News from the josephinum


Private Philanthropy Funds Historic Change to Josephinum Chapel


For the first time since the Pontifical College Josephinum was constructed in 1931, seminarians entering Saint Turibius Chapel will be greeted by the comfortable climate and virtually inaudible hum of air-conditioning. This long-awaited historic change to the iconic structure of the seminary has been made possible by private philanthropy.


The Josephinum’s primary worship space, centrally located on the second floor of the main building, has been subject to the heat and humidity of Central Ohio for nearly nine decades, limiting its availability for events during many months of the year. The extensive use of strategically placed fans has provided some relief for the faithful but has never succeeded in opening the chapel for worship year-round.


“The generosity of this gift is astounding,” said Very Reverend Steven Beseau, President/Rector. “We are deeply grateful for and extremely humbled by the family’s commitment to the Church and the Josephinum.” As the seminary is self-sustaining – independent of any one diocese and receiving no funding from Rome – the generosity of benefactors enables the Josephinum to continue its mission of educating men for the Catholic priesthood.

Father Beseau noted that air conditioning Saint Turibius Chapel will have a profound effect on seminary life. “Many of our alumni have shared with me their memories of sweating through liturgies, fanning themselves with Mass programs and straining to hear the scripture readings over the whirl of electric fans,” he said. “Making the chapel a more comfortable, quiet environment will enable them to focus more on what is taking place in the sanctuary as well as in their hearts, and to give prayer their full attention.” 


Designed by Saint Louis architect Francis A. Ludewig, Saint Turibius Chapel is named for Saint Turibius of Mogrovejo (1538-1606), a Spanish nobleman, lawyer and law professor who was ordained at the age of 40 and appointed Archbishop of Lima, Peru. Saint Turibius founded the first seminary in the Western Hemisphere and worked to secure the rights of the Peruvian native people.


The largest of the Josephinum’s four chapels, Saint Turibius was completed in 1932 and was subsequently animated by a mural painted by Gerhard Lamers (c. 1936) and stained-glass windows by the world-renowned Emil Frei. As the years passed, periodic renovations took place in 1936, 1945, 1953, and 1989. In 2016, a focused fundraising effort supported a historic restoration and renovation to restore early elements of the chapel, particularly the apse wall mural, and to better accommodate liturgical celebrations.


As with many churches, the age and architectural structure of the chapel presented some obstacles for the HVAC project planners and contractors. “The challenge, as with any older structure, was to find a system that will not change the appearance of the chapel,” said Mr. Gary Shotts, Director of Plant Operations. “The goal was to utilize innovative technology to preserve the beauty of the traditional architecture. The system we selected eliminates the need for conventional ductwork. All of the mechanicals will be hidden; the only visible elements are the discharge air supply diffusers in the ceiling, which were chosen to blend in with the lighting system currently in place.”


The project began in late June with the installation of the power source and subpanel, which required watertight conduit to be run up the side of the building. By early July, a section of the balcony midway up the Josephinum’s landmark tower was removed temporarily to allow equipment and cooling system components to pass into the tower. Six small air handlers were lifted into the tower and placed above the chapel barrel, hung from the building’s steel and wood support structure. Secondary drain pans under each unit will avert condensate drain issues and prevent any damage to the surrounding wooden structure. As an added precaution, a safety switch on each pan will shut down the system if any drainage problem arises. Finally, on July 29, two 15-ton condensing units were lifted by crane and hoisted through the tower balcony.


The newly installed system will be whisper quiet, preventing any disruption to events taking place there and having no adverse effect on the chapel’s acoustics. “The diffusers are a low decibel configuration that will keep air volume noise at a minimum while the system is running,” said Mr. Shotts. “Coupled with variable speed fans, the system can operate at lower speeds when occupied for events or scheduled to be off through an automation interface.”


Father Michael Lumpe, a 2004 Josephinum alumnus and current Vice Rector of the College of Liberal Arts, agrees that air-conditioning is a long-overdue improvement to Saint Turibius Chapel. “I remember my days as a seminarian, when I and my brother seminarians were praying in the excessive heat and humidity of that chapel with temperatures that, at times, were in the mid-to-upper 90’s,” he said. “Since our major liturgies and similar gatherings take place in Saint Turibius Chapel, this most-welcome improvement is truly a blessing. We give abundant thanks to those who made it possible.”

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