One hundred years ago the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas was built as the center of faith at St. Thomas. In celebration of its centennial, the university will break ground on a 23,000-square-foot expansion of the chapel in May 2019. Learn more here. Below are just a few of the many stories of love that began in this sacred space.
The Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas has a place in the hearts of many St. Thomas community members. Colorful stained-glass windows illuminate its grand interior. With rich wood paneling and broad ceiling beams, this is the gathering space for sacraments and special occasions, including the celebration of the Eucharist, the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) and funeral Masses. The sacred space is also a popular site for the sacrament of Marriage.
Since the first recorded wedding in 1886, many alumni couples have taken their vows in the chapel, which holds special memories for them of sanctifying their union.
More than 1,500 couples have tied the knot here since 1990. Among them are Amy Vander Bloemen ’92 and Ed Kelly ’87. As Amy recalls their 1993 wedding, she laughs at her gown (“It looks like I wanted to be like Maria in ‘The Sound of Music!’”) and her “too many” bridesmaids and groomsmen, but her mood turns serious and reverent when she describes the ceremony.
“We asked Father Greg Tolaas to preside at our wedding. We both loved him. We feel blessed that he married us,” she said about Tolaas, Campus Ministry director, who died in 2007. “As Father Greg suggested, we draped the altar, set the table and were Eucharistic ministers. That was very meaningful to us. We were preparing to share the sacrament with our family and friends.”
Ed said most of their guests had never seen a bride and groom participate in the ceremony to that extent. “The chapel is a special place,” he said. “I spent lots of time there as a liturgical coordinator and peer minister. I was involved in planning Masses and programs and creating the environment. I worked in the sacristy and served at Masses, so I felt very comfortable and at home in the chapel.”
Having their ceremony there “was a gift from being so involved at St. Thomas,” he said. Ed was a resident assistant (RA) in Ireland Hall and Amy was an RA in Dowling Hall and then Grace Hall. He proposed to her during a birthday celebration at which he handed her a purse and said, “There’s something special inside.” Although she thought it might be a wallet, she was thrilled to discover that it was an engagement ring.
Both Catholic, they knew they wanted to be married in the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas. Her parents really hoped she would be married in her hometown church in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, but after the ceremony in the chapel, her mother said to her, “I understand 100 percent why you wanted to be married here.”
1976: Tom ’77 and Pam (Palm) Rasmussen
My wife, Pam, and I were married in the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas on Sept. 29, 1978. We were married by both Father Bernie Vedder (I had him for one of my theology classes) and my wife’s uncle, the Rev. Richard Borgstrom. This was truly an ecumenical ceremony. The chapel was undergoing a renovation at that time and we were fortunate that they were able to get everything cleaned up for our special day!
1976: Tony ’77 and Bonnie Coffey
2007: Tim ’04 and Colleen (Coffey) Kroeger ’04
2011: Jeremy and Suzanne (Coffey) Busch
The beautiful Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas has had a few changes in its appearance. Witness to that are three marriages in our family that took place in 1976, 2007 and 2011. Tony Coffey ’77 and I were married on a bright September day in 1976. I had just graduated from Moorhead State University and embarked on my first teaching position in special education in White Bear Lake. Tony was working as a youth leader at Holy Redeemer Parish in Maplewood, and completing his education at St. Thomas and St. Kate’s in occupational therapy. Fast forward to 2007 and our daughter Colleen ’04 married Tim Kroeger ’04. They now reside in Omaha, Nebraska, and are parents to our three grandsons. In 2011, our daughter Suzanne (St. Ben’s 2001) married Jeremy Busch (U of M Crookston 2001). Because Suzie’s dad was a Tommie, and perhaps because Colleen and her husband were Tommies, Suzie and Jeremy could also get married at the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas. The Chapel was beautiful (in 1976), and witness to our daughters’ marriages. It has been transformed over the years and still stands as a place where loving relationships are sealed in witness to others.
1979: Mark ’76 and LaRae Gregory
My wife and I were married at The Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas. At the time, my wife worked for Charles Mayo, the grandson of the founders of the Mayo Clinic. Charles inherited the carriage in this picture from his grandparents. This carriage was used by his grandfather to commute from his residence to the Mayo Clinic. At our wedding we rode from the chapel, down Summit Avenue and then to Murray Hall where our reception took place.
1980: Stephen and Ann (Anderson) Guter ’80
I was married in the chapel on Aug. 23, 1980. Father Bernie Vedder officiated and a champagne reception in Murray Hall followed the ceremony. I was also a poster child on one of the first co-ed St. Thomas flyers. Some Tommie notes: The father of the groom is Stephen J. Guter ’51. The father of the bride is Robert E. Anderson ’53 also a hall of fame swimmer. The youngest groomsman is Anthony J. Anderson ’88. The usher is a Robert L. Anderson ’77. The groomsman is Gerald T. Moore ’77.
1987: Tom ’86 and Susan (Hersman) Haines ’86
Here is a photo from our 1987 wedding at the chapel. Other alumni include: Sharon Becker Braun ’87, Steve Hersman ’88, Dan Tuohy ’86, Mark Larson ’86, and Mark Muck ’86. Great memories. We will be married 31 years in November!
1993: Damon ’90 and Julie (Carlson) Fitzgerald ’90
We celebrated our 25th anniversary on Sept. 18, 2018, having been married at the St. Thomas Chapel. Many of our attendees were also St. Thomas alumni.
1990: Gregory ’92 and Kathi Mishek
My husband and I were married in the chapel on March 24, 1990. I graduated from St. Catherine. We loved attending Mass at the evening services as college students. I even performed in a play there in ’87 or ’88.
1993: Charlie ’90 and Jenni (Seipp) Corbett ’90
We met on the swim team. We were married by Father Jim Smith on Oct. 2, 1993. As the readings happened I occasionally looked to my future husband and smiled as I was so happy with how beautiful the day was going. He was stone-cold focused. I was a little surprised. He’s normally calm and relaxed and always positive. “Boy, he must be nervous!” I thought. … I came to find out after the fact that one leg of his chair was OFF the edge of the top step. His best man saw it from the front row and was able to get his attention and make sure he knew he was balancing precariously on the edge. So his “nerves” were him making sure he didn’t lean back, or wiggle or even move to prevent him from toppling off the top step! … We were “this close” to potentially winning money on “America’s Funniest Home Videos!” But I’m so glad he didn’t fall. Still happily married and celebrating 25 years this October!
2009: Dr. Alex ’07and Mykala (Lind) Micek ’07
We met through a mutual friend on move-out day at the end of our freshman year, and began dating that summer of 2004. Mykala lived in John Paul II residence hall on north campus, so we spent a lot of time walking past the chapel on our way to and from the cafeteria, bookstore and class. In the fall, the changing colors of the trees framed the chapel beautifully, and in winter, Mykala recalls making snowmen with friends nearby in the upper quad. Back then, the chapel hosted the annual St. Thomas Christmas concert, which was always something we loved. Springtime ushered in wedding season, and we saw our share of other couples getting married at the chapel before we took our turn on July 11, 2009. So it is nine years we have been married, only a sliver of time to a century-old building such as this. To me, the constancy of a landmark like the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas is heartening; during this chapter of national chaos and uncertainty, the solidity of a special place, one we grew up in and marked time next to, one where we celebrated the union of our lives, gives me comfort.
2002: Brad ’98 and Kerry Marshal
Brad ’98 and Kerry Marshall were married in the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas on April 20, 2002. Brad was a four-year member of the men’s hockey team.
2003: Bryan ’00 and Sharmi (de Silva) Nelson ’00
My wife and I were married at the chapel in October of 2003.
2008: Pankaj and Erin (Wiste) Kumar ’01
We were married on July 12, 2008. Three of our bridesmaids were classmates having all graduated from St. Thomas in 2001.
2015: Tim ’05 and Amy Domini
My wife, Amy, and I were married in the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas in April 2015.
2011: Bryce ’07, ’10 J.D., and Ruth (Dapper) Young ’12 J.D.
St. Thomas is integral to our love story: We met in law school; our first conversation was at the home of professor Tom Holloran and Patty Holloran; Bryce proposed in the law school chapel. Following our engagement, we chose the undergraduate chapel for our wedding because we felt the chapel captured the peace, beauty and belonging that we felt at St. Thomas. Father Whitt presided over the wedding ceremony, and the reception was held in the atrium of the law school. We have since moved to San Diego, California, where we are both attorneys, but continue to hold dear the textured floors, the dark, cool pews and the grand vaulted ceilings of the chapel. We return regularly to the law school and the undergraduate chapel, always feeling an instant sense of tranquility. We hope the chapel will always be a place in which students and community members can capture a still moment, know they are loved, understand they are part of a supportive community and then return refreshed to their busy schedules. The photographer was Dave Hrbacek.
2017: Mitchell ’17 and Katheryn (Murphy) Watkins ’17
We are so blessed to have had our wedding day at such a meaningful place to us. My husband Mitch and I met the first day freshman year at St. Thomas in Ireland and Dowling halls. We dated the last two years at St. Thomas and were engaged under the Arches. Mitch converted to Catholicism at the chapel. We both attended Last Chance Mass often with Father Becker, who married us. We still hold the chapel close to our hearts as that is where we wanted to start our exciting journey in marriage.
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