A mix of history, community and personal worship are available to the faithful of St. Mary Parish in Bath, thanks to the opening of a new daily Mass and visitation chapel.
The facility is located in the Zimmer Center, in what was once a classroom of the former St. Mary School. It officially opened on Holy Thursday, April 5, when the Blessed Sacrament was carried in solemn procession from the church following the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. Five days later Father Peter Anglaaere celebrated the chapel’s first Mass in front of 12 other people — the same amount who attended the Last Supper, observed Deacon Raymond Defendorf, pastoral administrator.
The chapel hosts all of St. Mary’s weekday Masses, which take place at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Friday and 5 p.m. Wednesday. There also is a Communion service at 9 a.m. Monday. In addition, the chapel is accessible each weekday for those who wish to engage in private prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.
“It’s basically open from 8 until at least 6 p.m. — any time the church is open,” Deacon Defendorf said.
Creation of the chapel involved an emphasis on using items containing significant parish history. The altar, for instance, is a former side altar from the main church. Meanwhile, Deacon Defendorf said the ambo had originally been given to the parish as a bookstand but had never previously been put to use. He added that pews came from the original parish convent, and statues were taken out of storage.
“We didn’t really go out and purchase any new furnishings. It really wasn’t very expensive,” Deacon Defendorf said. He added that design recommendations came from various parishioners, and much of the construction work was done by George Hoffman, parish custodian.
The chapel is on the Zimmer Center’s first floor, which also is occupied by Bath Community Day Care. According to Deacon Defendorf, the room became available after a Head Start childhood program moved out. He noted that a small, handicapped-accessible ramp has been erected near an entrance door, and that the building is adjacent to the church so parking and accessibility are not issues.
Deacon Defendorf said that the chapel is heated and air conditioned, but utility costs are far less than what continuing to use St. Mary Church would have entailed.
“It’s been very expensive the last couple of years to heat and air condition the church. In one way it’s a product of necessity,” he said.
The chapel does not have an official name, but Deacon Defendorf expects one to emerge at some point. For now, he likes referring to it as a “visitation chapel” to symbolize Mary’s visitation of Elizabeth.
This setting has apparently proven popular; Deacon Defendorf said daily Mass attendance is now up around 20. He’s looking for the chapel to become more widely used, saying that “it’s my hope that this will lead to some kind of scheduled adoration” such as nocturnal adoration during Lent.
Seating capacity is approximately 25, which obviously produces tighter seating than in the church. Deacon Defendorf said this intimate arrangement has been readily received.
“The people who come daily really forge relationships that seem to be stronger when they’re sitting next to each other, than when they’re spread around the church,” he remarked, adding that the parish priests, Father Anglaaere and Father John Wydeven, “both really enjoy being close to the people.”