St. Benedict Chapel blessed in Chesapeake
Several hundred people were present for the solemn blessing of the new St. Benedict Chapel in Chesapeake on Saturday, March 5. Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo performed the rite in Latin as he blessed the cornerstone and sprinkled the brick building with holy water as he and other clergy walked around the circumference of the chapel’s exterior.
The blessing was the high point of more than 30 years of history for the congregation which worships in the Latin Tridentine Rite. The original chapel, which is on the same grounds, was a two-bedroom white frame farmhouse. Richard Forrest, a parishioner and an original member of the worship community, said the congregation was first organized in 1977.
“Then there was a large group of us — from Richmond, Williamsburg and the Norfolk area — who invited Father Francis Fenton of the Orthodox Roman Catholic Movement to celebrate Mass once a month,” he said.
Father Fenton celebrated Mass at what was then the Holiday Inn-Scope in Norfolk. In its early days the community gathered for the Latin Mass monthly rotating between Williamsburg and Norfolk.
In 1979 members of the group living in Norfolk named the worship community Our Lady of the Rosary and gathered for Mass in the banquet room of Nick’s Steak House on Sunday mornings.
“We flew in priests for Mass from New York and Canada,” Mr. Forrest said.
One of the community members active in real estate found the property in the Greenbriar area of Chesapeake with the goal of having weekly Mass. The small congregation of 50 purchased the property and Mass was celebrated in the small farmhouse until 1990.
“It closed down for a year and a half or so,” Mr. Forrest told The Catholic Virginian.
Bishop Walter F. Sullivan then agreed to “regularize the chapel,” Mr. Forrest said, with it coming under the canonical authority of the Diocese of Richmond.
It was renamed St. Benedict Chapel. Bishop Sullivan appointed Benedictine Father Damian Abbattichio, the original pastor of St. Gregory the Great Parish in Virginia Beach, as chaplain. The chapel remains a mission of St.Gregory’s with Benedictine Father Mario Fulgenzi as canonical pastor.
Father Neal Nichols, a native of Richmond who is a graduate ofHampden-Sydney College and is now a member of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, is chaplain. Father Peter Byrne, FSSP, is assistant chaplain.
St. Benedict Chapel has 180 registered families. Not all who worship there regularly are registered. “It’s been a long process and this building was not without its challenges,” Father Nichols said.
“This is the newest church in the diocese and we’re very proud of it,” he said from the altar.
Father Nichols thanked Pope Benedict XVI “for defending the doctrines of Holy Mother Church and its tradition” and also thanked Bishop DiLorenzo “for allowing us to build.”
Only a few days before the dedication, much work remained to be done on the building and church grounds. It involved moving furnishings from the old chapel to the new chapel and “last minute things to make the building ready for occupancy,” Father Nichols said.
“Just a few days ago I didn’t think we would make it,” he added. “But a whole army of good people came forward.”
The previous chapel, which includes a 25-foot addition to the original farmhouse, will be used for offices and social gatherings.
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