CHAPEL ISLAND - THE OLD AND THE NEW.
Document to be placed in the corner-stone of "Stella Maris" Chapel.
To Our Immaculate, God-Bearing Virgin, The Star of The Sea.
Along the eastern shore of Lake Sagatagan, there lies a small and picturesque peninsula, which for many years in earlier days was known, as "Doctor's Island.” Upon this beautiful spot in the summer of 1872, the clerics of St. John's Abbey built a small chapel, which they dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary under the appropriate title of "Star of the Sea.” At four o'clock on the eleventh day of July, Feast of the Solemn Commemoration of Our Holy Father St. Benedict, in the year above mentioned, the cornerstone of this small edifice was laid by Ven. Fr. Vincent Schiffrer O.S.B. in the presence of Ven. Frs. Bernard Locnikar O.S.B. (afterwards Abbot of St. John's Abbey † Nov. 7, 1894) Francis Mershman O.S.B. and Placidus Watry O.S.B. († Aug. 25, 1876)
"Chapel Island" as it was thenceforth called, was for many years much visited; "Stella Maris" Chapel became a spot of fervent devotion and piety towards Mary and Jesus. Surrounded by deep green trees and pretty bushes, with its little tower shadowed in the calm waters of the lake, Mary's shrine enticed many pilgrims to the island among who were numbered both faculty and students. For 31 years, this little oratory weathered the winters' ice and snow and only in the month of April 1903 was it destroyed by fire. During the last twelve years, Chapel Island has remained almost a deserted spot, Dame Nature kindly covering the ruins of the former chapel with a rich growth of vegetation.
Early in the autumn of 1914, the Clerics of St. John's Abbey, at the suggestion of some of the Fathers, decided to again adorn "Chapel Island" with a new shrine in Mary's honor under the old title "Star of the Sea.” Permission having been most generously bestowed by the Superiors, all members of the Clericate entered heart and soul into the project. The Clericate was composed of the following Benedictines, 1) Of the Abbey of St. John the Baptist, Collegeville, Minn.: Rev. Ps. Victor Ronellenfitsch and Edgar Kees, Deacons; Rev. Frs. Hyacinth Cismowski, Gilbert Winkelmann, Virgil Michel and Sylvester Harter, Sub deacons; Ven. Frs. Wendelin Luetmer, Solemnly Professed; Leo Hoppe, Urban Weckwerth, Rembert Bularzik and Cyprian Schwarz, Theologians; Basil Stegmann, Fabian Ethen, Oswald Johannes, Boniface Hain, Ignatius Wiltzius, Bruno Schmid, Edward Botzet, Celestine Kapsner, Godfrey Gans, Method Porwoll and Cuthbert Goeb, Philosophers; 2) Of St. Benedict's Abbey, Atchison, Kansas: Ven. Frs. Henry Courtney and Pius Pretz, Solemnly Professed; Meinard Nordhus, Theologian, and Adrian Stallbaumer, Philosopher.
During the autumn months a short and open road, extending from the monastery to the island, was made by the Novices, amongst whom there were eight from St. Procopius Abbey, Lisle Ill., two from the Abbey of St. Peter Saskatchewan, Canada, and of St. John's Abbey the Ven. Frs. Jerome Fleissner, Ernest Wetterhahn, Marcellus Mayer, Walter Reger, Justin Luetmer and Mark Braun. The six later, after pronouncing their simple vows, will also aid in the superstructure of the chapel.
Blocks made of cement were prepared during the winter months and transported over the ice to the island by the means of sledges. With the opening of spring, ground for the new chapel was broken and actual work begun. With God's aid and the hearty cooperation of all the clerics the foundation had been happily completed, until now the cornerstone is about to be laid.
In virtue whereof this manuscript has been prepared to inform all that on the 13th day of June in the year 1915 (the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost) the cornerstone of this "Stella Maris" Chapel was laid by the Rt. Rev. Peter Engel O.S.B., Abbot of St. John's in the presence of the religious of the Monastery and Students of the University: Benedict XV being supreme Pontiff of the Holy Roman Catholic Church; John Bonzano Archbishop, Apostolic delegate; John Ireland, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of St. Paul; Joseph F. Busch, Bishop of the Diocese of St. Cloud; Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States; Winfield Scott Hammond, Governor of the State of Minnesota; Fidelis Von Stotzingen O.S.B. Abbot Primate of the Order of St. Benedict; Ernest Helmstetter O.S.B., Praeses of the American-Cassinese Congregation; Rt. Rev. Peter Engel, Abbot of St. John's Abbey; Very Rev. Herman Bergmann, Prior of the Monastery; the Rev. Fathers Michael Ott, Sub-Prior; Athanasius Meyer, Master of Novices; Hubert Buerschinger, Procurator; Alphonse Sausen, Superior of the Clerics; Very Rev. Killian Heid, Rector of the University; Rev Cornelius Wittmann, Senior Priest; and Ven. Fr. Cuthbert Goeb, Junior Cleric and Socius of the Novices.
Together with this manuscript there will be placed in this cornerstone: An "Ordo" of the American-Cassinese Congregation for the current year; Catalogues for the scholastic year 1914-1915 of St. John's University, Collegeville Minnesota and St. Benedict's College, Atchison, Kansas; a copy of the "St. John's Record" and the "Abbey Student" for the months of May 1915; copies of the "Catholic Bulletin", "Der Wanderer" and "Der Nordstern" of the nearest date; [and] medals of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of St. Benedict.
Today a nefarious and most sanguinary war is lying waste almost the whole of Europe, in which a great many temples and shrines to Mary, Our Loving Mother, are daily desecrated and destroyed. It is therefore meet and proper that the clerics here in the beloved land of America endeavor to make Mary, the Seat of Wisdom, some recompense.
Consequently it is the dearest wish of all the clerics that "Stella Maris" chapel may prove a worthy reparation to the dear Queen of Heaven, that the prayers, which pious and devout souls will pour forth in these little oratory may increase Mary's honor and at the same time that of her First-Born Divine Son.
In memory and testimony whereof we have all signed our names as follows:
(Seal of the Abbey) Peter Engel, Abbot
Alphonse Sausen, Superior
(The individual clerics)
The above document rather freely translated from the Latin manuscript, composed by Ven. Fr. Henry Courtney, O.S.B. of Atchison Kansas, is well nigh self-explanatory. It gives in short the history of "Chapel Island" - the Old and New. All that remains for us is to give a short description of the festivities on the day itself June 13, 1915.
During the morning, old Juniper Pluvius tried his best to spoil things, but Dame Nature grew kind and prepared for us an afternoon absolutely perfect. About 3:30 P.M., the seminarians and students marched over to the island. When 3:45 P.M. arrived, the Fathers, Clerics and Brothers made use of every rowboat on the lake and soon joined the students on the island.
Our launch "Sagatagan" had been gaily decked out with flags and bunting and in this sturdy little ship the celebrant and his ministers made the trip across the lake.
Sharply at 4:00 P.M., the ceremonies began. The newly completed foundation, as well as the surrounding trees and bushes, had all been beautifully and tastily decorated; the whole making a most pleasing picture.
The assembled students first sang a hymn in honor of Mary. Then Rt. Rev. Peter Engel, O.S.B., assisted by Rev. Willibald Hackner as Deacon and Rev. Victor Ronellenfitsch, O.S.B., as Sub-deacon, blessed the new stone. Then followed the Litany of the Blessed Virgin, recited by all in the vernacular. Hereupon the document above given, together with those papers, medals and booklets mentioned therein were placed in the stone, which was then sealed over.
The Rt. Rev. Abbot preached a short and very impressive sermon. Quoting at length from St. Bernard, who has written so well of the "Star of the Sea,” he urged upon all to reverence this spot, to make Mary's new Oratory a place of piety and devotion.
With the Te Deum sung by all, the ceremonies concluded. The clerics of the Abbey certainly deserve great credit for this noble work. We feel sure that Our Dear Lady in Heaven looks down with love upon their labor and will bless those who so zealously labor in her honor.
Fr. Henry Courtney O.S.B.