by JESSICA MCKENZIE, Staff Writer
Since it was built in the late 19th century, Manhattan College has proudly shown the Chapel of De La Salle to prospective students and parents. Recently, however, students who frequent the chapel have noticed caution tape wrapped around a number of the pews inside. During this year’s Fall Convocation, which was held in the chapel, a few students even found drywall atop their seats in the pews.
According to Father Tom Franks, who has been the chaplain at the college for three years now, the deteriorating condition of the Chapel of De La Salle has been an issue for at least a year.
Last spring, Father Tom was working in the chapel in the middle of the night for 24 Hours for the Lord, an all-night vigil that allowed students to come to the chapel and pray at any hour. Walking around, he noticed plaster sprinkling down from the ceiling and put a work order into the Physical Plant.
Now six months later, plaster and dust continue to regularly fall from the ceiling above the sanctuary, right where Father Thom sits during services.
“It’s very visible. People will see it. We need open lines of communication to know what is happening with our chapel,” Father Tom said.
But this is not the first time he has seen this problem. As a priest who has worked in many chapels with high ceilings, he speculates that the issue might be roof leakage in Smith. If that is the case, Father Tom understands that this is a substantial undertaking.
Much like the Chapel of De La Salle, the Chapel of the Holy Infancy in Memorial Hall, has its own maintenance issues. While the scale of the issues are different, the space in Memorial Hall has pews that need repairing but there is no caution tape in the small chapel.
The number of maintenance issues across campus are mounting, but Father Tom is mainly concerned with the Chapel of De La Salle. The ceiling damage is coming dangerously close to the stained glass windows that were just installed in April 2016.
Father Tom acknowledges and appreciates the hard work of the Physical Plant workers. “There is a great emphasis on our charism and presence on campus… I think we should make sure that the college has the resources to direct their attention on the issues that are impacting the community.”
The condition of the chapel is also a concern to the students on campus who use it regularly. Senior Naomi Uy, president of Music Ministry and member of the orchestra on campus, uses the chapel for rehearsal every Sunday and Monday night. “If we’re doing a performance or mass for [prospective students or parents], the quality of our performance is lessened because we can’t be proud of the state that the chapel is in,” Uy said.
She also described the dangers within the chapel. The stairs leading up to the choir loft are small, rusty and easy to fall down. The ceiling in the choir room leaks every time it rains. Sometimes the leaks are hot water, causing steam to rise from the trash can it is collected in. “We’re not up to par on the standard of repairing the things that need to be fixed on campus,” Uy said.
Uy participates in the music ministry activities in her church at home. In that sense, the Chapel of De La Salle has served as her home away from home.
“I have so many good memories there. It’s disheartening to see that not everybody cares about the chapel as much as I do,” she said.
In the meantime, Matthew McManness, vice president of finance and chief financial officer of Manhattan College, is the process of getting estimates on the repair of the roof, facade and parapet. Hopefully, this will remove any of the water issues in the chapel.
Once estimates are received, we can count on some progress for De La Salle.
“Work will begin as safely and as soon as possible,” McManness confirmed.