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Frozen In Time: Sacred Heart Chapel Celebrates 100 Years [VIDEO]

ST. JOSEPH — Sacred Heart Chapel in St. Joseph is celebrating its centennial year. Plans for a new chapel started to develop in 1911. The sisters began to realize that they were outgrowing their prayer space.

The Sisters took a vote and decided to move forward with plans to start building a new chapel. They had a budget of about $50,000. Their goals were ambitious and included the construction of a chapel dome that would be made the central focus of the prayer space.

Mother Cecilia Kapsner and Sister Priscilla Schmidtbauer decided to embark on a tour of chapels throughout the Midwest to get inspiration of their own. They came back uninspired.

"There weren’t many houses, and here was this structure that became a real landmark in the area."  The Sisters hired the Butler Brothers as their contractors and discussions took place to narrow down a vision. The brothers had experience building domes and even constructed the dome in the Minnesota Capitol building in St. Paul. Sacred Heart Chapel would be one of the few buildings in the state to have a dome at that time.

The Butler Brothers gave the Sisters some discouraging news. On September 29, 1911 the project cost came in at triple their budget. Haehn Museum director Moira Wild says the Sisters were determined.

“She wrote back and said, after due consideration we have decided that there will be a dome. Period. No further discussion about that, and you make it happen,” laughs Wild.

Wild admits that it’s unclear how the Sisters managed to raise enough funds to cover the cost of the dome but they made it happen.

There weren’t many houses, and here was this structure that became a real landmark in the area,” says Wild.

The chapel has gone through some renovations over the years. In the 1980s the church was flipped. The front entrance  was switched with the back of the church and stain glass windows were installed. The Sisters’ original plans did not include stain glass windows for budget reasons. Over the years a new organ has been installed along with a new church altar.

Wild says at one time you could find more than 300 angel decorations located throughout the chapel.

The Haehn Museum has a new exhibit on display until the end of December that captures the history of Sacred Heart Chapel in honor of their 100th year. Sister Delorers Dufner was asked to write a hymn for the anniversary year.

“I wrote the second verse especially talking about how beautiful it is. Because, if you look around at the windows which let you see out to the trees and nature…it’s just an inspiring place,” says Dufner.

Dufner continues, “The chapel is a very important place to us because we gather here every day. So, to be asked to write a hymn that would celebrate the chapel was a real honor and privilege.”

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