St. Joseph’s Hospital Chapel marks 100 years

Jun. 11, 2015

The heritage chapel has reopened after three years of safe-keeping during construction at St. Joseph’s Hospital

It was described as a homecoming. On June 11, the historic St. Joseph’s Hospital Chapel officially reopened after three years of being closed for safe-keeping during construction of the new wing and accessible entrance at the corner of Grosvenor and Richmond Streets. The majestic sacred place is a London heritage site that is marking 100 years. 

While the hospital has had a place of prayer since it was opened by the pious Sisters of St. Joseph in 1888, the chapel in its current location, largely as it exists today, was built in 1915 when a new wing was added to the hospital. 

“While it has seen many changes over the years, the past century has not altered what the chapel represents or its significance,” says Dr. Gillian Kernaghan, President and CEO of St. Joseph’s Health Care London. “The chapel speaks to the importance of faith in the journey of healing for patients and their families, and in the resilience needed by care providers. It speaks to the continuity of the St. Joseph’s mission. One of our key values is compassion and the faith embodied in the chapel is a faith grounded in grace, compassion and a servant heart. Today is indeed a long-awaited homecoming of all that is special about St. Joseph’s Hospital.”

On June 11, staff, physicians, volunteers and special guests gathered as Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Dabrowski led a special ceremony and blessing of the chapel. Restoration work undertaken before the reopening has renewed the serene beauty of the chapel while maintaining its historic Renaissance style and Romanesque design. While modern touches were added, such as retrofitting the crystal chandeliers with new lighting technology, other new elements, such as hardwood floors, have brought the chapel back to its original look of a century ago.  The work was funded through the generosity of the St. Joseph’s Health Care Society – owners and sponsors of St. Joseph’s Health Care London –which made a significant donation in honour of the Sisters of St. Joseph.  

“The chapel has been the setting for countless rituals and celebrations – both joyful and solemn – and woven through the decades is a common theme,” says Ciaran McKenna, Coordinator of Spiritual Care at St. Joseph’s. “It’s always been, and continues to be, about support for our community, a community of many faiths and beliefs. At any hour of the day or night, one would find patients, families and staff sitting quietly in this restful place, sharing their cares, hopes, fears and celebrations with their higher power.”

The St. Joseph’s Hospital Chapel, adds Dr. Kernaghan, “is our bridge to the past and our bridge to the future. We are so happy to be home again.”

Members of the media are invited to make an appointment to visit the chapel and learn more about its history. A short history is available below.  

Media may also be interested in a new book launched to coincide with the chapel’s reopening. Fr. Michael Prieur has authored Panes of Consolation: Inspirations from the Stained Glass Windows of St. Joseph’s Chapel in Celebration of the Chapel’s 100th Anniversary. The book is a guide to the sacredness of the stained glass windows inside the chapel and provides insight into their beauty and religious symbolism. Proceeds from sales of the book go to St. Joseph’s Health Care Foundation. 

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For more information:

Dahlia Reich, Communication Consultant
St. Joseph’s Health Care London
519.646.6100 ext. 65294
 

About St. Joseph’s Health Care London 

Renowned for compassionate care, St. Joseph’s Health Care London is a leading academic health care centre in Canada dedicated to helping people live to their fullest by minimizing the effects of injury, disease and disability through excellence in care, teaching and research. Through partnership with Lawson Health Research Institute and our collaborative engagement with other health care and academic partners, St. Joseph’s has become an international leader in the areas of: chronic disease management; medical imaging; specialized mental health care; rehabilitation and specialized geriatrics; and surgery. St. Joseph’s operates through a wide range of hospital, clinic and long-term and community based settings, including: St. Joseph’s Hospital; Parkwood Institute; Mount Hope Centre for Long Term Care; and the Southwest Centre for Forensic Mental Health Care.

Chronology of the St. Joseph’s Hospital Chapel
  • 1888 - The Sister of St. Joseph transform a home at Richmond and Grosvenor streets into St. Joseph’s Hospital and set up a chapel in a closed space over the side porch, making  an altar out of a packing box covered with white paper. On the front, they used gold paper to spell out IHS (Jesus Hominum Salvator). 
  • 1891 - a new three-storey wing is constructed and space for a chapel is incorporated into the design. It soon becomes inadequate as the hospital grows. 
  • 1915 – another new wing is added that includes a new, much more grand chapel. It is located on the second floor with walls extended to accommodate a balcony on the third floor. It boasts art glass windows, a stone altar in Roman style, and oak floors and pews.
  • 1940 – the altar is replaced by a liturgical altar and the art glass windows are replaced by stained glass windows.
  • 1958-1960 – crystal chandeliers are installed as well as a new marble altar using the old stone blocks from the 1915 altar as the foundation. At the altar, a new terrazzo floor is also installed. The rest of the oak flooring is, at some point, covered in linoleum.
  • In later years, a television network is installed through which Mass is carried live to the patients’ rooms. This practice is discontinued in the late 1980s.
  • 2007 – the hospital discontinues regular Sunday Mass due to a shortage of priest personnel. At the request of staff, a monthly Mass is now held.  
  • 2012 – the chapel is closed and carefully protected during construction of a new wing, which includes an accessible entrance, at Grosvenor and Richmond streets. A temporary location for prayer and reflection is created within the hospital cafeteria.  
  • 2015- upon completion of the new wing (Zone A), the St. Joseph’s Hospital chapel reopens and is blessed in a special ceremony by Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Dabrowski.

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