On 25th May 2012 the Sacred Heart Chapel was re-opened after several months of restoration following the collapse of part of its ceiling in September 2010, which led to the discovery of structural problems.
We gathered in the chapel, marvelling at the completion of extensive works which have transformed the space and the adjoining Chapel of St Thomas, which will now be a prayer space.
RSCJ were joined by Bishop Paul Hendricks, representatives of Roehampton University and Digby Stuart College, students from Barat House, and, occupying pride of place, those who had worked on the restoration: the architect and surveyor, conservators and craftsmen and women, those who installed new heating and lighting, and Beverley Lightley, our Charity Operations Manager, who managed and co-ordinated the entire project on our behalf.
Several people spoke with great enthusiasm about their work and ongoing research into the newly-uncovered artwork. Some of the craftsworkers are young adults, and it was a special joy to hear them talk with such pride and enthusiasm about what they had done. We were reminded that the completion of the chapel - originally designated "the strangers' chapel" was done at the dying wish of a very young sister, Lucy Worswick.
The chapel is the final resting place of Janet Stuart, Mabel Digby, Joseph Varin and Marie Lataste, and has been a place of prayer for many generations. The prayer below, composed and read by Margaret Wilson rscj, Provincial Superior, expresses our hope for the future of this sacred space.
Today we are gathered in this beautiful chapel and we give you thanks, O God, for the gifts of your people, and for the work of the many hands, which have restored this place with such great love.
We invoke the presence of the Spirit of Light this Pentecost to bless this Chapel and all who worship here, this congregation, its relationships, and its future.
And we pray in thanksgiving for all those who have gone before us
For Sister Lucy Worswick at whose wish the Chapel was finished
For Janet Stuart, Mabel Digby, Father Varin, Saint Sabbatia and all who rest here
Lord, in dedicating this church to you, we both set it apart for sacred purposes and let go of it, in order to use as you see fit. Now and down through the years, when all those present today are gone, make this chapel a place where people learn to love you with all their hearts, minds and souls. Make this a place where people learn to love their neighbours as themselves. Show us ways that we can use this building to meet the needs of people within this community and in the larger world. Finally, make us always remains faithful to your Word. Keep us true to its founding vision and let it be a place where strangers may be welcomed and the love of God’s Heart may be shared.
A fuller account of the restoration work and the history of this chapel, with more photographs, can be viewed here.