A place for prayer
This article is reprinted from the winter 2011 issue of HOPE.
The sisters who will be returning “home” to Providence Hall once the renovation is complete will also return home to a small, renovated chapel located on the second floor.
Although months of effort to rethink, rewire and rehabilitate Providence Hall will one day come to an end, the sisters know well what occurs within the Providence Hall chapel is never-ending. Just like faith and hope and love.
The Providence Hall chapel serves as a place that brings the sisters — individually and in groups — together for special devotions, prayer or meditation. “The chapel was set up when access to the Church of the Immaculate Conception was restricted,” said Sister Ann Stephen Stouffer, director of Residential Life and administrator of Providence Hall at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
In 1986, the Church of the Immaculate Conception underwent restoration not only to conform with the liturgical norms of the Second Vatican Council, but also to strengthen the floor joists.
Research by Sister Marie Esther Sivertsen, an Archives assistant, reveals records noting “a chapel was set up in Room 223 [of Providence Hall]” during the time of the church’s renovation. The original purpose of the chapel was to “replace (temporarily) the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, presumably because the hallway was filled with pews from the church.”
The Providence Hall chapel, according to Sister Marie Esther’s research, “opened” July 7, 1986. The sisters loved the little chapel and its location made it convenient for frequent visits. When the church and the original Blessed Sacrament Chapel were reopened, it was decided to retain the small chapel on Providence Hall’s second floor. “They [the sisters] had to petition to keep the chapel there,” Sister Ann Stephen said.
Prior to the current Providence Hall renovation, Sister Ann Stephen said she would see sisters at the chapel. “I would see sisters there or together as a group for morning and evening prayers,” she said.
“One group met here and another would meet on the sun porches [of Providence Hall]. [The chapel] was used on a daily basis,” Sister Ann Stephen said. “It was used for small, personal reflections or sharing or gathering together to pray the Rosary. It made it inviting because everyone could take part.”
Dimensions of the chapel will remain the same after renovation, although it will be “a little bit wider,” Sister Ann Stephen said, looking over copies of blueprints. The chapel’s room size makes it “more intimate,” she explained.
There will also be lighter, brighter renovated Providence Hall sun porches — one above the east door on the third floor and another above the east door on the second floor.
“There will also be a gathering place on the second floor in a corner section of the building, and updated kitchenettes, where sisters can ‘share time,’” according to Sister Ann Stephen. There will also be a first floor conference room and an activities room, the latter designated as space where sisters can do arts and crafts, among other things.
Although there will be new paint, along with new pieces of furniture and fixtures, the renovated Providence Hall will have many pieces of the same furnishings found at various locations on the motherhouse grounds. Shannan Spence, an interior decorator, worked with the sisters to ensure that, Sister Ann Stephen said. A Providence Associate, Camille Snyder, will also help to reassemble the rooms.
With the renovation, it was important that Providence Hall, including the chapel, retain a connection as “home.”
“One of the things that we hear from the sisters, who moved from Providence Hall during the renovation, is when they do move back they want it to be like home,” Sister Ann Stephen said. “I think they will be happy with what it will look like. I feel like we did preserve the atmosphere of home.”