XU’s New Chapel has Long History
A first look at Our Lady of Peace Chapel
By Gail Finke
A tiny new chapel on Xavier University’s campus opened only days ago, but that’s in its present life. Before being moved to a spot at the end of XU’s academic mall, it was the site of decades of baptisms and weddings for the Williams family, who built it as a private chapel.
The family, prominent in Cincinnati business and philanthropy, donated and built the university’s much larger Bellarmine Chapel in 1962. Their own 22-seat stone chapel, built on their Anderson Township property in 1938, hosted many events before the last of the original residents passed away.
Tom Williams, the youngest of the six Williams children whose parents built the chapel, immediately thought of giving it to the university. “When he approached me, I wondered where in the world we could put a chapel,” said Jesuit Father Michael Graham, XU’s president, who reluctantly turned down the offer. But while Williams looked for another site, XU acquired more property, and when Williams came back, XU said yes.
The chapel, moved stone by stone in December, now anchors a long greenspace that ends at Bellarmine Chapel. “Bellarmine will still remain the ordinary home for sacraments here,” Father Graham said. But the Williams Chapel, Our Lady of Peace, will be open every day for private prayer and will be available for small events, including weddings.
“This is wonderful for the community,” said Norwood resident Elyce Feliz, a Quaker who stopped in the chapel last week on her way to her meeting house. “It’s good to have things like this. People will be drawn to it.”
When “Telegraph” staff visited on a rainy August Thursday, the final improvements to the chapel were being made. The original stained glass windows had been cleaned and restored and the Ohio company that had made them, now called BeauVerre Riordan Stained Glass Studio in Middletown, created new windows to match using the original glass it still had in stock. Inside, the intricately carved wood walls and ceilings (“We’re not 100% sure, but we’re almost 100% sure, that the brother of Charles Williams, who founded Western & Southern, did all the carving,” Father Graham said) has also been cleaned and lit.
A new fabric panel, custom-made in Italy, had just arrived, and Vice President for Facilities Bob Sheeran had brought the new crucifix. Custom made to match the new altar, the metal crucifix replaces a carved wooden one too delicate for use. The Williams family will get that back, Father Graham said – and will be welcome any time for special Masses and events.
“We had Mass here for them in July – about 40 of them, standing room only,” Father Graham said. “They’re very enthusiastic about its new lease on life.”
Scroll down for detail photos of the chapel. “The Catholic Telegraph” will share photos of the gardens and the completed interior in coming weeks.