University’s Byzantine Chapel’s future uncertain

Published: November 27, 2015


Faith Editor

The University’s Byzantine Rite chapel faces an uncertain fate in the coming year.

The chapel, located in Ciszek Hall, has held services on a weekly basis since its inception in 1987. The Rev. Thomas F. Sable, S.J., has celebrated liturgy at the chapel since its establishment. It has had a small but loyal attendance of students, faculty, families and community members over the past several decades.

However, since Sable’s abrupt departure at the end of the summer, the University has not determined what will happen to the chapel or replaced Sable.

Health complications drove Sable to retire from his position as a theology professor at The University as well as his position within the chapel. According to an email from University public relations, “The Jesuit Community reports that Father is residing in a Jesuit health care center in New York, which is close to his home Province and close to his relatives.”

Attendants of the chapel, such as mathematics professor Steven Dougherty, Ph.D., worry that The University will take steps to eliminate the chapel without consulting any of the people who attend liturgy there.

“My hope is that they consult the people who actually use the space,” Dougherty said.

His concern is based upon a previous incident in which a vast collection of literature with an emphasis on Eastern tradition was suddenly removed from the building.

Years ago, Ciszek hall housed a library, maintained by Sable and used in the community. However, without warning, The University removed the library and repurposed the space.

Dougherty, who acts as a cantor at weekly services, fears that The University may repurpose or destroy the space, thereby eliminating a center for faith, art, education and diversity.

Byzantine, or Eastern Rite, differs from Roman Catholic tradition in several manners, including ornate spaces and a particular reverence for icons. The space in Ciszek hall exemplifies that rich artistic quality.

“I hope they maintain the building because that space can never be recreated,” Dougherty said.

One possible solution to the need for a celebrant could be to reach out to St. Mary’s Byzantine Rite Church on Mifflin Avenue. Even if not on a weekly basis, the Jesuit priest who celebrates there could plausibly visit The University according to a schedule.

Ultimately, Dougherty encourages students to take advantage of the religious diversity in Scranton. Exploring different options not only helps to reassert the importance of diverse spiritual opportunities, but also enriches one’s understanding of culture. Catholicism alone encompasses dozens of rites, many of which are present in the community.

“Students who are interested in Catholicism should seize the opportunity to explore all of the different rites present in Scranton,” Dougherty said.

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