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September 22, 2010

After 94 years, St. Luke's Chapel closes at Misericordia

Interim chapel will serve needs of patients, families and staff

After 94 years in service, St. Luke's Chapel at the Misericordia Health Centre has been closed. An interim chapel will serve the faithful until a new sanctuary can be constructed.

The closing of St. Luke's Chapel in the Maryland building on Sept. 17 included a traditional procession to the new interim chapel on the second floor of the centre's Cornish building. During the procession, the altar cloth was folded and carried, along with the altar candles, Bible and cross, and those in attendance sang a hymn as they walked from St. Luke's to the interim chapel.

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The dedication of the interim chapel was celebrated with a short reflection and a Roman Catholic Mass led by the Archbishop of Winnipeg, Most Reverend V. James Weisgerber.

"People have gathered here for more than 90 years, seeking solace, comfort and inspiration," said Weisgerber at the beginning of the service. "Today, we come to close the end of an era, but the faith that was central to the chapel here will continue in the change in location. We celebrate that change, in that change brings growth, and growth brings new life."

Following the mass, open houses were held at both the old and interim chapels, with photo displays and a memory scroll of the chapel's history. That history dates back to 1898, when four Misericordia sisters arrived in Winnipeg from Montreal, to care for abandoned children, as well as young women and their babies. A year later, the Sisters established the Winnipeg Maternity Hospital on the land located between Sherbrook and Maryland streets. Over the years, the facility expanded and became the Misericordia General Hospital, and was operated by the Sisters.

In 1998, the hospital became Misericordia Health Centre, reflecting a change in operation to the Misericordia Corporation within the Archdiocese of Winnipeg. The remaining Sisters lived in the personal care home, Misericordia Place, from 2000 until their departure for their Motherhouse in Montreal in 2004. A visible legacy - an illuminated cross on the Cornish building - was installed to commemorate the Sisters.

"The Misericordia is the legacy of the Sisters, and is still a faith-based health centre," said Weisberger. "This interim chapel will serve to aid in the grace and comfort that is offered to the patients, the residents and the health care staff of the centre. This chapel is a place where everyone can truly feel at home."

The chapel's closing is part of the Misericordia Health Centre's redevelopment project that will see the aging Maryland and Sherbrook buildings demolished in two phases and replaced with a new health complex housing an expanded Eye Care Centre of Excellence, Diagnostic Services and PRIME, a health centre for seniors, among other programs. The new sanctuary will be located in this complex.

"It was time," says Father Vince Herner, Misericordia's Director of Spiritual Care. "While the current Chapel is a beautiful and inspiring place, its age is evident, and safety concerns about the wooden structure have been long held. For now, the entrance of the chapel will be retained as a small prayer room for patients visiting outpatient clinics and community visitors."

While the altar, tabernacle, Stations of the Cross and pews were moved to the interim chapel, redevelopment plans include attempts to salvage the historic frescos and stained glass windows for incorporation into the new chapel of Misericordia's health complex.

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