THE HISTORY OF OUR CHAPEL
Dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Consecrated on Christmas Eve 1897

"An oratory should be built as conveniently as possible among the cells;
where, if it can be done without difficulty, you are to gather daily each morning
to participate in the celebration of Mass."    Rule of St Albert: 12


This photo was taken before the extension work carried out in 2004

The building of the beautiful little chapel attached to St. Joseph's Monastery took place during 1896 and 1897.
This put the finishing touch to the new foundation begun sixteen years earlier and was to the great joy of the nuns. The first Mass was celebrated on Christmas Eve 1897.

Before the building of the chapel, daily Mass was celebrated in part of the house that had been converted into a temporary chapel. It later became the chapter room and a room for cutting altar breads. In the early days a glass "sugar bowl" served as a humble sanctuary lamp. 

The foundation stone for the chapel was laid by Dr. William Walsh, Bishop of Dublin, on 4th June 1896. The chapel was built and left free of debt during Mother M.Xavier Reilly's term of office as Prioress (she died in 1907). The building was carried out principally by means of the generous gifts of Mother M.Michael's relations and other good friends and benefactors of the community (see below). Mr. Charles Kennedy (Mother Micheal's brother-in-law) personally took charge of the building process, acting as advisor to the community. Mr. Ashlin was the architect and Mr. Mackey the builder. 

The chapel is approximately 22 feet wide and 53 feet long - the choir being 35.5 feet and the sanctuary area 17.5 feet long).
The secular chapel measured 12 ft wide by 15.5 ft long before extension in 2004. Now it measures 20 ft wide and 23.5 ft long.

The dedication of the new chapel to the Sacred Heart of Jesus took place on December 24th 1897 by Very Rev. Canon Matthews P.P. Dundrum. An unforgettable incident on this great occasion was the difficulty experienced by the priest in opening the tabernacle. The Prioress saved the situation by ascending the altar steps and opening the tabernacle herself. 

Early Benefactors to the Chapel:

Note:     Many of these people also donated towards the house and grounds -
            details are listed on our page about the origins of the foundation at
            Kilmacud. Click here.

Name Gift
Fr. Hickey,P.P., Dundrum: Iron safe, used as the first tabernacle before chapel was built.
Mr William Fitzpatrick: Nativity stained glass window in secular chapel (see right - sadly the window was damaged during 2004 renovations)
Mr. Charles Kennedy:
(brother-in-law of Mother M.Micheal)
High altar, Statues of Angels, St Elijah, St John the Baptist, St John of the Cross, Silver sanctuary lamp
Mrs McMinnies:
(mother of Mother M.Michael)
Gilt tabernacle door, choir clock
Chief Baron Palles: Our Lady's altar
James and John Nolan:
(and other relatives of Mother M.Magdalen)
Gold lining for tabernacle, gold monstrance, green carpet, marble urns, seven branch candlesticks
Dr Morgan O'Connell: Outside chapel bell - blessed and named "Mary Teresa Patrick"
Sir John O'Connell:
(brother of Mother M. Albert)
Centre stained glass window in the sanctuary depicting Our Lady giving the scapular to St Simon Stock (see below)
Mrs King:
(step-sister of Mother M.Joseph)
Statue of Our Lady in the choir (now in nuns recreation room), gold ciborium, First set of stations of the cross, red carpet
Black Benedictine nuns of Leopardstown:
(later they settled at Buckfast, Devon)
Statue of our Lady of Dolours
Madeleine Sampson:
Later she entered the community
Marble walls in sanctuary, altar and statue of St Teresa in memory of her parents George and Anna Sampson, crucifix over choir grille
Mary Connor: Six large candlesticks

Donors of the Second Set of Stations of the Cross:
(These Stations are still in use in our chapel today)

1. Mr White
2. Miss Potter
3. Mr. Keane
4. Miss Rafter and Miss Grant
5. Colonel Dwyer
6. Mr. Meade
7. Mrs Dolan
8. Miss Murphy
9. Mrs Coolican
10. Mr Jimmy O'Dea
11. Mr. Tommy Knowles
12. Miss Molloy
13. Mother Jerome
14. Mr. Crotty
1900: View of sanctuary before the walls were marbled. The statues of St Teresa and St John of the Cross were later moved to the choir. In the two high niches were later placed statues of St John the Baptist and St. Elijah, still present today.. 1900: High altar decorated for feast days. All the candles were made by the nuns, the flowers and plants grown in the garden. Angels and marble urns were donated by benefactors.

Early photos of our chapel choir showing the paraffin lamps and the first Stations of the Cross
donated by Mrs. King. These were later given to Rev. Fr. Blake CC, Mount Merrion.
The "ambo" visible in the centre of the floor in the left photo is still in use today by the
community during their daily recitation of the Divine Office.

The lower part of the sanctuary walls were overlaid in marble, work beginning in 1913. This was made possible by the generosity of Miss Madeleine Sampson who later entered this monastery as Sr. Therese de L'Enfant Jesu. 
The inside of the tabernacle was later lined with gold and adorned with precious rings and jewels by Mother M. Magdalen's relatives. Other significant moments in the life of our chapel in the first half of the twentieth century was the introduction of
electric lights in 1930 to replace parafin lamps, the addition of toilet facilities in the sacristy (sometime before 1945 - date uncertain) and also the installation of central heating in 1955.

St John the Baptist Left window: St John of the Cross' vision of Our Lord carrying His Holy Cross
Centre window: St Simon Stock receiving the Scapular from Our Blessed Lady
Right window: St Teresa receiving the nail from Our Lord as a sign of her espousals with him.
St. Elijah

Following Vatican II, alterations to the sanctuary area were necessary. This reconstruction took place during July 1973. The Architect was Mr. E. Smith and the constructor Mr. Roe. The altar was moved forward and the tabernacle mounted on a marble pillar. Our Lady's altar was also altered with the lower portion of the altar moved inward. During this work, the Blessed Sacrament was reserved in the nun's choir, to their great joy. Two years later, the complete chapel, including choir area, was redecorated and this time the Blessed Sacrament was reserved in the Chapter Room.

Christmas 1982 and 1983 brought our little chapel into many homes and hospitals when R.T.E. Radio Masses were broadcast live. It was a special privilege for the community and is still talked about today. 
Further changes occured in 1994 and 1995 when the large choir grille was removed and new choir stalls built. This was a preparation for the centenary celebrations held on 4th June 1996.
Chief celebrant of the Mass was His Excellency Lucian Serreo (Apostolic Nuncio). 


Old choir stalls used from 1897 until 1995

New choir stalls allow sisters to sit in two directions

Choir grille used from 1897 until 1994

View of the sanctuary from the nuns choir today

During planning for the building of the new monastery in 2003-4 it was decided to retain the old chapel which was structurally sound, and to incorporate it into the new building. So, it now forms one side of our monastery cloister, and the old stone work of the chapel wall gives the cloister a real monastic feel! 

During the building process, the secular chapel was extended by 8 feet by moving the rear wall back and inserting a new window. This work was carried out precisely, with the stones being carefully numbered and photographed to allow the new chapel wall to match with the existing old wall. The chapel can now comfortably hold up to fifty people for Mass. On very big occasions, extra chairs are put in the nuns choir for the "overflow"! Also in 2004, the inside of the chapel was completely redecorated and the bell was automated.


Extension work on the secular chapel in 2004,
showing the new rear wall erected

Completed work on the
secular chapel to the right

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