The furnishings came from Charlotte Catholic High School, the altar had been built by St. Mark parishioners Tom and Nancy McGahey, the votive lamp had been dedicated in honor of Susan Ford, a beloved teacher who passed away, and the handcrafted stained glass windows had been commissioned by the Women of Joy Bible study group at the church and designed by artist Greg Stump, whose children have attended the school.
Debbie Butler, principal of St. Mark School, commented on the close connection of the St. Mark community: "The chapel connects St. Mark Church to the school: the Women of Joy meet here; RCIA uses the chapel; children and parents can pray Adoration here; and Mass is held here. It is a special connection that brings us closer to the Church."
Susan and Lee Newman, parishioners at St. Mark whose older daughter attended St. Mark and whose son is now in the seventh grade, were instrumental in the design of the renovations. The Newmans were married in a beautiful chapel in Susan's hometown of Pittsburgh, and they had their children baptized there as well. Arches and woodwork around the windows and doors of the St. Mark chapel all reflect the beauty of that chapel from her native city.
Many volunteers worked four to five hours a day over the four weeks to complete the faux-stone painting on the walls, refurbishing of the chapel furnishings, and installation of the new Stations of the Cross.
"We had no idea how important the chapel was to the kids," Ferraro said. "They would genuflect in the hallway even though they weren't sure if Jesus was in the chapel. The kids were so cute. They gave us their opinions, too."
"We all wanted this renovation, and we could have done it sooner, but there is something to be said for waiting. Good things come in time. We had a vision and we never strayed from that."
Said Monsignor Bellow, “The chapel is the centerpiece of St. Mark Catholic School…it is such a wonderful happening that the children know that the Lord is present in the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle. The children can walk by the chapel and whisper a prayer to the Lord.”
And what is the biggest lesson they learned from the chapel renovation?
Said Ferraro, “Faith is important to these kids.”
— SueAnn Howell, staff writer
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FROM THE PASTORS
Read and listen to homilies posted regularly by pastors at parishes within the Diocese of Charlotte:
- Fr. Frank Cancro at Queen of the Apostles
- Fr. Patrick Earl at St. Peter in Charlotte
- Fr. John Eckert at St. John the Baptist in Tryon
- Fr. Timothy Reid at St. Ann in Charlotte
- Fr. Benjamin Roberts at Our Lady of Lourdes in Monroe
- Fr. Patrick Winslow at St. Thomas Aquinas in Charlotte
- Watch full Masses live and on demand, listen to homilies and reflections from Sacred Heart Church in Salisbury
- Listen to homilies from St. William Catholic Church in Murphy