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Planting a Seed: Engineering Dept. to Build Living Chapel on Campus

By Erin Brody, Arts & Culture Editor

One of the first things guests notice about Saint Vincent College is the beautiful landscaping and gardening throughout campus. Along with that are the many places students and faculty can go to in order to pray and reflect. Soon enough, the SVC community will have a chance to enjoy nature and meditate with the Living Chapel.

Living Chapel is an idea that came from SVC’s Engineering Department and is inspired by Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical Laudato si’. The encyclical speaks about how the world is to care for the environment in an age where modernity causes global warming, and many places responded to the call.

Father John Peck, O.S.B., is on the committee for Saint Vincent’s Living Chapel and explained where the idea came from.

“In 2021/2022 after reading the encyclical, a group from Penn State (University) decided to do something about [the environmental concerns in the book] by designing and building a chapel that would remind people that God is a part of this environmental movement and that we should make sure the world knows it,” Father Peck said.

It should be noted that The Living Chapel Project was founded by renowned composer Julian Revie. Penn State did design and build the chapel, which now stands in the Botanical Garden of Rome. A second chapel was built in Calderini Garden in Milan.

As for Saint Vincent’s Living Chapel, it is being designed by the Engineering Department, specifically by associate professor Dr. Derek Breid’s Engineering Capstone Design course.

“This is a two-semester course sequence where our seniors work in teams to design, build, and test some kind of real-world project that incorporates engineering principles along with other complex issues such as economic, environmental, or societal factors,” Dr. Breid said.

Working alongside the capstone course is ENGR-240, Engineering Design and Lab, and students in the capstone section are clients for the teams in the ENGR-240 course.

“There are four teams in ENGR-240 — two of them are working on building sections of the Living Wall for the Living Chapel, and the other two are working on watering systems for these living walls,” Dr. Breid explained.

While the project is still in its early stages, Dr. Breid stated that he hopes to have these teams present at the academic conference, if the timing is right. But both Dr. Breid and Father Peck hope to have a final prototype developed and possibly start building later in 2023.

The Living Chapel Project may find its roots in Catholic ideals, but the project’s website states that the chapels are to be “a symbol of interreligious dialogue for the common goal of caring for our planet.”


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