For close to 60 years, Belen Jesuit Preparatory School has yearned for a sacred space dedicated to serving the number of students at the school. After three years of construction, the Our Lady of Belen Chapel was dedicated in a special Mass celebrated by The Most. Rev. Thomas Wenski, Archbishop of Miami on May 1, 2022.
“In consecrating this altar, we set aside a work made by human hands for a sacred purpose, '' said the archbishop during the homily at the Mass of dedication. “I will anoint the altar with the same Chrism with which we were anointed at our baptisms and confirmations – for as members of Christ’s Body we too have been set aside for a sacred purpose. That purpose is alluded to in your school motto: “men for others.”
“Also, in a solemn way, the altar will be enveloped by the smoke of the incense,” continued the archbishop. “The sweet smell of the incense permeates this entire building, reminding us that here God dwells with his people. And as smokes drift heavenward, so will the fervent prayers prayed here by students, faculty and their parents also rise to God.”
In addition to the archbishop, the Mass included Fr. Martin Lenk, SJ., Provincial of the Antilles Province, Fr. Alberto García, S.J., Superior of the Jesuits in Miami, Fr. Guillermo M. García-Tuñón, S.J., President of Belen Jesuit, priests, deacons, and invited guests. Several special rituals for the formal dedication of the chapel took place, including the presentation of the key, the blessing of the altar, walls, and the deposition of the relic of St. Ignatius of Loyola into the altar.
The Dedication of the Our Lady of Belen Chapel was filled with poignant moments. When Archbishop Wenski entered the chapel, Fr. Willie ‘87 met him at the door with the vow cross that belonged to Fr. Jorge Sardiña, S.J. '45 (it also had attached his Agrupacion medal) which he kissed. Then, a ceremonial key was presented to the archbishop on behalf of the builder, who in turn gave it to Fr. Willie. Next, during the procession, Deacons Flores, Prieto ‘70, and Lee filled three aspergillums with holy water from the baptismal font that was used in the Mass.
“Belen’s commitment to our Catholic identity is now unmistakable to anyone who drives by our school,” said Fr. Willie. “The Our Lady of Belen Chapel is a clear expression of the promise made to every parent of the school that we are a Catholic, Jesuit school above all else. We strive for our students to become good Catholic-Jesuit men of faith who will actively contribute to the community. As such, it is without a doubt that the most significant construction project in Belen’s history in Miami is the Our Lady of Belen Chapel.”
The over 14-thousand square foot chapel, located on the southeast corner of the school, seats 638. The chapel is designed by Belen alumnus from the class of 1974, architect Jorge Hernández.
Inside the nave are 10 side niches (five on each side) that feature paintings representing Jesuit saints from the Americas (5 from North America and 5 from Latin America) by Spanish artist Raúl Berzosa. In addition to the portraits, the chapel also includes specially commissioned artwork in the form of the ambo, altar, and baptismal font. There is an image of Saint Ignatius of Loyola as one approaches the altar on the right, and an image of Saint Francis Xavier as one approaches the altar on the left, representing two of the founders of the Society of Jesus.
“Everything, including the design of the chapel, has a theological message in mind,” said Fr. Willie. “Upon entering the chapel, guests will be able to look up and see a statue of Our Lady of Belen sitting on a pillar and greeting all who enter.”
The chapel is Belen Jesuit's most ambitious project to date, costing approximately $10 million to complete and was paid for entirely by the generosity of many benefactors.
“So many people worked incredibly hard, not just to build this chapel, but in order for it to come to fruition we needed the financial support of the Belen community,” said Fr. Willie. “The generosity of many is what made this chapel go from a dream to a reality. I’m incredibly grateful to every single person who gave his or her time, talent, and treasure. Very specifically I want to thank Jorge Hernández who designed and oversaw this beautiful building and the team at Lemartec who worked tirelessly to complete the build.”
This summer, during the months of June and July the chapel will be closed while the pipe organ is being installed. The chapel will reopen in time to celebrate the Mass on the Feast of Saint Ignatius of Loyola on Sunday, July 31st at 10 a.m. Archbishop Wenski will preside over the Mass and bless the new organ.Click here
to see the photo album of the dedication.