[intro] Sister Catherine Meinert, Provincial Superior of the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill United States Province, recently received word from Celli-Flynn Brennan Architects & Planners, Pittsburgh, that the firm was recognized with the “Timeless Award” for the design of the congregation’s Queen of Peace Chapel.[/intro]
The American Institute of Architects, Pittsburgh Chapter, designates the award for buildings that have “stood the test of time particularly well.” The Sisters of Charity commissioned the firm in the early 1960s to design the chapel and an adjoining housing facility, Doran Hall, to accommodate the burgeoning number of postulants and novices of that era. Over the years, the sisters’ needs for Doran Hall changed and so did the building; however, the beautiful Queen of Peace Chapel remained virtually unchanged and is a preferred place for quiet prayer.
“We believe that this building was given this award because it has not been changed and contains natural materials and a quiet reverential beauty that is appropriate for a small, countryside chapel.”
– Celli-Flynn Brennan spokesman, Thomas Celli, AIA
In the case of Queen of Peace Chapel, architects Mario Celli and Sylvester Damianos achieved the firm’s goals for the chapel design by using rich brown walnut wood, Pennsylvania fieldstone, natural flagstone flooring, and abundant natural light to create a beautiful and serene prayer space. A simple stone and glass exterior and the steeply sloping slate roof were chosen to blend with the architectural features of nearby Ennis Hall, a stone and slate mansion built in the 1920s. (Ennis Hall housed novices at that time.) The chapel was positioned to extend out between Doran Hall and Ennis Hall and serve as connecting point between the two––bridging the old and the new.
The architects of Celli-Flynn Brennan collaborated with George Nakashima, an internationally known Pennsylvania woodworker who crafted the contemporary altar screen, communion rail, and pews in the chapel. The walnut furnishings and natural flagstone flooring meld with the outdoor landscape viewable through the chapel’s clear glass sidewalls.
As the decades passed, the Sisters of Charity found it necessary to remodel Doran Hall for other uses. As the sisters extended use of Doran Hall to meet varied spiritual needs of the faith community, Doran Hall underwent renovations and took on new character. The untouched Queen of Peace Chapel was a perfect place to pray for those who attended spiritual retreats, days of reflection, RCIA workshops, or Engaged Encounter Weekends at the remodeled Doran Hall Retreat and Renewal Center from the late ‘70s to the mid ‘90s.
In addition to sharing the Queen of Peace Chapel with various groups who held programs at Doran Hall, the sisters continued to celebrate entrance days and vow days there. During the summer months the chapel was used for the sisters’ annual retreats. The sisters invited friends and neighbors to celebrate Christmas Midnight Mass and Easter Vigil Liturgy with them in the chapel. Queen of Peace Chapel was also a place where Seton Hill University students celebrated special seasons with evenings of prayer.
Currently, the beautiful Queen of Peace Chapel is used by sisters who reside at Doran Hall. The news of the “Timeless Award” came just as the Sisters of Charity completed construction of a Peace Garden that can be viewed from the chapel. An extension of the chapel’s serenity, the Peace Garden is a place of timeless beauty for prayer and meditation.
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