St. Mary Mercy Livonia to open new 2,600-square-foot chapel

The new 2,600-square-foot chapel at St. Mary Mercy Livonia Hospital will be dedicated at 10 a.m. Sept. 11. Dan Meloy | The Michigan Catholic

$2.5M project about ministering to spiritual needs during ‘highs and lows of life’

LIVONIA — From the intentions of a soon-to-be father praying for his wife who’s having complications in labor, to the woman giving thanks to God that the test results came back negative, the chapel of a Catholic hospital might be the place of some of the most intense prayers.

Realizing its charge to care for the physical and spiritual wellbeing of its patients, families, staff and visitors, St. Mary Mercy Livonia Hospital is opening its new chapel next month near the north entrance of the hospital.

The new, 2,600-square foot chapel, which will open Sept. 11, is a culmination of St. Mary Mercy’s multi-million Generations Together campaign, which included a new emergency department in the South Pavilion equipped with private patient rooms and new technology.

During the project, a feasibility study determined the Trinity Health System facility needed a new chapel.

“Trinity invested millions of dollars into the hospital,” David Nantais, mission leader for St. Mary Mercy Livonia, told The Michigan Catholic. “David Spivey (president of St. Mary Mercy Livonia) realized we overlooked the chapel during the renovation and felt it was important we do something.”

A committee was formed to evaluate whether to refurbish the existing Our Lady of Czestochowa Chapel or look at different locations on campus, Nantais explained.

“The mission for St. Mary’s, shared with Trinity Health, is sharing the spirit of the Gospel to be a transforming and healing presence,” Nantais said. “We don’t think of patients here solely as physical beings; we believe everyone who walks in here is a spiritual being as well.”

Seeking to address those spiritual needs, St. Mary Mercy Livonia sought out Fr. Gilbert Sunghera, SJ, an associate professor of architecture at the University of Detroit Mercy, as a liturgical space consultant on the design of the new hospital chapel.

“A chapel in a hospital is for people in the highs and lows of life,” Fr. Sunghera said, “people who either have lost a loved one or received a terrible diagnosis, or have just given birth and life is renewed. So it was about designing that quiet space that allows people to go internal and feel at home.”

The new chapel includes windows that modulate light differently throughout the day, creating different moods and colors as the day progresses. The chapel features a hand-carved crucifix from Germany and a Russian icon, along with some more contemporary features designed to accommodate people of all faiths.

“The designers, PLY+ Architecture, understood the complexity of the space,” Fr. Sunghera said. “They knew it couldn’t be a general interfaith space; it had to play to our Catholic heritage.”

As the project was coming together, St. Mary Mercy reached out to prior donors to help fund the construction. The chapel is 100 percent donor-funded, with the Felician Sisters of North America, Tom and Vicki Celani, and Bob and Kim Mazur contributing a lion’s share of the donations for the project.

“It was all through donors who stepped up and said this was important for the Livonia community,” said Colin Berens, director of development at St. Mary Mercy Livonia. “From those three donors, plus contributions from some 80 employee physicians and 700 non-employee and partner practices, we’re at the $2 million mark for a $2.5 million project.”

Berens added the hospital’s ability to raise money for the project speaks to the quality of care people have received from the 304-bed hospital and how much the mission of St. Mary Mercy Livonia impacts the great Livonia community.

“We want the new chapel to serve as a beacon of hope and peace,” Nantais said. “It’s our hope the new chapel will facilitate communal and individual encounters with the presence of God through the beauty of light, nature and our religious heritage of the Church. That’s the vision statement we put out when we started the project, and it’s a chapel design we think adheres to that mission: ministering to the whole person.”

Chapel blessing

St. Mary Mercy Livonia Hospital’s chapel, 36475 Five Mile Road, Livonia, will receive a blessing from Detroit Auxiliary Bishop Gerard Battersby at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 11.