The new temporary tabernacle for Christendom.

As construction continues on Christendom’s new Christ the King Chapel, pieces of the existing chapel are beginning to be moved to the new one, including the beautiful marble altar. The move necessitated acquiring a new temporary tabernacle for the existing chapel — one which was personally handcrafted by senior Mark LaRochelle, resulting in a beautiful house for Christ that is already inspiring the entire Christendom community.

When Christendom’s new Christ the King Chapel is complete, visitors will be able to make visits to the Our Lady’s Chapel behind the high altar, where the altar and pews from the original Christ the King Chapel will be located. The move of the marble altar from the existing chapel to the new one at the end of 2021 caused Christendom’s chaplain, Fr. Marcus Pollard, to reach out to college staff and see if anyone would be willing to build a temporary tabernacle. Quickly, LaRochelle was recommended and was asked if he would be willing to craft one. He jumped at the opportunity.

The original sketch of the temporary tabernacle by LaRochelle.

The original sketch of the temporary tabernacle by LaRochelle.

“When I studied in Rome, the number of gorgeous altars that each Church had was incredible, whether it was their main altar, or just a side altar,” said LaRochelle. “I’m from California where the churches aren’t so pretty, and their altars are basically glorified tables. Being given the opportunity to create something beautiful for our Lord is something that I’ll cherish forever.”

LaRochelle comes from a family of engineers and architects who seek to bring beauty and wonder into the world. With years of experience designing and being around designers, including two years working in a cabinet shop in California, LaRochelle was excited to be able to construct the temporary tabernacle for campus.

The temporary tabernacle during construction.

The temporary tabernacle during construction.

From the beginning, he and Fr. Pollard wanted the tabernacle to be nearly identical to the original so that the community would ideally not notice that the altar had even been replaced. While there would be several differences, the emphasis was on constructing a beautiful house for Christ that would raise the hearts and minds of his fellow students, along with faculty, staff, and visitors.

In the spring of 2021, LaRochelle began designing the temporary tabernacle, doing a few sketches before building it out in more detail with the design software AutoCAD. Once the semester was over, he began constructing the tabernacle in June, spending weeks handcrafting it and piecing it together. In the fall of 2021, he finished assembling the tabernacle and painted it before delivering it to the college.

LaRochelle with the finished temporary tabernacle.

LaRochelle with the finished temporary tabernacle, prior to final detailing.

Before it was put into place in the current Christ the King Chapel, another member of the college community stepped forward to put the finishing touches on the tabernacle: English language and literature professor Sharon Hickson. Before the end of the fall semester, she personally did all the gold accenting of the tabernacle, along with bringing a marble-type design to the piece that brought LaRochelle’s design to life.

“These details really just make the temporary tabernacle more spectacular, and I could not have done it without her,” said LaRochelle.

Details on the temporary tabernacle by professor Sharon Hickson.

English language and literature professor Sharon Hickson provided the final details for the temporary tabernacle.

Since the beginning of the spring semester, the temporary tabernacle has been in place in the current chapel, with members of the community remarking on the beauty of it. The fact that it was handcrafted by a current student only makes it more meaningful, with LaRochelle directly contributing to the spiritual life of campus through his work.

“I hope that everyone appreciates the temporary tabernacle for what it is supposed to be: a house for Christ, Our Savior,” concluded LaRochelle. “Architecture and design are some of the ways that we can glorify God. The beauty that can be found in architecture really emphasizes the beauty of God. It truly was an amazing experience to help the school in this small way.”

The marble altar from the current Christ the King Chapel is currently being assembled in the new Christ the King Chapel, along with other side altars as well.

For more on Christ the King Chapel, visit chapel.christendom.edu.

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