SANTA PAULA, CA - On March 7, 2009, Thomas Aquinas College's new chapel was dedicated to Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity at an 11:00 a.m. Mass offered by the Archbishop of Los Angeles, Cardinal Roger Mahony.
Joining Cardinal Mahony in the chapel's sanctuary was auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Bishop Thomas Curry. Also on the altar was Bishop Salvatore Cordileone, the auxiliary bishop of San Diego, Abbot Eugene Hayes, O.Pream., of St. Michael's Abbey in Orange County, and Abbot Nicholas of Holy Resurrection Monastery in Newberry Park. In addition, 14 of Thomas Aquinas College's alumni priests took part in the Dedication Mass, along with over 30 visiting priests from Southern California and beyond.
Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel is the 12th of 15 buildings to be completed on the campus of Thomas Aquinas College. At a cost of $23 million, it is 15,000-square feet in area and is the most prominently situated and most elaborate of the structures on the campus. Designed by Duncan Stroik, a professor of architecture at the University of Notre Dame and a principal of Duncan G. Stroik Architecture, a firm that specializes in ecclesiastical design, the Chapel is cruciform in shape and features a 135-foot bell tower.
Although the basis of its design is in the Spanish Mission style of Southern California, Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel also incorporates elements from the Catholic Church's long tradition of sacred architecture, such as a dome that rises 89 feet over the sanctuary, floors and columns of Italian marble, and an ornate limestone facade.
In 2003, before construction began, Pope John Paul II blessed the plans for Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel, and just this past fall, the cornerstone of the new building was brought to Rome to receive the blessing of Pope Benedict XVI.
Prior to the entering the Chapel at the Dedication Mass, President Thomas E. Dillon greeted the faculty, students, benefactors and guests gathered on the Chapel plaza for the historic event saying, "Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel will speak to all who come here, down through the generations, that Christ and His Church are at the center of all we do, and that we intend to give our very best to God."
Recalling the project's start eight years before, Richard A. Grant, the executive director of the Dan Murphy Foundation of Los Angeles that made a magnificent lead gift of $10 million for the chapel, then said, "We stand here now before the reality of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel, uplifted by prayers that have been answered, and humbled by the realization that many hands and minds went to work to create this beautiful house of God."
Design architect Duncan Stroik also spoke a few words, sharing his hope that "this chapel of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity will be a light on a stand that is placed here on this 'city on a hill' that we know as Thomas Aquinas College."
During the Dedication Mass, Cardinal Mahony, sprinkled the congregation and the walls of the new chapel with holy water and anointed the altar with chrism. In his sermon he commented that "This sacred space…will provide an opportunity to listen to God's Living Word inspired from the ambo…and enable all of those who comer here to meet in person, in the Eucharist, Jesus Christ, Son of God, Word of God….For we have present on the altar the real Word of God - Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity."
The new chapel has permanent seating for 350 in its nave and transepts, and its generous side aisles can accommodate another 300 in temporary seating. The chapel's soaring vaulted ceiling, while helping to lift the hearts and minds of the congregation to God, also provides outstanding acoustics for the college's student choir and chant schola, which provided the music at the Dedication Mass with selections from composers such as Hassler, Mozart, Dubois, and Palestrina.
College chaplain Rev. Cornelius Buckley, S.J., had the privilege of officially opening the Chapel doors before the Dedication Mass. He commented, "The name that has been chosen for our new chapel is fitting, since the entire academic program at Thomas Aquinas College culminates in the study of St. Thomas Aquinas' treatise on the Trinity." Fr. Buckley added, "And Mary is our model par excellence in her relationship to the Holy Trinity - the perfect daughter of the Father, the most admirable mother of the Son, and the dearest spouse of the Holy Spirit."
Though unable to attend the event himself, the prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski sent his good wishes by letter to President Dillon and the college community. "Dedicating the Chapel to Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity," he said, "reflects not only the high aspirations of your academic programme, in which you strive as best you can to understand God, but also the Catholic life of each one of you which is itself ordered to God."
The new chapel is now the site of the College's four daily Masses, daily Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and the many other devotions initiated and attended by a large majority of its 350 students, who hail from across the country and abroad.