By TARA CONNOLLY
Missionary Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus (MSC), Reading honored donors and volunteers Jan. 16 with a special Mass and brunch celebrating relationships and generosity that made renovations of the community’s chapel possible.
The Mass was celebrated by Father E. Michael Camilli, in residence at Holy Guardian Angels, Reading, which commemorated the rededication of the renovated chapel.
“It is very uplifting to celebrate the Eucharist in this very beautiful sacred space, enhanced by the brilliance of the newly painted walls. The new acoustical system that the sisters installed makes it possible for the congregation to better hear the Eucharistic prayers and readings of the sacred Scriptures,” said Father Camilli.
Having attended Holy Guardian Angels School, Father Camilli was educated by the MSC sisters and was an altar server and an acolyte in their original convent chapel, which was eventually demolished to make way for their new main building with their new chapel.
“I recall riding my bike from Temple to Hyde Park on some early weekday mornings to serve their community Mass. As a youngster I also remember well the new chapel’s construction, especially when they placed the statue of the Sacred Heart behind the main altar by lowering the gigantic statue down through the roof of the chapel,” he said.
Through the generosity of grantors such as Colonial Oaks Foundation, SOAR (Support Our Aging Religious) and individual donors, the chapel installed new air conditioning, added new sound and electrical systems. and repainted the interior of the structure.
According to Father Camilli, the entire sacred space of the chapel envisions the charism of any Missionary of the Sacred Heart: “May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be known and loved everywhere, now and forever.”
“Their beautiful stained glass windows depict not only aspects of devotion to the heart of Christ as Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, but also picture various aspects of evangelization through their unique missionary activity,” he said.
“The best innovation in my estimation is the installation of a bronze railing that enables the elderly to come up to the ambo to proclaim the Scripture readings, as well as assist the celebrant to safely make use of the marble steps leading down to the assembly for the distribution of the Eucharist,” said Father Camilli.
SOAR awarded the MSC community, along with 61 other Catholic religious congregations, grants totaling more than $1.1 million.
The grants were distributed to Catholic religious congregations of women and men in 22 states. They assist congregations of Catholic religious women and men in the care of their aging sisters, brothers and priests. The grants help fulfill very basic needs, such as the purchase of therapeutic equipment, the renovation of space for handicapped accessibility and structural safety, and the installation of fire alarms.
“The SOAR grant funded the sound system,” said Carrie Whitmoyer, mission advancement director for MSC.
The Colonial Oaks Foundation, Wyomissing, which is committed to strengthening and improving the quality of life in Berks County, provides grants for at-risk youth programs, education, Catholic initiatives, and health and human service organizations.
As a result of the assistance of grantors and individual donors, Whitmoyer said, more religious are able to continue to age in place and remain at home with their religious communities.
After the Mass, Father Camilli and Deacon Edward Sanders, who serves St. Ignatius Loyola, Sinking Spring, blessed the renovations and new equipment.
“It truly was an inspirational Mass and blessing ceremony,” said Whitmoyer.
The MSC sisters created Sacred Heart Villa (formerly St. Michael Convent) in 2003 with the vision of providing a personal care home for the sisters and other seniors of southeastern Pennsylvania.
Sacred Heart Villa incorporates the spirit, love and care that have been the foundation of St. Michael Convent, the motherhouse of the MSC sisters.
The facility has two residential buildings, a remodeled dining room, a fireside lounge, library, café and beauty shop. The chapel remains in the middle of the facility “for it truly is the heart of the community.”
There are 57 sisters and approximately 40 senior residents (when fully occupied) living at Sacred Heart Villa.