Chelsea's St. Thomas More Chapel
A highlight for Chelsea Academy this year has been the opening of the Thomas More Chapel, which lives tucked in on the second floor of the lower school Chelsea campus. Named after our patron saint, the St. Thomas More Chapel not only gives Chelsea students the opportunity to attend school-wide Masses, confession, and adoration but also gives the community a place to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass.
According to Fr. Daniel Gee, pastor of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, before the concept of the chapel came into existence, the plan was to use the school gym for whole-school Masses. “We would have Monday Masses in the gym, and then, with the Bishop’s permission, use a downstairs room to hold the Blessed Sacrament for adoration,” Gee said in an interview.
This was the plan until restrictions came from the Diocese regarding the celebration of Traditional Latin Masses. St. John’s could no longer celebrate this mass in their main church, and their adoration chapel was not nearly big enough to hold the number of people who attended the Latin mass. After plans to use Christ the King chapel at Christendom College fell through, Fr. Gee found the only option was to use Chelsea Academy. Gee continued, “However, we realized we would not be able to use the gym, as it would be a hassle to transport the Blessed Sacrament, not to mention getting volunteers to set up and break down every Sunday - every Monday would be doable, but every Sunday would be a headache.”
And so the idea of the St. Thomas More Chapel came into being as Mr. John Dejak, headmaster of Chelsea Academy, collaborated with Fr. Gee over it. “I already had it in mind to convert that space into a chapel a long way down the road, but when Fr. Gee approached me about their need for a chapel, I sent a letter to Bishop Burbidge requesting permission to permanently store the Blessed Sacrament in our house,” Dejak said. Once the Bishop granted Chelsea permission, construction for the chapel began immediately, funded by parishioners from St. John’s and St. Peter’s, passionate about the continuation of the Latin mass. According to Gee, at least 50 people contributed, including Vincent Surmount, who constructed the altar, pulpit, altar rail, and the Stations of the Cross, all made from a combination of solid elder and heart pine.
Fr. Gee stated that, although he was unable to acquire a relic of St. Thomas More, he was able to obtain a relic of St. Edmund Campion, a martyr who lived just after the time of More. He lived underground, performing secret Catholic ministries to English Catholics living in persecution.
Overall, the construction of the chapel took place in just under 5 weeks.
Both John Dejak and Fr. Gee revealed that they both intend to expand the chapel, including adding balconies, to fit in more people comfortably for both Latin masses and Chelsea masses, but those plans are still in the development stage.
We are blessed with the St. Thomas More Chapel as it provides the ability to have whole-school masses every Monday, with our Schola performing every mass. Students also have the chance for adoration and confession, occurring every week after mass. The chapel also provides the opportunity to enrich classes, especially theology, with a visit to the Blessed Sacrament, but also as a place to put the heart and mind at ease during a busy week. Last but not least, the chapel serves as a center of the community, bringing hundreds of people together to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass. We are extremely grateful to all those who put imponderable hard work into it, for without the efforts of many, the above would not be possible.