Palettes of Prayer

Creative pursuits of all types allow us to express thoughts and feelings that can sometimes be difficult to put into words. Color, form, texture or sound can take us to a place beyond language as we continually seek transcendent experiences that elevate, challenge and inspire.

Many Sisters of the Precious Blood make art and crafts, and while the forms of their creations vary widely — carving, painting, quilting, singing and many more — they share in common a means of communion with others, and a way to reflect the beauty of God.

In the early 20th century, as the Sisters of the Precious Blood began to imagine a new home for the Community on Salem Avenue in Dayton, the new convent’s chapel was situated at the center of their thoughts and plans — just as it came to be situated in the center of the building itself.

Today, the building houses the Maria Joseph Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, and the chapel — a work of art in its own right — remains at the heart of spiritual care services for the center’s residents. With its soaring, vaulted ceiling, light blue walls and gold accents, statues of the Holy Family, and intricate stained glass windows, the chapel offers a transcendent space for reflection, prayer and religious services.

With plans to move the Community from Maria Stein, Ohio, to Dayton, Mother Emma Nunlist purchased a tract of 75 acres in 1912 — but various circumstances delayed construction of the new convent for nearly a decade. Danis, the construction company founded in Dayton in 1916, began construction on the building on Aug. 11, 1921. On Sept. 8, 1923, the chapel was dedicated to the Immaculate Conception by Archbishop Henry K. Moeller.

Anecdotes in Not With Silver or Gold, the Community’s historical record from 1834-1944, as well as correspondence in the archives, indicate that Mother Emma was instrumental in the chapel’s design, in both its artistic elements and its liturgical symbolism.

The altar, made of marble and gold mosaics, was a gift from the Missionaries of the Precious Blood and imported from Italy in 1923.

Decades later, Sister Eileen Tomlinson — who entered the Congregation in 1937 and passed away in 2010 — added her artistic contributions by designing the current podiums and front altar, and hand-carving six candle sticks, as well as two seven-branch candelabras.

In all its beauty, the real substance of the chapel — like all chapels and other houses of worship — lies in its purpose. Mass is celebrated in the chapel at Maria Joseph on the third Thursday of each month. Anyone may attend, giving the center’s residents and the general public an opportunity to worship in the same sacred space that so many Precious Blood Sisters called home over the past 100 years.

For more information about monthly Mass, contact the spiritual care team at Maria Joseph Nursing & Rehabilitation Center at 937-278-2692.

— Story by Mary Knapke

Top, postcard from 1941-1960; from the CPPS Archives collection. Bottom, chapel in 2009 during the 175th Anniversary Mass; Pat Morrison photo.

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