The Mater Dei Chapel was the last building finished during construction of the new campus.
December 17, 1962 marked the dedication, consecration of the main altar and first Mass. The Solemn Blessing took place the following spring on May 1, 1963.
The meaning of Mater Dei – “Mother of God” – was inspired by the words of Pope John XXIII. During his opening remarks of the Second Vatican Council, just two months before the Chapel’s dedication, Pope John XXIII called on the Mother of God “to watch over the church during the work ahead.”
It was constructed with capacity, economy and simplicity of design in mind. According to a letter written by the Chapel’s architects, the Chapel “reflects the engineering knowledge, craftsmanship, economy, and material of the day.”
The letter also expressed, “In this way, the Chapel is similar to the Greek, early Christian, gothic and renaissance architecture.”
Augusta Zimmer, SC
The artwork gracing the Mater Dei Chapel comes from the hearts and hands of Sr. Augusta Zimmer and her art students. An internationally known artist of her time, Sr. Augusta empowered her students to capture a spiritual message when creating the Chapel’s works of art.
Sr. Augusta began as a science teacher, but was quickly sent to the Chicago Art Institute to explore her God-given talent – art. Her expertise as an artist and teacher came from years of traveling the world and studying art. She began her international studies in Europe, Egypt and the Holy Land in 1935, when she received a traveling fellowship.
In 1955, Sr. Augusta studied in Florence, Italy, and earned her Master of Fine Arts degree. During her two years in Florence, she developed a strong interest in ceramics and became fascinated with Venetian glass mosaics, which is reflected in the Mater Dei Chapel.
After spending 33 years as a teacher at the College of Mount St. Joseph, including 14 years as the chair of the Art Department, Sr. Augusta retired in 1971. She was then awarded an opportunity to travel to Iran to study Persian art forms, and continued to create art until her death on December 15, 1990.
Sr. Augusta never had an art show of her own, yet the Mater Dei Chapel stands as one of her greatest living works of art. However, she would be the first to extend the credit to the main contributors of the Chapel artwork, her students, specifically Margaret Rolfes Brungs ’60, Judy Dettenwanger Ebbeler ’61 and Marlene Hoffman ’61.