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Perpetual Adoration Chapel celebrates milestone

by Geraldine McGloin, Contributor
March 1, 2013

Perpetual Adoration Chapel as seen from Our Lady of Corpus Christi Campus.
Contributed Photo
Its blue dome and stars has become a well-known landmark seen by thousands of motorists from IH 37.

“It stands at the entrance to the city,” Bishop Wm. Michael Mulvey said on Feb. 2, as he prepared to celebrate the Mass commemorating the 10th anniversary of the consecration of Our Lady of Corpus Christi Perpetual Adoration chapel. The chapel, a gift to the people of the Diocese of Corpus Christi by a donor who at that time wished to remain anonymous, was dedicated on Feb. 2, 2002.

The Mass was “in thanksgiving for the past 10 years of having a place of spiritual nourishment for many and a place where people can develop and deepen their relationship with God,” said Deacon Wayne Leteig, who read the prayers of petition during the Mass.

Bishop Mulvey delivers homily at Mass commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Perpetual Adoration Chapel at Our Lady of Corpus Christi.  
Philip Wright, for South Texas Catholic
In his homily for the anniversary Mass Bishop Mulvey reflected on the parable in which Jesus in the temple reads the prophesy of Isaiah and tells those gathered that it has been fulfilled in their presence, whereupon some began to question who Jesus was and where he came from. Was he not just the son of Mary and Joseph from Nazareth? Like Jesus, Bishop Mulvey said, “we too must go outside the box to evangelize people, meet them where they are. The new evangelization calls us to go beyond ourselves, move out of our category, doing all in love.”

Our Lady of Corpus Christi Perpetual Adoration Chapel also came about through people thinking out of the box. For years Father Jim Kelleher a member of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT) had dreamed of a beautiful perpetual adoration chapel on the campus of Our Lady of Corpus Christi.

Father Jim Kelleher, SOLT presents Bill Zerrussen a gift in honor of his parents, Bill and Jo Ella Zerrussen, who gave the SOLTs a generous donation to build the perpetual adoration chapel.    
Philip Wright, for South Texas Catholic
In Father Kelleher’s dream, the chapel was special–yet different. It was to be as fine as the chapel in Alabama built for the nuns at Our Lady of the Angels Monastery seen often with Mother Angelica on EWTN.

It was to be Spanish Colonial style architecture featuring a blue dome
with stars in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The building would be in the shape of a cross with Jesus Christ’s Eucharist presence in the center placed in a gold monstrance located at a great height so people would look up in adoration. The chapel was to seat 250 people.

The monstrance was to be housed in a specially designed space with retractable doors surrounded by a magnificent retablo containing images of four saints–Maximilian Kolbe, Therese of Liesuex, Mother Cabrini and Frances Xavier–all of whom had special significance to the SOLTs and in particular to the Our Lady of Corpus Christi campus.

Father Kelleher had no way to complete his dream chapel but carried the vision in his head. The organization was struggling as it was, and it was not prepared to undertake such a complex and expensive venture. Remembering that God works in mysterious ways, Father Kelleher, through a series of unplanned events, met Bill and Jo Ella Zerrussen, devout Catholics from Illinois. He prayed with them and for them and gave them Miraculous Medals honoring Our Lady, something he always does.

While visiting with the Zerrussen’s he shared his dream of a chapel with them. One day in 1999, Father Kelleher got a phone call from Bill Zerrussen who said “remember the chapel you wanted? I am sending you the money to build it.” A shocked Father Kelleher received a large check in the mail a few days later.

Father Kelleher got permission from Bishop Roberto Gonzalez to build the chapel. At the bishop’s urging, he went to Ireland to visit the Knock shrine and learned that it could accommodate 250 worshipers, which was what he dreamt for his chapel. He contacted San Antonio award-winning architect Michael Imber whose firm specializes in modern classical design, “looking to promote American architecture reflective of our cultural history and modern lifestyles.”

Our Lady of Corpus Christi Perpetual Adoration Chapel captures those sentiments beautifully. Later Imber handed off the project to Jose Molina, of Molina Walker Architects in Houston who completed the final design and production drawings and oversaw the entire building process.

The Spanish liturgical art firm Talleres de Arte Granda of Spain was hired to provide the interior furnishing and the statuary for the chapel. The appointments are in the same style as the architecture of the chapel itself, and reflect the distinctive charism of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity.

The artistic centerpiece is a tall retablo made from carved and polished cedar wood and embellished with imitation gold leaf. It combines the arts of carpentry, sculpture, painting and goldsmithery. It is 31-feet wide and 40-feet tall. Its upper story houses the monstrance for perpetual adoration, below a Baroque arch. The five-foot tall monstrance is an original creation of Talleres de Arte Granda. It is made from sterling silver, gold-plated and inlaid with hand-painted enamels and semiprecious stones.

Two adoring cherubs are beside the monstrance. Just above the monstrance is a golden image of a miraculous medal with the inscription in Chinese, a nod to the missionary work of the SOLTs. Below this is a crucifixion group of Christ on the cross, Mary and St. John. These sculptures were hand-carved from birch wood and colorfully painted.

The compassionate face of Our Lady, who weeps as she looks upon her Son, is especially striking.

The sculptures stand before a hand-painted landscape, with the city of Jerusalem visible in the distance. Below the relief is a Baroque niche for the tabernacle. The domed tabernacle is gold-plated, with Corinthian capitals and tiny sculpted cherubs that match the design of the retablo.

The Spanish firm also designed and created the freestanding altar of sacrifice. It is white marble, with a copper frontal depicting the Last Supper in relief. A matching ambo was also made, with a relief of Christ preaching. Elsewhere in the chapel are statues of St. John Vianney, St. Joseph holding the Christ Child and Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, the patroness of the Society. This image of Mary holds in her hands a blazing emblem of three interlocked circles, each containing a symbol of one person of the Holy Trinity: a right hand raised in benediction for the Father, a cross for the Son and a dove for the Holy Spirit.

The Spanish firm was able to collaborate with clergy and architects to provide artwork that simultaneously expresses a historical style and a distinct spirituality in the hope that it will enhance the devotion of all to the Blessed Sacrament in perpetuity.

Bishop Mulvey concluded the anniversary Mass by thanking all donors–especially the Zerrussen’s, the adorers, those who help in many other ways to maintain the chapel.

A reception dinner was held after the Mass with guest speaker Bill Zerrussen, son of the couple whose donation was used to build the chapel. He spoke of his personal belief in the Real Presence and his joy at seeing the chapel become the spiritual home for so many. He spoke movingly of his parents. His father Bill is deceased after suffering for years with Alzheimer’s. His mother, who was her husband’s principal caretaker, would have loved to attend the celebration but ill health prevented it.

“We never know why things happen the way they do, like the chapel, they just seem to evolve,” the son said. He spoke of his father’s desire to reach out in love to save souls.

Father Kelleher said the chapel was “inspired by Divine Providence, a work of faith.”

“There were moments of anxiety and fear but God’s grace always intervened so that the project would just move forward and forward,” Father Kelleher said. He also noted that ground was broken for the chapel on Nov. 27, the Feast of the Miraculous Medal.

“Our lady does things in a big way,” he said.