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By Karen Herland
Being Loyola Chapel Development Officer is the latest chapter in a decades-long relationship Stephen Sims has maintained with the building constructed in 1933.
Sims attended services in the chapel as a child in the 50s, and later as a student at Loyola College. He was the first lay chaplain at the Loyola Chapel ministry in the 70s. After years of work with people with drug addictions in India and Montreal, he chose to launch his book on spiritual growth at the chapel in February 2009.
It was then that he learned that the local archdiocese had decided to withdraw the priest posted to the chapel. Although not deconsecrating the space, they have asked the university to offer the chapel as a multi-faith space. Subsequently, the university gave Sims a mandate to find a renewed purpose for the space.
Sims’ mission will involve consultation with the university community, and residents around the West-end campus in the development of a new role for the chapel that he describes as “innovative and relevant to the needs of students in contemporary society while preserving the chapel’s tradition as a sacred space.”
The project is directed through the Dean of Students Office. Multi-faith Chaplain Ellie Hummel said the chapel is ideally suited for programming of various sorts as well as “a space of calm, peace, meditation and centering.”
Sims said the chapel has been open to various forms of multi-faith programming since the 80s and 90s, reflecting the changing population and a broader definition of spirituality.
Since he took on the position in November, he has been actively soliciting input from across the university on the chapel’s future. Some of the ideas in the works include weekly speakers and films on spiritual issues, activities promoting mind/body wellness such as yoga and meditation, projects and programs that actively engage and support the community; visual and performance arts; projects related to eco-spirituality and sustainability; and continued use for religious liturgies, weddings and funerals.
Devin Wells, a recent graduate of Fine Arts (BFA 09) will be assisting with coordination of the project. Other student involvement has included a student-led consultation on visioning and programming. The project was awarded just under $13 000 from the Sustainability Action Fund, to help pilot and support its fruition.
“There are a lot of students who have never been in the chapel. We want to harness the spiritual creativity of 44 000 students and the west-end community,” said Sims.