Donated altar dedicated at Franciscan Health Crown Point

CROWN POINT – One detail remained to make Franciscan Health’s new hospital located just east of Interstate 65 not only a center of life-preserving care but also a home for spiritual healing.
During Mass on the Solemnity of St. Joseph on March 19, Bishop Robert J. McClory presided over the Rite of Dedication of an Altar, consecrating a gift from construction firm executives. The diocesan leader said the invocations at St. Joseph Chapel at Franciscan Health Crown Point assured that the “heart of the hospital” would remain a spiritual hub for medical professionals and those needing comfort.
Bishop McClory read reflections of Pope Francis concerning St. Joseph, the “extraordinary figure who is so close to our own human experience,” from the pontiff’s writings about the foster father of Jesus during the height of the pandemic.
“When we experience a bit of crisis, (we see) how our lives are woven together and sustained by ordinary people, often overlooked, many of those who minister in places such as healthcare institutions,” Bishop McClory read.
The bishop praised the beauty of the additions to the hospital chapel and how they attract the faithful to the Eucharist. “This altar is no simple table, it’s the very altar on which we’ll be drawn into the very mystery of the sacrifice of Jesus,” he said.
Among those gathered in the spacious chapel were Mishawaka-based Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, who sponsor Franciscan Health, medical professionals and local benefactors. Many craned their necks to see the red oak and marble altar that stood ready to be anointed with chrism.
The chapel is on the western end of the seven-story, 199-bed facility where unusually high winds pelted the open area, creating a whirling and whistling sound during the liturgy that some imagined might be like the descent of the Holy Spirit. But the musical accompaniment of Franciscan sisters overpowered the noise, aided by an ample sound system in the chapel.
During the rite, Bishop McClory rolled up his vestments, poured the gold-colored and fragranced chrism on the marble top of the altar and spread it over the entire surface. The Litany of Saints and Prayers of Dedication was followed by incensation of the altar and lighting of candles, with the flame passed from the chapel’s pascal candle.
A group of Franciscan sisters cleaned the marble top with white cloths before Joe Coar and Jon Gilmore processed to the sanctuary with a white altar cloth that signaled the beginning of the sacred table’s use for liturgies, and symbolized the faithful’s baptismal experience.
Coar said upon taking inventory of the items that would fill the sanctuary, he believed an altar should be made to match the importance of the sacred space. Coar, who entered active retirement in 2014, joined Gilmore, president and chief executive officer of Tonn and Blank Construction of Michigan City, to make the personal donation of the altar and podia.
“It’s heartfelt for my wife, Betty, and certainly Jon (and Sherri) Gilmore, there’s no question,” said Joe Coar, who has a six-decade association with Tonn and Blank. “We’ve been working with the sisters and the bishop for years. We can create things like that altar, but for people to really use that and get the message across to so many people – they do it and do it so well. I thought the bishop did a wonderful job today in his blessing.”
Gilmore wished to not draw attention to their beneficence, “I think the best part was when the bishop talked about St. Joseph being (a man) who is behind the scenes. That’s what we want to be.”
Exiting worshippers glanced at stained glass windows which were framed by contemporary double-pane windows. Several restored saintly scenes were from a downstate donor and another panel was repurposed from the former Franciscan Health Hammond, commonly known as St. Margaret Hospital.
Many who attended the Mass gathered after for a lunch reception in a conference room. This created an opportunity for some to reflect on how the hospital family – its administrators, doctors, nurses, and other staff – along with those cared for and their loved ones can now fully realize the faith-based and high-tech services offered at the new location.
“The Mass today was transformational for that space; it turned into a holy place, a spiritual place,” said Dr. Daniel McCormick, president and chief executive officer of Franciscan Health Crown Point. “I reflected on the bishop’s words about St. Joseph and how his paternalism is reflecting what is done here by our healthcare providers.”
Sister M. Petra Nielsen, O.S.F., vice president of mission integration for Franciscan Health Crown Point, believes the timing of the day’s events spoke to the intercession of their patron.
“It’s beautiful to see an altar consecration, but to have it on the feast day of St. Joseph is, for us as sisters, important as all of our sisters are dedicated to St. Joseph,” said Sister Neilsen. “St. Joseph is the protector of the family and protector of the Church … he’s our patron as we carry out the Church’s healthcare ministry.”


Caption: On the Solemnity of St. Joseph, March 19, members of the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration and guests applaud at remarks during Mass and the Rite of Dedication of an Altar at Franciscan Health in Crown Point. Bishop Robert J. McClory praised the donation of the altar by a construction company executive and a retiree as a fitting way of topping off the medical facility. "As we come to the heart of this hospital, we'll be drawn to receive our Lord in the Eucharist. We know that through his sacrifice permeating from this very chapel, the redeeming work of Christ can be continued," said Bishop McClory. (Anthony D. Alonzo photo)