LINCOLN (SNR) - On the third level of Saint Elizabeth Regional Medical Center, there’s a chapel that offers comfort, inspiration, solitude, compassion, hope, and so much more to those who enter its doors.
Now the Saint Elizabeth Foundation has plans in place to make it a more beautiful and welcoming environment than ever.
"The Chapel at Saint Elizabeth is the heart and soul of our healing environment," said Donna Hammack, chief development officer of the Saint Elizabeth Foundation.
She provided an excerpt from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops publication, Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, Fifth Edition, which explains why the chapel is such an integral part to the medical center’s mission.
"Since a Catholic health care institution is a community of healing and compassion," the document reads, "the care offered is not limited to the treatment of a disease or bodily ailment but embraces the physical, psychological, social and spiritual dimensions of the human person….without health of the spirit, high technology focused strictly on the body offers limited hope for healing the whole person."
The chapel is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to people of all faith traditions. In addition, a memorial service is offered four times a year for families who have lost loved ones cared for at Saint Elizabeth’s.
Masses are celebrated at 11:30 a.m. Monday through Saturday, and at 6:15 and 8 a.m. Sundays by full-time chaplain Father Janusz Marzynski. The Masses are broadcast on the hospital’s in-house television channel, so those unable to physically visit the chapel may watch the Masses. Every day, throughout the day, patients, their families and their caregivers come alone or in groups to pray, meditate and worship.
Because the chapel is one of the most frequently used places in the hospital, it’s showing some wear since it was built some 42 years ago. The shag carpeting is outdated and threadbare in spots. Ceiling tiles show water stains. The lighting is dim and depressing.
In 2003, the hospital underwent a major renovation, including the addition of a meditation room, an outdoor area for staff and patients to relax and reflect by the lake, a walking path around the lake with resting benches and several colorful landscaped areas on the hospital grounds.
At that time, the Saint Elizabeth Foundation was given the responsibility of handling chapel renovations. A committee decided what would stay – including the beautiful stained glass windows and exquisite statues of the Blessed Mother, Saint Joseph and Saint Elizabeth – and what had to go.
Altus Architectural Studios, the same Omaha firm that handled the medical center’s 2003 renovations, helped create the plan, making sure the design met all building code requirements.
"Many of the things that need to be remediated don’t meet the standards we should have in place today," Mrs. Hammack explained.
The carpeting will be replaced, and new same slate flooring will accent the altar area. A new vaulted wood ceiling will draw all eyes upward – a fitting design for a chapel.
Better lighting will come from new decorative fixtures and new flame-retardant window treatments that will allow in more natural light as they reduce glare. Fresh paint and new cushions on the pews and kneelers will complete the project.
Once the renovation plans were settled, the Foundation estimated the total cost at around $275,000. Since then, the group has held a series of fundraisers.
They’ve sold May baskets, Valentine roses and books to collect funds. An Associate Campaign generated significant employee giving to the project, and the Foundation has been able to secure a $20,000 grant, with more applications still pending.
A little more than half the money has been accrued to date.
"We would like to have this completed during the next fiscal year, which began July 1, 2012," Mrs. Hammack said.
That means the Foundation is expanding its plea to everyone in the Lincoln area who could receive care at Saint Elizabeth Regional Medical Center. Specific fundraisers will continue, but private donations are welcome at any time.
Individuals can send donations to Saint Elizabeth Foundation, 6900 L Street, Lincoln, NE 68510.
"Any amount would be welcomed," a grateful Mrs. Hammack said.