Historical Corner: OLP’s Chapel and Altar

A Brief History of the OLP Chapel and Altar

By Dr. Melinda Blade, Director of Mission Integration and Historian

In 1925, OLP moved to its present location on Oregon Street and the school doors were opened for a new school year at the summer’s end. That December, Mass was celebrated for the first time in the Chapel by Father Alfred Valiquette, O.S.A. It was the Christmas Midnight Mass.

The chapel was built for $24,000. Solid mahogany pews line the Chapel. Stain glass windows open to the Chapel Courtyard on the East and to Lower Plaza on the West and South. Representations of the Stations of the Cross adorn the walls. There are 20 pews intersected by the aisle, with three more pews in the rear of the Chapel.

The altar, made of solid Carrera marble, was hand-carved in Italy and is modeled after an altar in Rome. The measurements of the dome area in the OLP Chapel into which the altar would be placed were sent to Italy. The OLP legend is that when the altar arrived and fit perfectly into the alcove, the workers fell to their knees and wept in gratitude. The two angels that flank each side of the altar were added later and are thought to be the gift of an OLP family. (Do you know which family? Let us know!)

In 1927, Reverend Joseph Rohde, Vice-Provincial of the Franciscans, officiated at the solemn consecration of the altar on December 28, making it (at that time) the only consecrated altar in San Diego. Thirteen other priests were present. The dedication adhered to the Code of Canon Law promulgated in 1917 (C.L.D. 1, p. 563, Canon 1200).

In 1947, OLP’s altar was re-consecrated by San Diego Bishop Charles Francis Buddy. Father Starr, O.S.A., Father Ross, Father Henry, Father O’Connor and Father Clarence, O.F.M. assisted him. The Mass was held on April 24 at 7:30 pm. Relics of St. Tranqullini and St. BIas II were placed in the altar. Those relics were sent from the Sisters’ Mother House in St. Louis.

Class retreats were held in the Chapel over the decades since its construction. The Chapel has also been the site of numerous baptisms of our alumnae’ children, alumnae marriages, and Masses of the Resurrection for those with OLP ties who have died.

Extant photos in the OLP Archives dating back to the mid-1920s into the 1930s show the interior to be similar to today’s interior. The statues of the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph continue to flank the altar, as do the two angels. Yet the communion rail is gone, removed following Vatican II.

OLP’s Chapel has witnessed many liturgies and sacraments since its dedication in 1927. It will continue to be the location of where OLP Pilots and alumnae receive the sacraments, worship and rejoice in the many blessings of creation. Help us restore it to its original splendor by donating today.

Read last month’s historical corner here.