114 stained glass windows. A 116-foot-high Gothic tower. Enough pews to seat 540 Mass-goers. Christendom College’s new Christ the King Chapel is a magnificent feat of architecture. Just as impressive as the physical edifice, however, is the community effort that went into building this beautiful house of God.
St. Paul says, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12: 4–11).
The construction of Christ the King Chapel was a striking reminder of this truth. Alumni, faculty, students, benefactors, and other members of the community all came together in a true labor of love to give God glory through this sacred building. Each contributed his or her particular gifts, skills, and strengths in an outpouring of generosity.
This story comes from the latest issue of Instaurare Magazine, the official magazine of Christendom College. Read more from Instaurare here!
“It’s been amazing to see in the last few months how many alumni craftsmen stepped forward to help us finish the chapel,” notes Vice President of Advancement Paul Jalsevac.
One of those alumni was Corey Morgan ’07, who owns his own woodworking business. While he specializes in residential furniture, Morgan has also completed a number of liturgical projects. Using walnut wood taken from Christendom’s own grounds, Morgan crafted hardwood floors, trim, paneling, and detailing in the chapel. Some of the walnut can be seen in the floor, on the confessionals, and in the decorative trim work and doors in the chapel vestibule and narthex.
Mandy Hain ’07 was another Christendom graduate who contributed her talents to the chapel. Sadly, Hain passed away on February 7, 2023, a few months before Christ the King Chapel was completed. However, in the time before her death, this talented artist left her mark.
Hain painted the crossing tower ceiling and the beautiful “Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus” written on it. She also worked on the gold leaf detail for the phrase “This is the House of God and Gate of Heaven,” inscribed over the chapel entrance.
Meanwhile, more Christendom graduates put their skills to work outside the chapel. Cornerstone Construction—which is owned by Front Royal resident Chris McMahon and employs several Christendom alumni—oversaw work on the piazza in front of the chapel. Subcontractor Jorge Cortez completed most of the masonry for the space.
Cornerstone worked on projects within the chapel too, such as the concrete foundation for the main altar, the sanctuary platform framing, and the choir loft ceiling.
Morgan, Hain, and the Cornerstone crew were just some of the alumni who contributed to the chapel. Many more talented and dedicated alumni also devoted their time, talent, and treasure to this sacred project. And it wasn’t just alumni.
English professor Sharon Hickson contributed to the interior decoration of the chapel. She joined Mandy Hain up on the scaffolding to paint the ceiling above the main altar, and she also helped paint the gold crowns on top of the chapel’s main tower. Hain had planned to refurbish the Stations of the Cross for the chapel. However, after Mandy became ill, Hickson, her daughters Kristin Uhlenkott and Bridget Hickson, and Christina Muller took over the task.
It was a much-needed project. Originally crafted in Germany, the stations were over 100 years old and badly in need of restoration. Some of the figures were missing hands and fingers and the paint had faded. Kristin and Bridget completed the gold leaf on the stations. Christina restored the colors on the figures. Hickson painted, worked on the gold trim, and did the Celtic lettering. Hickson and Muller began work on the stations during Mandy’s last few months on earth. Although Hain could not assist physically, she continued to give guidance for how to approach the restoration.
“It was very special for us to be carrying on her task,” Hickson says. “We really felt very much that Mandy was involved, at least in inspiration.” Hickson was struck by how the new chapel brought so many in the community together.
“What was remarkable to me was the number of different people who worked on the chapel,” she says, noting that even children such as her grandkids and local students helped with the painting. She draws a parallel between the construction of Christ the King Chapel and medieval cathedrals.
“The whole idea of a Gothic cathedral was to have a whole community and generations of community working together on something beautiful for God,” Hickson explains. “So, in many ways it was just a privilege to be working along with other alumni and families.”
While many people played important hands-on roles in building the chapel, just as important was the support of Christendom’s generous benefactors. These members of the Christendom family made the chapel possible through their prayers and financial support. Benefactors sponsored sacred art that spoke to their own spiritual devotions. One person helped restore the Good Shepherd Window because she loved Psalm 23 and the image of Christ the Good Shepherd. Another sponsored a stained-glass window dedicated to Our Lady of Divine Providence because she is the patroness of Puerto Rico, his homeland.
“Each person’s personalities and God-given gifts are expressed in this chapel,” says Jalsevac. “In its beauty, in the many dedicated items that reflect people’s spiritual devotions and those they wish to remember, in the labors so many put in to make this chapel possible.”
Now, Christ the King Chapel finally stands completed. But even though the chapel is finished, it continues to draw members of the community closer to each other and to God. This year, students gathered together in the piazza to study for finals and congregated in Our Lady’s Chapel to spend some quiet time with the Lord. Hickson sees many people from outside Christendom drawn to the chapel—both neighbors and travelers who glimpsed the tower from the highway. Chris McMahon has noticed how the chapel is transforming everyone who walks through its doors. He says, “In the community here, I can already see how awestruck people are and how just walking in, myself included, it raises your heart and mind to God.”
Reflecting on the years to come, Hickson says, “I think [the chapel] is going to be a vibrant center of spirituality and inspiration and consolation and peace and beauty for our students and for the whole community.”
Thanks to the efforts of that community, the new chapel will serve as a beacon of hope and light, beckoning all who see it to come and adore Our Lord.
While working on the chapel, Mandy Hain said, “This is a dream I have for the students—that they encounter real beauty within the heart of Christendom, Christ the King Chapel.”
Because of the Christendom community’s hard work and generous sacrifices, men and women for generations to come will experience this real beauty in Christ the King Chapel—and in turn, come to know and love Beauty Himself.
Written by Maria Parry