The Franciscan institute at St. Bonaventure University has been helping to reaffirm its tradition and Catholic identity. On May 4, St. Bonaventure rededicated its oratory located in the center of the campus. The building, built in 1927 as a chapel, was originally intended for the celebration of the Eucharist, but has changed over time.
Last year, St. Bonaventure opened a new center for Catholic identity, called the Lateran Center. It was formed as part of an effort to increase outreach to Franciscan ministries, including a residential discernment program for men thinking about the priesthood. Father Ross Chamberland, OFM, is the executive director of the Lateran Center, which works closely with Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora. The oratory was blessed and re-dedicated and will remain a way for people on campus to participate in adoration.
"At certain times, it really wasn't open at all," Father Chamberland said about the oratory. "It was sort of dormant. Since I've been at Bonaventure, it's been a place for quiet prayer, available for certain hours of the day when it was unlocked, but it was an underutilized space."
Father Chamberland said part of his role is to pay attention to the Catholic identity of the university. As the director of the Lateran Center, one of his first goals was to focus on the oratory space, turning it into a chapel of adoration.
"I felt that would really root the initiative of the Lateran Center, in prayer and adoration of the Lord, which is really what I said from the very beginning we would do," he explained.
Father Chamberland felt it was only natural that the university would work to create a more suitable place for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, The oratory was identified as the best location. In the process, Father Chamberland worked with a friar who had experience in architecture.
"He helped me reimagine the space where we could potentially have adoration sort of in the round," Father Chamberland said. "There's benching in there around the walls for about 20-22 people. We were able to raise money and had the walls painted. We ripped the rug up on the floor, and there's original Italian tile floor underneath that we had restored."
The oratory received all-new lighting fixtures and chandeliers. The university's carpentry team made benching and oak panels for the walls and built a pillar for the middle of the chapel.
When visitors come into the oratory, no matter where they are sitting, it is possible for them to see the tabernacle. The electronic security system allows those with university identification to enter the oratory, but it otherwise stays locked. While the project has taken time to pull together, Father Chamberland expressed his belief that it reinforces the identity of the university.
"One thing I've been impressed with at Bonaventure, since I've been here, is that the issues I've heard or have been familiar with at other colleges around the country, around their identity, like in terms of crucifixes on the walls, or religious celebrations or prayers at functions - that's never been an issue at Bonaventure," Father Chamberland said. "We have all of those things. Our campus is really saturated in religious imagery."