The Stained Glass
Certainly, the most familiar feature of the seminary chapel is the collection of astounding Rault stained-glass windows that have adorned the seminary since 1957. Created in Rennes, France for the former seminary on the St. Albert Trail, they have been carefully restored during the past year and installed in the new chapel as a tangible link to our history. These treasured windows have nevertheless been incorporated into the design of the new chapel in a different way from the former site.
Seven Steps to the Priesthood – The series of windows depicting the seven step to priesthood are installed, to be read from left to right, over the West Door of the new chapel. Since only three of the steps to the priesthood (namely, lector, acolyte and the order of the diaconate) are still celebrated since the renewal of the Second Vatican Council, these windows are effectively behind the liturgical assembly in the chapel. They are part of our history of seminary discernment and formation but do not occupy the prominent place they once had in the former chapel. They show where we have come from and stand as reminders of what we take with us from the past, the need for continuity, the possibility of change.
A second series of seven windows that graced the former seminary chapel is that of the Seven Sacraments. This series of seven has been divided now into two groups: 1) the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist) on the South wall of the chapel; and the Sacraments of Healing (Penance and Anointing) and Sacraments of Vocation (Marriage and Orders) on the North wall. The Sacraments are the central liturgical celebrations in the life of Christians, saving rites that mediate the grace of God to us in our journey through life. They are indeed like the windows in the chapel walls that flood our life with the light of God. The Sacraments are a major part of the ministry of deacons, presbyters and bishops and are a continual object of reflection in the seminary community.
The walls of the chapel help to designate and define this area as sacred space. The architect has given the seminary an exterior aisle on the outside of the Northern and Southern walls with steel arches, visible from the outside, that help to ‘frame’ the stained-glass windows. These aisles or corridors, encased in clear glass windows allow us to illuminate the stained-glass windows both from within the chapel and from without, so that they may be enjoyed even from within the chapel when it is night outside.
Fourteen grey stone tiles, marked with a cross, have been saved from the former seminary chapel and have been set into the walls of the new chapel, both on the inside and the outside of the walls. During the Dedication of the chapel of St. Joseph on May 2, 2011, the Archbishop of Edmonton, Most Reverend Richard Smith, with assisting bishops, anointed the walls of the new chapel on these stone crosses. The crosses now serve as a lasting visible reminder that the chapel is permanently dedicated to God and the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy. The anointed walls make the chapel itself a sign of the anointed Body of Christ and recall that Christians, washed with water and anointed with oil, have been made members of his Body, living stones, a spiritual house (1 Peter 2:5.)
Stations of the Cross
Fourteen Stations of the Cross, from the traditional fourteen stations venerated at Jerusalem, have been set into the interior walls of the new chapel. They depict Christ’s journey from the judgement seat of Pilate, through his carrying of the Cross, Crucifixion, and Burial. They are a constant sign of the immensity of God’s love for us, a love that was willing to take on the weight of the world’s sin and overcome it for our sake. Meditation on the Lord’s Passion is a source of strength for us disciples of Jesus who have our own daily crosses to bear in the footsteps of our Master. The stations come from the Demetz Art Studio in Northern Italy. Each is a mosaic of Venetian glass tiles. The abundant gold, yellow and red tiles in the stations reflect the prominent colours in the chapel’s stained-glass windows.