In the Spring of 2010, the Headmaster’s Council decided that several administrative offices, including the Headmaster’s office, would be relocated to The Patio. Rearranging other office spaces in Saint Norbert Hall left empty the administrative suit of offices created in the space of the original library of Saint Norbert Hall. Plans were made to relocated the chapel to this more prominent and much larger space of the original library.
Over the last four years, construction was completed for the Technology Center, located in the area of the former chapel and sacristy, and the Oratory and Spirituality Center space. All of the work was supervised by Mr. James Tosi, Director Facilities. Much of the work was completed by the Archmere facilities staff: Mr. Larry Osborn, Mr. John Grace, Mr. Robert Graham, and Mr. Dan Lutz. Mr. Denis O’Flynn O’Brien ’74 provided a conceptual design and floor plan for the Oratory space, in collaboration with Fr. Andrew Ciferni, O.Praem., Fr. Joseph McLaughlin, O.Praem., and myself. Mr. Tosi engaged contractors for the installation of the hardwood floors and woodwork, the installation of an emergency exit door and stairs, and the new glass entrance door.
I suggested the Arts and Crafts design of the furnishings and finishes for two reasons: 1) the simplicity of design combined with the warmth of the natural materials and jeweled-toned colors create a restful and uncomplicated place for prayer, and 2) the period aligns with the construction of the original historic buildings on campus – The Patio and The Manor – though adopting different, yet related styles. The altar, ambo, credence table, Holy Water font pedestal, and podium for the Book of Remembrance were uniquely designed for this space and executed by Mr. Bob Taylor with Mr. George Campion. The congregational chairs were made by Amish craftspeople, and the benches were resized and refinished from the pews in the original chapel.
A main feature of the space are the stained glass windows, especially commissioned for Archmere by Willet Stained Glass Studio, under the guidance of Susan Bockius and designed by artist Jane Collins. The windows, moving from left to right as they are viewed from inside the Oratory, depict significant milestones or aspects of the life of Saint Norbert. The warm color palate in the center moves to cool colors at each window, highlighting the presence of the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle. Individual prayers for each of the windows were developed by Frs. Ciferni and McLaughlin, and are based on key words of focus for each window: scientia, peacemaker, wisdom, pietas, apostolic community, reverence, zeal, respect, faith, hope, and charity.
Another feature that has been commissioned but not yet installed for the space is a three-panel icon featuring images of Saint Norbert, the Immaculate Conception, and Saint Augustine, designed by Peter F. Pearson.
On Sunday, we dedicated the Oratory to the Immaculate Conception. In 1932, the Priory of Archmere Academy – The Patio – was dedicated to the Immaculate Conception.
Appropriately, Sunday was the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. Also called the Purification of the Blessed Virgin and Candlemas, this feast, which is also the fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary, is celebrated every February 2 in the Catholic Church.