We adore you, O most holy Lord Jesus Christ, here and in all your Churches throughout the world and we praise you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.
The Franciscan Sisters of Chicago welcome you to Sacred Heart of Jesus Chapel of Our Lady of Victory Convent. Our vision for this sacred space was to create a holy place that is warm and inviting. By using soft and graceful lines it has been our goal to create a worship space large enough for liturgy and yet small enough to foster intimacy with the Lord and with each other. It is our hope that our Motherhouse Chapel will encourage prayer that leads to holy relationships with others as we experience the presence of the sacred. In this special home for the sisters of our congregation we also give witness to our heritage and tradition as Franciscan religious women.
The Gathering Space
Upon entry into our convent the statue of Our Lady of Victory, the patroness of our Motherhouse, greets you from our gathering area. This white marble statue also served the same function of welcoming in our former convent. Here we gather as God’s holy people coming together to worship. It is our hope that all who come to our convent will sense the welcoming hospitality of our community.
The unique wood and glass chapel doors help to remind all who pass through them that they are entering a sacred place. As you grasp the door handles this sense of entry begins.The glass panels in the doors, in the transoms, and in the side panels are comprised of a variety of types of glass, both clear rippled and clear chinchilla as well as iridized clear noogie and iridized honey opal. Cut faceted golf-ruby and topaz jewels are used as accent pieces.
The large center golden circle reminds us of our unity as members of the family of God. The lines or stems that support the circle are curved as if they have a living quality. In this design we are reminded of the unity that we have in God and of our common call to share our faith with others.
Because much of the glass is colorless, as you look through the doors you realize that something awaits you beyond them. One enters the chapel to be reconnected with the family of God. Likewise when you leave the chapel you are reminded of the call to spread others what was found within it. The call to be nourished by Christ and then to go forth and spread the message of the Gospel has been the foundation of the work of the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago.
The Baptism/Holy Water Font
Shaped like the womb by which we enter into life, the enter passageway features a barrel vaulted ceiling that leads to the Baptismal/Holy Water Font. The life of each Christian begins when we are washed in the waters of Baptism. Each time we use holy water, we are reminded of our Baptism. The teleology of religious life teaches us that the vows of the sisters are a deep ending of their Baptismal commitment. The moving waters in the font remind all who touch it of the living presence of Christ within them. As we enter the Chapel we bless ourselves in preparation for prayer.
A limestone bowl is held by a mahogany base that forms a hexagon at its top edge around the bowl. The six-sided figure recalls the Sixth Day, the day of the Lord’s death. In Baptism we experience the death of sin and the beginning of new life in and through Christ. The bowl of the font is both humble and precious. It is humble because it is made of common stone, locally quarried Lemont limestone. It is precious in its present form and use. Because Lemont limestone has a hard and brittle nature, six stones were quarried before one suitable stone was found. Stonemasons in St. Louis hand carved this incredibly hard stone to its final bowl shape.
The octagonal dome above the font contains a mosaic of the Lamb of God taken from the large mosaic that formed the backdrop for the altar in the previous chapel. This Venetian glass mosaic reminds us that in Baptism we are made white as snow through the blood of the Lamb.
The octagonal shape is repeated in the marble surrounding the font. The octagon recalls the Eight Day, the Resurrection, the day of perfection in the Lord. Our life of grace begins with our death to sin in Baptism and marks with our death to sin in Baptism and marks the beginning of our journey into eternal life. St. Francis reminds us that we should not fear bodily death but only that death - sin - by which we lose eternal life.
The Paschal Candle
The Paschal Candle stands at the head of the baptismal/holy water front, reinforcing the relationship between the dying and rising of Christ with our own death and resurrection through the waters of Baptism. The simple sculpted lines of the four legs rise in sweeping curves toward the brass candle holder giving emphasis to the candle rather than to itself. The smooth sculpted wood contrasts with the hand-carved etched border. This same design element is repeated in the altar.
In a recessed area near the font is the Ambry. Made from mahogany, it draws its inspiration from the tongues of fire attributed to being anointed by the Spirit. The use of hand-blown glass vessels as containers helps us to remember how precious the oils are within them. We use them within sacramental celebrations and also for the blessings of sacred spaces and altars.
The Reconciliation Room
The Reconciliation Room is also located in close proximity to the font. Our journey of faith begins with Baptism. It is renewed and strengthened throughout our pilgrimage in life through the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
St. Francis and St. Clare
Statues of St. Francis and St. Clare, on the walls framing the font, welcome you into this Franciscan chapel. Both have been carved in white Carrara marble. The statue of Francis is a part of our legacy from our former chapel. The statue of St. Clare was recently carved in Italy.
The Worship Space
The octagonal shape of the chapel draws attention to our celebration of rebirth in the Resurrection. Likewise the cloud-like ceiling appears to float over the assembly as a reminder of the Kingdom of Heaven. The halo of light that accents all sides of the ceiling brings natural light into this scared space during the daylight hours and provides for contemplative reflection at night when soft light cascades down the walls. The volume of the space that the high ceiling provides reminds us of the grandeur of God especially as we celebrate the Eucharist and humbles all who enter this sacred space.
A wainscot of marble surrounds the walls of the room. This stone was formerly used as part of the sanctuary in the former chapel. Now it is used to encompass the entire assembly as we come to pray. The marble tile perimeter reflects the form of the ceiling, separating the carpeted floor from the walls. As a result the assembly is seated in an area that provides a sense of floating, free from the walls.
The focal point of the Worship Space is the Altar. Located directly in line with the font at the entrance, the placement of the altar reflects our ongoing bond with Christ through Baptism and the Eucharist. It is through our Baptism that we are called to be celebrated at the Banquet that recalls the death, the sacrifice of Christ. Christ has become our food because he allowed himself to be the victim. We begin our Christian journey through the living waters and then go to the holy table to be fed and nourished.
The altar is made of quarter sawn Honduras mahogany veneers. The hand-carved apron of the Mensa (top) is made of 16 individual pieces. The oval shape expands the area of the top of the table as an invitation for all to come and join in the Eucharistic Liturgy and to be fed by the Lord. The eight piece radial pattern of the veneers constituting the Mensa is particularly stunning because of the chatoyant quality of the altar top, as individual pieces of wood change color and luster as you walk around it. This seemingly changeable quality of the wood, highlighting the individual pieces within the whole, is symbolic of the Christian community. “We are many parts but we are all one body.” The hand carved rough border of the apron of the altar top provides a stark contrast against the intricate pattern of highly polished veneers that form the top surface. It reminds us of the mystery of the reign of God that is both finished and yet unfinished. In the center of the Mensa is a brass oval containing the relics of St. Francis and St. Clare, our models in the Franciscan Order, and are a constant reminder of the presence of these saints within the lives of the community.
The six-part base of the altar takes its inspiration from the nature themes that St. Francis proclaimed in the Canticle of the Creatures. It can be seen as the trunk of a tree, the tree of life in Genesis, the tree of the cross that held our Lord, the tree outside the window in our world. It may also be seen as a metaphor of the community reaching toward Christ together as we come celebrating our oneness in Christ in the Eucharist.
The Ambo was fashioned to honor Christ in the proclamation of the Word of God. It too, is a table, the table of the Word, the place where we come to be fed by God’s Word. Made of quarter sawn mahogany and mahogany veneers, the design of the ambo is meant to compliment the shape of the altar. The half radial pattern of veneers that form the top surface are meant to represent the proclamation of the Good News, God’s Word going forth.
Four pieces of wood were used to construct the base of the ambo to remind us of the four Evangelists who tell us the Good News of Jesus’ life and ministry. The simplicity of the design was meant to pay tribute to Francis, the “small” preacher from Assisi.
Seating for the Presider and the Assembly
The flexible seating arrangement encourages liturgical participation. It also provides for seating arrangements in different ways, depending upon the type of prayer that is being celebrated. The Presider’s Chair is an enhanced design of one of the assembly chairs. It signifies the role of the Presider among those who are gathered together. It also shows the bond that is present between all who gather.
The Processional Cross - the San Damiano Cross
Another highlight of the worship space is the San Damiano Processional Cross. This icon was hand-painted for this chapel by monk and iconographer, Peter Pearson of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. When not used in processions, the cross fits into a wood shell made of mahogany with brass inserts. The cross is flanked by a simple stand that holds three candles that are removable and can be carried as part of the procession.
The Mosaic of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
This chapel, as well as the chapel in the former motherhouse, is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. With great care this Venetian glass mosaic was removed from its former site and reinstalled in this Chapel. As you enter this prayer space you immediately are embraced by the arms of Jesus drawing you into his heart as you join individually or communally in prayer. The gift of this love enflames our hearts to be more like His and to share that love with others.
The Reservation Chapel
The Reservation Chapel provides a prayerful space for adoration of the Eucharist. It allows those who desire to do so to come in close proximity to the tabernacle for private prayer. The Tabernacle Tower stands as a striking feature in this room. Made from quarter-sawn mahogany, the tower reaches to a height of 10 1/2 feet. The flame shaped tower is a sign of the power of the love of Jesus that radiates to us. The fire of His Love enlightens our hearts and lives in us. It is also reminiscent of that portion of that Canticle of the Creatures of St. Francis:
“Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire, through whom You light the night and he is a beautiful and playful and robust and strong.
The spherical brass tabernacle is meant to be a representation of “Brother Sun.” Francis wrote, “How beautiful is he, how radiant in all his splendor.” The simple shape formed of special materials make the tabernacle a focus of attention. The presence of Christ radiates forth from it as a flame of fire burns most brilliantly at its center.
The five windows in this chapel are meant to provide an atmosphere of quiet and mediation. Although there are five separate windows a continuous flowing design and color theme unite them into one. The colors of the glass serve to create an atmosphere of mystery and to provide an experience of the sacred. Jewel-like colors work subtly into an overall restful, yet vibrant design that both catches and diffuses light. The glass has a concentration of light emanating down from the heavens then enfolding us in an ethereal atmosphere of lavender and aqua tones.
All are welcomed to pray here and experience the gentle movement of God, and be touched by the fire of God’s Love.
The Stations of the Cross
The fourteen Stations of the Cross play a special role in Franciscan spirituality. These hand-carved wood depictions of the Lord’s passion and death, originally used in the St. Clare Infirmary of the former motherhouse, were carved in Italy. The fine detail in each of them gives tribute to the unknown artist and inspires meditation on the event that is being depicted. Each station has been refurbished and placed on a new mahogany background that repeats the shape of the windows.
The Shrine of Mary and Joseph
As you enter the chapel and proceed to the right of the Holy Water Font you will see the Shrine of Mary and Joseph. The white Carrara marble statues of Mary and Joseph were also part of the chapel in the former motherhouse. The Franciscan Sisters of Chicago honor Mary under the title of the Immaculate Conception as their patroness. Mother Mary Theresa instructed the Sisters to turn to St. Joseph for their material and spiritual needs.
The Shrine of St. Anthony of Padua
The shrine of St. Anthony of Padua is located in the corridor of the west side entrance. A contemporary of St. Francis, St. Anthony was a humble and great preacher who had a deep love of God. This marble statue also came from the former motherhouse chapel.
The Devotional Room
Sarcophagus of Venerable
Mother Mary Theresa Dudzik
The focal point of the devotional room is the sarcophagus of Venerable Mother Mary Theresa Dudzik. Mother Theresa founded the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago on December 8, 1894. She died on September 20, 1918. As a part of the process for the Cause of Beatification her body was exhumed on October 13, 1972 and placed in a granite sarcophagus. On March 26, 1994, she was declared Venerable. As a part of the move to the new motherhouse, her remains were transferred into the new chapel on October 15, 2002 and placed in the granite sarcophagus that had been used in 1972. The spirit of Mother Theresa who loved the poor, the elderly and all in need, continues to guide her sisters who walk in her footsteps.
The Infant of Prague
A statue depicting the Infant of Prague is also in this devotional room. This image has long been given a place of honor by the Franciscan Sisters. Since the 17th century it has been said that, “as long as you honor this image you shall never want.’ The various colored robes worn by this statue were made by the sisters in the community.
Our Lady of Czestochowa
Also located in this room is an icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa that was given to the sisters in 1936 by the Our Lady of Czestochowa Society of St. Joseph Home of Chicago. This beautiful image of Mary had been touched to the original icon in Jasna Gora, Poland before it was brought to Chicago. Devotion to Our Lady under this title is an integral part of the sisters’ Polish heritage and continues to be a popular focus of prayer both by the Franciscan Sisters and many other who visit.
Stained Glass Windows
A significant part of the chapel design is the stained glass windows. These six panels of glass are each 14 1/2 feet tall and 4 feet wide. They rise from our midst and lead us to the Kingdom. The inspiration for their design is rooted in St. Francis’ Canticle of the Creatures. The various shapes and colors gently move to connect each window to the next. Like the windows in the Chapel of Reservation, they create a sense of awe and mystery while calling us to rejoice in God’s creation. As the sunlight streams through them they radiate God’s presence. Each day at different times and moments the windows fill the room with changing colors that penetrate to the soul manifesting God’s presence in this experience. The words, “Be Still and know that I am God,” quietly speak through them. Because this is a chapel used primarily by women, the windows are feminine and gentle, sacred and quiet, and yet vibrant because of their message.
Each window, beginning at the left as you enter the chapel, reflects a stanza of the Canticle, becoming visual images of the written hymn. Window three is to the right of the Sacred Heart mosaic. The glass in each window is darker at the bottom and lighter at the top. This design element is meant to repeatedly remind us that all of life is a spiraling cycle of death to life, as we live our earthly lives into eternal life. In the Canticle St. Francis cautions us that we should never fear bodily death for it only brings us closer to heaven.
“Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death, from whom no one living can escape. Woe to those who die in mortal sin. Blessed are those whom death will find in Your most holy will, for the second death shall do them no harm.”
This window is meant to depict the different qualities of Sister Water. Cascading down from the top of the window is rain coming from the heavens. The rainwater is swept up in a circular motion as rivers, oceans, and seas are formed. The droplets of rain form the ringlets at the bottom of the window. Both the power and the gentleness of water remind us of its many uses. Sister Water has been made “holy’ by Jesus for she was used for his baptism and ours.
“Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water, who is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.”
The water from the first window flows into the second window that honors Sister Moon and the stars for it is the moon that causes the ebb and flow of the tides. She is the “foster” light, not as bright as the sun. She is the feminine form of the much more powerful sun. It is in the dark of night when only the moon and the stars illuminate us that we often enter into the deepest moments of communion with God who heals us from within our inner depths.
“Praised be You, my Lord through Sister Moon and the stars, in heaven you formed them clear and precious and beautiful.”
Brother Wind is powerful and unpredictable like all weather. Like the wind, the Spirit of God can be felt but not seen. Like the wind, God’s action within us is barely felt yet is seen in the results. Sometimes it is subtle as showing in the transparent glass and gentle shifts of color.The vibrant reds remind us of the power of the wind especially as a sign of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and its force experienced by the assembled disciples.
“Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind, and through the air, cloudy and serene, and every kind of weather, through whom You give sustenance to Your creatures.”
Brother Wind appears to be fanning the flames of Brother Fire in this window. Fire needs air to grow so these windows share many of the same colors. The fire comes forth from the center of the earth which is a natural brazier forming the bowl from which the flames spew forth. There is much energy and power in this symbol. Just as the flame on a candle seems to be separated from the wick so also the roaring flames break off into small sputtering flames which seem to dance with joy. It is the outward manifestation of Brother Fire that has been chosen as the form for our tabernacle. Artists have often used Brother Fire to signify the intensity of the love of Jesus for us.
“Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire, through whom You light the night and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.”
Sir Brother Sun is a swirling ball of energy. Its fiery surface is so concentrated that it glows yellow as opposed to Brother Fire who is red. Note also that there are no boundaries at the top of the window to contain Brother Sun. Brother Sun rules the day from the heavens while Brother Fire comes from the depths of the earth. It is Brother Sun who sustains all creatures and promotes the growth of all green and flowering plants, fruits and vegetables, shrubs and trees. As Sister Water provides refreshment for the earth, Brother Sun gives it the warmth needed for its growth. Brother Sun, as St. Francis reminds us ‘bears a likeness of You, Most High One.”
“Praised be You, my Lord, with all your creatures, especially through Sir Brother Sun, who is the day and through whom You give us light. And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendor; and bears a likeness of You, Most High One.”
Mother Earth is most benevolent because she allows us to use her resources to sustain our daily life and to allow all of creation to grow. We not only feed on the plants that she produces but we go into her very center removing precious resources. As a good Mother she tries to continuously replenish her resources for our use. With bold lines the central column of this window illustrates the unrestrained growth of vegetation. The yellows of Brother Sun and blues of Sister Water represent the interaction of Mother Earth with the other elements of creation. Nothing is still in creation. There is always constant change as growth and dying continue in their dynamic tension. Mother Earth accepts the rains from the heavens, the warm of the sun, the coolness of the moon, the mystery of the stars - all to give praise to God the Creator.
“Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with colored flower and herbs”