(Father Guillermo García-Tuñón, S.J. delivered this speech at the Groundbreaking & Blessing Ceremony on May 29, 2019 for the Our Lady of Chapel.)
Next year, in 2020, my grandfather will be celebrating 80 years since he graduated from Belen in 1940. He jokes that it will be an easy reunion to plan because he is the only member of the class that is still alive. If you ask my grandfather today what his most memorable experience has been in his 97 years of life, he will tell you that it was the day he married my grandmother.
That blessed event took place on January 10, 1947 and I will give you one guess where it happened... the chapel of el Colegio de Belen in Havana. The fact is, the Belen chapel was more than a place where students and faculty gathered for Mass. It was a sacred space that served the whole Belen community long after they graduated. This concept was so engrained in Belen’s DNA, that the architects designed the whole school building around the chapel. The altar was located at the very center of the campus and its doors where the first thing you saw when you walked through the main gate.
For close to 60 years, Belen in Miami has yearned for such a sacred space. While the little round chapel in our central patio has served us well for 38 years, the time has finally arrived for a larger, more adequate chapel to be built right smack dab in the front of our campus. A place where we will not only gather for Mass and prayer, but where alumni can return, like my grandfather, to have the most memorable experience of their lives.
This morning, the dream of thousands will finally begin to become a reality. While today we are gathered for a ceremonial groundbreaking, I am excited to announce that we are currently in the permitting process and will soon begin construction.
There are many people that we need to thank for making this dream a reality, people who without their generosity we would not be here today. Many of which are with us here this morning. I would be remiss if I didn’t thank Father Suarez, S.J. ‘58 who put the wheels in motion, architect and alumnus Jorge Hernandez ‘74 who designed it, Lemartec who have taken the reigns to construct it, and alumni like Ben Fernandez ‘82, Jose Gonzalez ‘91 and Greg Fontela ‘07 who helped get our dream project approved.
I would also like to thank our commissioner Pepe Diaz who from the beginning has supported us and helped get the unanimous green light for such a monumental endeavor.
Make no mistake, the new chapel of Our Lady of Belen will stand as a testament to our Catholic, Jesuit identity. It will further strengthen a strong school that boasts a rich and hallowed history. But be assured, this chapel is not simply an echo of our past, but a loud and crisp statement of our extraordinary future.