Santa Maria College Chapel: A Rich History

Original Chapel in the Convent

As we approach the 67th anniversary of the opening of the Santa Maria College chapel on 22 April, we take a nostalgic journey back in time to explore its rich history.

In 1939, with the outbreak of World War II, plans for the College to build a chapel were put on hold due to the short supply of building materials. The Sisters of Mercy continued to use a large room in the convent as a temporary chapel. Today, that room serves as a classroom in the McAuley Building.

It wasn’t until 1954, when Father Con Finn SJ was appointed parish priest of Attadale, where there was no church, that it was decided to finally build the chapel at Santa Maria College, 16 years after the original plans were drawn. The chapel was completed in 1955 and consecrated by Archbishop Prendiville the following year.

Congregation at chapel opening in 1956

During the opening ceremony, Archbishop Prendiville praised the high standards of the College and compared it to “a garden attached to the Lord’s household, where women of piety and culture tended and fostered the flowers of virtue.”

The chapel’s furnishings in those early days included pews for the congregation facing the altar and two rows of pews for the Sisters along the sides facing the congregation. The original kneelers for the Sisters were padded and covered in brown vinyl, while those for the congregation were not. These kneelers were originally part of the temporary chapel. The original altar was specially carved by the father of Margaret Delaney (1942) and was replaced during a renovation in 1969.

Chapel pre 1969

The renovations in 1969 saw the removal of the original pews facing the congregation, and a set of smaller pews were added to the left and right sides of the chapel facing the altar with padded kneelers added to all pews. These new pews were upholstered with green vinyl. A new crucifix was placed above the altar and the tabernacle was moved to the right of the altar.  A new outside porch and organ were also installed.

In 1991 the chapel was again refurbished, with six of the original glass windows being replaced on the western side. Ken Wildy, brother of past students Margaret (1954) and Gay Wildy (1958), was asked to design the windows. These windows represent Catherine McAuley, the history of the College, the Mass, the Gospel, the Holy Spirit and Mary. The windows of the two vestibules to the western side of the chapel were done by the same team a couple of years later. Two panels of the original leadlight windows can still be seen on either side of the altar.

The chapel has been continuously used since its opening in 1955. It serves as a place for quiet contemplation and the place for College masses, liturgies and weddings of our alumni.

Maria Mosole's (Randazzo, 1983) wedding in 1992

Weddings in the chapel have been possible since 1980 when permission was granted by the Sisters of Mercy. The first wedding was between Kerry Hardie and Nikolei Bondarenko on 11 January 1980.

Maria Mosole (Randazzo) has a special connection to the chapel. She graduated in 1983 and then worked as a teacher at Santa Maria from 1989 to 2016. Maria is also a past parent; her daughter Isabella graduated in 2012. Maria married in the chapel on 22 December 1992. She is now the College Sacristan, a role that requires her to care for the space, prepare it for College masses throughout the year and to assist past students who choose the chapel for their wedding day. Since starting at Santa Maria College as a boarder 45 years ago, Maria still sees the chapel as a peaceful and spiritual retreat from the busyness of school life, a quiet place for prayer, contemplation and giving thanks for the many blessings we have.

The chapel today

As we celebrate this milestone, we reflect on the Chapel’s rich history and the countless memories it has helped create for generations of Santa Maria College students, alumni and staff.

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