For the first time last Friday night, the students of Thomas Aquinas College, New England, participated in the Lenten practice of praying the Stations of the Cross in Our Mother of Perpetual Help Chapel. Their devotion was made possible thanks to the installation of 14 hand-painted stations — scenes depicting the passion and death of Christ — that now line the Chapel walls. Like their counterparts on the California campus, the New England stations have a noble history and reflect the role of Providence in the life of Thomas Aquinas College.
Constructed in 1909 on what was then the campus of the Northfield School for Girls, the Chapel was renamed in honor of Our Mother of Perpetual Help last summer, as the College prepared for the arrival of the first students on the newly acquired New England campus. Over the last year the building has undergone a steady process of transformation, with the installation of a center aisle for processions, an altar, a tabernacle, an altar rail, kneelers, confessionals, and a mosaic of its patroness. With the addition of the stations, the Chapel’s transformation is one step closer to completion.
“The stations come from a church that was closed in the Pittsburgh area,” says New England Chaplain Rev. Greg Markey. “Each one is a work of art, especially the faces. They match the Chapel amazingly well, both by the size and the color,” even though they were designed for another building. “They were made during the same historical period, right after the turn of the century.”
In this regard, the New England stations share something in common with the indoor stations of the Cross on the California campus. The 14 travertine stations that hang in Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel were likewise more than 100 years old and salvaged from a shuttered church — St. Thomas Aquinas in Milwaukee — yet providentially seem to match perfectly the style of their new home.
Like those in California, the New England stations are also a reflection of the tremendous generosity of Thomas Aquinas College’s benefactors, many of whom stepped forward in response to Fr. Markey’s request last fall to help furnish the Massachusetts chapel. “I am especially grateful to the benefactors who sponsored the stations,” the chaplain says. “It would not have been possible without their generosity, and now the whole community is enjoying them.”
Credit for the stations’ beauty belongs in no small part to the work of two artisans who helped restore them before their installation. Michelle Scheurer, the mother of a freshman on the New England campus, touched up the paint on the statues and their bases. And since most of the stations were missing their crosses, alumnus woodworker George Krestyn (’03) — who previously reconfigured the Chapel’s pews and refinished its floor — crafted and affixed new ones. “The Chapel,” says Fr. Markey, “is starting to look very Catholic now.”
The fruits of this hard work and generosity were evident Friday night. Most of the student body, joined by members of the faculty, their families, and members of the surrounding community, came to the evening service to contemplate Christ’s salvific sacrifice. In keeping with College custom, Fr. Markey led the faithful in praying St. Alphonsus Liguori’s “Way of the Cross,” the very prayers that students have long said at stations services on the California campus.
We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You.
Because, by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.
If you would like to pray with the students of Thomas Aquinas College this Lent, please sign up for daily reminders to watch our five-minute Stations of the Cross video.