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  • Courtesy Ann Gray The Rev. Dan Scheidt, pastor at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, presides over Sunday’s groundbreaking for the new chapel, the Oratory of St. Mary Magdalene, at Wallen and Auburn roads.

  • Courtesy Rebekah Stump Scheidt tosses petals into the air during the chapel groundbreaking. The chapel will be used as a sanctuary for private reflection instead of regular liturgies.

  • Courtesy Rendering of the Oratory of St. Mary Magdalene

  • Courtesy Ann Gray The Rev. Dan Scheidt, pastor at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, Fort Wayne, presides Sunday over the groundbreaking for the Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene, near the intersection of Auburn and Wallen Roads.

Thursday, June 13, 2019 1:00 am

Local parish plans to add chapel

St. Vincent de Paul to build sanctuary on church property across from school

ROSA SALTER RODRIGUEZ | The Journal Gazette

St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church is adding a chapel to its facilities at Wallen and Auburn roads on Fort Wayne’s north side.

A public hearing about the chapel, across Wallen from the parish school, will take place at 5:30 p.m. June 20 before the Fort Wayne Board of Zoning Appeals. The parish broke ground for the new 92-seat seat sanctuary on Sunday.

The Rev. Dan Scheidt, pastor at St. Vincent de Paul, says the chapel is to be called the Oratory of St. Mary Magdalene, who in Scripture is the first to bear witness to the resurrection of Jesus.

The building will occupy part of the land of the parish’s original cemetery and the site of three successive houses of worship, with the first dating to 1855.

The parish’s fourth church remained on the site until 2008 when it was torn down. That church building, deconsecrated, was used for many years by the parish’s Boy Scout troop as a Halloween attraction.

Scheidt says the new chapel will serve as a place of prayer, including the Roman Catholic devotion of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, an exposed consecrated Eucharistic wafer believed to be the presence of Jesus.

“The Oratory of St. Mary Magdalene is being built as a sanctuary of quiet personal prayer rather than as an additional parish church with regular liturgies or overflow space for our current liturgies,” Scheidt said in an email to The Journal Gazette. “Holy Mass will be celebrated in the chapel perhaps twice a month.” 

The chapel also can be used for committal services for people buried in up to 300 newly opened spaces in the original cemetery; for prayer by couples before weddings; and classes for school children, Scheidt said.

The chapel is also intended for use by medical professionals and families of patients at nearby hospitals, he said. It is planned to be open during the day and night and will have several security features, including card access during some hours.

An unusual feature of the building is that it will include 300 niches on the rear exterior designed to hold cremains.

Cremation of Catholics has been allowed since the 1960s, but it has become more common in recent years. In 2016, Pope Francis issued guidelines on what should and should not be done with remains. 

The guidance states they should be kept in a “sacred place” such as a cemetery and not in an urn at home or scattered or divided among family members. 

In Fort Wayne, the Catholic Cemetery on Lake Avenue has three areas for placing cremains, including the St. Jude and St. Vincent columbarium with 144 niches in each, said Casey Miller, executive director of Divine Mercy Funeral Home and Catholic Cemetery.

There is also a glass-fronted columbarium that displays the urn and allows placement of a religious remembrance from the person, he said.

The St. Jude and St. Vincent columbarium space is about 75% full in the nearly 18 months it’s been in operation, Miller said.  

“The cremation rate in Fort Wayne is approaching 48% or 49%, but it’s about 20% for Roman Catholics. Twelve years ago it was 12%,” Miller said. “There’s been a real reluctance by Catholics to accept cremation.”   

The new chapel was designed by architect William Heyer of Bexley, Ohio, in a contemporary Romanesque style. The design mirrors the parish’s main church building in some respects, while the rear portion containing the niches, the apse, is reminiscent of the site’s last sanctuary, built in 1904.

Heyer and his firm also designed the new chapel at the University of Saint Francis, according to his firm’s website. 

Scheidt said the new building at St. Vincent de Paul, at a cost of $1.6 million, resulted from designated donations.

Money is now being raised for interior furnishings, which are planned to include wall art with biblical passages taken from the Bible of the Poor, used to educate the faithful in the 12th to 15th centuries.

Completion of the building is expected by Christmas, with furnishings done in early 2020, the priest said. He said he hopes the building will be dedicated between Easter and St. Vincent’s memorial day Sept. 27.

According to documents filed in the Department of Planning Services, the chapel will need a waiver of a front property line setback requirement from 115 to 75 feet.

The public hearing will take place in Room 35 of Citizens Square.  

rsalter@jg.net