THE CATHOLIC CENTER CHAPEL
Archbishop Joseph P. Hurley, of the Diocese of St. Augustine,
presided at the Mass of Dedication for the Catholic Student
Center at the University of South Florida in Tampa on September
24, 1967. The Catholic Center's physical plant included office
space, a library, a small Chapel and a social hall in which
to host dances and other events for USF students.
As the student population grew in the 1970's the social
hall began to be used regularly for Sunday Liturgy. In 1989
the interior of the social hall was remodeled to make it more
suitable for permanent use as a Chapel. The Chapel seats approximately
275 people, and is used on a weekly basis by the Catholic
The Chapel building is typical of the modern style of design
that was popular in the 1960's. The arrangement of the windows,
and other architectural details, displays the "double
T" motif that was common in Mid-Century Modern architecture.
The stained glass window design by Sue Obata, of Obata Studios,
took into account the simple, modern character of the building.
The windows were designed to integrate with the existing architecture
while enhancing the congregation's participation in Liturgy.
THE WINDOW DESIGN
Christian literature from as early as the Second Century
A.D. attests that congregations faced east when they gathered
for liturgy on the Lord's Day (Justin's Apologeticum). The
floor plan of the oldest extant Christian church building,
the Third Century house church in Dura Europos, exhibits this
In the ancient world, the east was considered to be the
"source of light," as it was the direction of the
daily sunrise. Christians saw in this common reference an
allegory for the saving truth revealed in Jesus' life and
death. The eastern sky became a metaphor for Jesus' resurrection:
just as the sun rises to bring light to the world, the Son
of God rose from the dead and enlightened humanity. The eastern
sky was also used as a form of religious iconography; it became
a mystagogical tool to remind believers of their eschatological
hope of resurrection.
As the Catholic Center Chapel was adapted from a design
for social events, it is rather non-traditional in many ways,
including its orientation. The redesign in 1989 placed the
congregational seating facing north. In order to maintain
some sense of the traditional layout of a Catholic Church,
the window design for the eastern wall depicts resurrection
themes. The western wall design depicts illustrations and
examples of the theological virtue Hope.
The windows are composed of a combination of different types
of mouth blown antique glass. Most of the glass pieces that
comprise the windows are flashed glass and shaded glass. Flashed
antique glass is mouth blown with two or three distinct layers.
For example, blue, clear and white opaque layered flashed
glass is a predominant feature in the western wall windows.
The white opaque layer diffuses and reflects sunlight and
heat, while the blue layer illuminates the Chapel interior
with a cool, peaceful light.
Shaded antique glass is mouth blown to produce differing
color values. The shading adds a visual texture and variety
to the design that makes the overall appearance deeper and
richer. The varying color values of the glass in the rising
sun image on the eastern wall give the impression of actually
seeing a sunrise.
Portions of the windows are made with transparent glass.
Transparent glass transmits light without obstruction, and
allows the viewer to see objects outside the building.
The distinct physical and optical properties of each type
of glass coordinate to produce multiple effects. The quality
of the light, and the appearance of the windows, inside the
Chapel change throughout the day as a result of the changing
intensity and direction of the day's sunlight. The window
design can also be seen clearly from outside the building
because the flashed and shaded glass reflect light, while
the transparent glass does not.
THE EASTERN WALL WINDOWS
The principal image in the eastern windows is a rising sun
made of magenta, orange and amber glass. The color and shading
of this glass reproduce the visual effects of a typical Florida
The central pair of windows contain a depiction of Calvary,
and the empty tomb, made of gray opaque glass and magenta
transparent glass. There is a Cross shaped of clear transparent
glass in the left window of this central pair. The two short
windows located over the emergency exit doors continue the
rising sun theme.
The single window on the far left contains a representation
of the Crown of Thorns in magenta transparent glass. The fourteen
thorn-like projections, arranged linearly in the window, are
made of opaque white glass, and refer to the fourteen Stations
of the Cross.
The single window on the far right contains a winding shape
made of transparent green glass. It is a reference to the
winding path of discipleship, and also brings to mind the
"vine and branches" metaphor from John's Gospel.
The Greek letter Omega can be seen in the winding shape; this
is paired with the Greek letter Alpha in the Eucharist window
on the west side.
THE WESTERN WALL WINDOWS
Faith, Hope and Love are called theological virtues, not
because they are abstractions, but because they have God as
their ultimate reference and goal. The windows on the west
side of the Chapel depict the theological virtue of Hope as
the practical and metaphysical result of Jesus' resurrection.
There are seven individual designs that comprise the western
windows. Each of the seven illustrates a passage of Scripture
that refers to Hope.
The predominating image in the western windows is the "Tree
of Life," a common baptismal metaphor. The Tree of Life
image originates in the pair of windows just to the right
of the center of the western wall, and continues into the
windows on the left and the right.
The gray glass at the bottom of the windows represents the
earth; this design element continues throughout the windows
on the western wall. The trunk of the Tree is seen in the
vertical elements in this pair of windows. The branches and
leaves are represented by the green and amber glass at the
top of the windows. This image was inspired by Romans 15:11-13,
"And again, Isaiah says, 'The Root of Jesse will spring
up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles
will hope in him'."
On the left side of the Tree of Life is a pair of windows
inspired by Psalm 119:81, "My soul longs for your salvation;
I put my hope in your word." The windows depict an open
book of the Scriptures. God's Word, recorded in the Scriptures,
conveys the Gospel of Hope preached by the Apostles. The Greek
text written on these windows is taken from the Prologue of
Another common scriptural theme appears in the next pair
of windows to the left. "Be strong and take heart, all
you hope in the Lord." (Psalm 1:24) The sense of strength
and peace that Hope brings is represented by the image of
The next pair of windows to the left contains an image of
particular pertinence to a college campus. Youth is often
used in the Scriptures to describe the joy experienced by
God's faithful people. These windows were inspired by Psalm
71:5, "You are my hope, Lord; my trust, O God, from my
youth." The upward reaching elements in this pair of
windows depicts the growth and strength of a young plant.
Seeds, the beginnings of new life, fall from the upward reaching
branches. The individual seeds were produced by removing the
layer of blue from this flashed glass; the outer layer of
white opaque glass remains. This design has been adapted for
use on a new baptismal font for the chapel.
The single window, on the far left, contains wing-like images
inspired by Isaiah 40:31, "Those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be
The pair of windows immediately to the right of the Tree
of Life windows is situated above the baptismal font and adjacent
to the ambry. The scriptural text refers to the outpouring
of the Holy Spirit in baptism. The windows depict this with
representations of flowing water. "And hope does not
disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our
hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." (Romans
The single window on the far right is adjacent to the tabernacle.
The amber and purple glass represent the wheat and grapes,
the bread and wine, that are the eucharistic elements. "Faith
is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things
not seen." (Hebrews 11:1) Amber and orange glass forms
the Greek letter Alpha, which is paired with the Greek letter
Omega, in the final window on the East Wall.
The Catholic Center community would like to thank all those
who brought this stained glass project to completion. Sue
Obata, of Obata Studios, produced a beautiful, thoughtful
and inspired design. Norbert Sattler and his studio, Sattler's
Stained Glass, fabricated the designs and installed the windows
with meticulous attention to detail. We are very grateful
to them for their suggestions, guidance and dedication.
We are also grateful to those who contributed so generously
to this project. A dream of a beautiful place to worship was
brought to fruition by your unselfish support.
By Reverend Alan Weber, Director
Catholic Center at USF