WHITEWATER — Fr. Mark Niehaus, pastor of St. Patrick Parish, wanted University of Wisconsin-Whitewater students to have a place on campus to grow in their faith. Now they do, as a back room in the Campus Ministry Center at UW-Whitewater has become an adoration chapel.
“I was interested that there would be a place on campus where the students could pray,” he said.
UW-Whitewater Catholic students attend liturgy and pray at St. Patrick Church — about a 15-minute walk from the campus. Fr. Niehaus and members of the Catholic Student Coalition at the university wanted a more convenient place for small groups of students to worship and to have eucharistic adoration.
“Fr. Mark Niehaus really wanted to bring the Lord here to campus,” said Andrew Jordan, Catholic Student Coalition leader. “It was very hard to go to adoration when it was available.”
The Lord, present in the Eucharist, will be available at the chapel whenever the students are in session.
“It is a way to have the Lord accessible,” Fr. Niehaus said.
Since last November, the Catholic Student Coalition worked with the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, owners of the Campus Ministry Center building, to create the worship space.
The chapel’s tabernacle and monstrance came from the Cousins Center, and a St. Patrick parishioner built the altar, tabernacle stand and credence table. Cost to convert the room into a chapel was “around $500,” according to Brian Zanin, campus minister.
“It’s all very simple,” Fr. Niehaus said of the chapel, which he described as a place “where students can be very close to the Lord.”
St. Patrick Parish maintains a strong relationship with the UW-Whitewater Catholic community. A 7 p.m. Mass is celebrated every Sunday at St. Patrick for the students and the parish supports many of the Catholic Student Coalition’s service projects, such as the monthly cookie bake. Fr. Niehaus estimated 100 to 140 students attend the weekly Mass and 40 to 60 students attend daily Mass.
“(The students) are quite regular here,” Fr. Niehaus said.
While the chapel, which seats 12, will be used primarily for eucharistic adoration, daily Mass will be celebrated there several times a month, according to Zanin. It will be called the St. Mel Chapel, symbolizing the relationship between the UW-Whitewater community and St. Patrick Parish, as St. Mel was the nephew of St. Patrick.
“He helped his uncle bring the faith to Ireland,” Jordan said. “St. Mel is a model to us in our faith and our campus because we want to bring the Lord to campus.”
The relationship between the chapel and the parish demonstrates the unified Catholic community in Whitewater, according to the priest.
“It is not a separate community,” said Fr. Niehaus. “(The students) are part of the St. Patrick community.
To celebrate the chapel, the Catholic Student Coalition and St. Patrick parishioners held a procession in the community on Wednesday, March 16.
“As a symbolic thing on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day, we did a procession, carrying the Blessed Sacrament across the campus,” Fr. Niehaus said.
They processed through Whitewater and the campus, praying the rosary and chanting the Litany of Saints.
“We really wanted to do something big to bring the Lord to campus,” Jordan said.
Fr. Niehaus expressed gratitude to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee for its willingness to provide students with more ways of growing in faith, and he thanked the students for their desire to have the chapel.
“Students are at such a decisive time in their lives when they’re deciding where the Lord fits,” Fr. Niehaus said. “(The chapel) shows their openness to be able to have the Lord there.”
Jordan is excited about what the chapel will bring to the Catholic Student Coalition and the campus Catholic community.
“It’ll be a place to come together and a place for prayer,” Jordan said. “It is a way for us Catholics to get to know each other and grow in faith.”
The chapel will be dedicated during a liturgy, Thursday, April 14.