Over the summer, the seating in the Madonna Della Strada Chapel was rearranged. For a few years prior, the Chapel had been in what Campus Minister Fred Mercadante describes as “cruciform.” In that arrangement, there were two main columns of seating with the altar at the front. One of the reasons for moving away from the cruciform, Mercadante explained, was to move away from the mass being more like a performance.
“The form we had for the last few years was what we would call cruciform, which is more like the sanctuary is more on stage and everyone is watching,” Mercadante said.
The decision to make the change stemmed from a discussion about how to foster a greater sense of community in the worship space. Whereas the cruciform arrangement gave the feeling that mass was more like a performance, this new arrangement helps to give the feeling that mass is a participation.
This “semi-circular or wrap-around” arrangement, Mercadante explained, fosters a much greater sense of community and encourages conscious and active participation from everyone at the mass.
“One of the discussions was about returning the chapel to its original setup, which was more of a what we would call a semicircular or wrap-around form – wrapping around the altar, wrapping around the sanctuary, creating that sense of how we’re all sitting around the same table as one would sit around a dining room table,” he said.
Also contributing to the decision was the desire to be loyal to the traditions of the Church and to the Second Vatican Council’s documents on liturgy. Those documents described changes to the liturgy in order to encourage more participation from all those attending the mass.
While for many upperclassmen walking in to see this new arrangement was a strange sight, Mercadante ultimately feels like it will benefit the worship community at The University.