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Michigan university students turn 200 inches of snow into ice chapel

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Brendan Flanagan | With Permission

J-P Mauro - published on 02/26/22

The students look cold, but what a "cool" way to attend a Catholic Mass!

When life gives you lemons, it is suggested that you make lemonade. So when the Michigan region was subjected to some 200 inches of snow, it’s only natural that a group of Catholics would make an ice chapel. That’s the scene over at Michigan Technological University (MTU), where yearly ice chapels have become something of a tradition. 

This project is exactly what we’d expect from a community of tech-savvy students, who presumably grew up on Minecraft. The construction of the chapel was organized by the St. Albert the Great Campus Ministry, and judging by their social media posts it took several days to complete. 

Our Lady of the Snows

The students have really gone above and beyond to beautify their construction, known as “The Ice Chapel at Our Lady of the Snows.” The walls, which rise over 10 ft high, are sculpted with ornamentation, while several notches cut into them are adorned with candles or statues. The onion-like dome above the sanctuary gives it a distinct and reverent outline. 

The chapel includes an altar, where Mass is celebrated before a crucifix, which is sunken into the ice wall. One of the more ingenuitive features is the fully covered pulpit, where readings are proclaimed and homilies given. This, however, is the only covered area, as the nave is completely open to the elements. Those who attend a Mass at Our Lady of the Snows are advised to dress warmly.

Stained “glass”

One of our favorite aspects of the design is the colorful “stained glass,” which can be seen around the entryway and in a rose window. It is easy enough to make: just fill a tray with colored water, let it freeze, and break it to create shards of colored ice, but its artistic value to the chapel is immeasurable. It brings some much needed pigment to the otherwise white landscape, and makes it look more like a real church. 

According to Today’s Catholic, MTU students have been constructing this chapel for a few years now. The project was the brainchild of Father Ben Hasse, director of campus ministries. He called the annual effort “a really good way to bring the students together.” 

Deconsecration

As a sacred space, and one where Mass is celebrated, it is likely that the ice chapel was consecrated. This got us curious as to what the proper procedure for deconsecration would be. Thankfully, Aleteia’s own Fr. Patrick Briscoe, OP, has weighed in. He said: 

“The reverent way to dispose of blessed objects is to return them to the earth. Typically we burn blessed objects (such as worn Bibles or broken crucifixes) and bury the ashes or we simply bury the objects. It seems to me that allowing a blessed ice chapel to melt is not irreverent, but conforms to the normal practice of the Church.

Watch the video below to see what a Mass at Our Lady of the Snows is really like.

Tags:
ArchitectureArtCatholicHigher Education
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