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$15 million gift leads to VU expansion

Gold shovels await groundbreaking Chapel ResurrectiValparaiso University campus for their new additiSaturday April 26 2014. | Michael Gard/For Sun-Times Media

Gold shovels await the groundbreaking at the Chapel of the Resurrection on the Valparaiso University campus for their new addition on Saturday, April 26, 2014. | Michael Gard/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: May 28, 2014 6:15AM



VALPARAISO — About 300 people stood along a yellow line Saturday, the outline for the 11,000-square-foot addition to Valparaiso University’s Chapel of the Resurrection.

“As you have filled in the space, you get a vision of how large this place will be and how it will enhance ministry,” said the Rev. Charlene Rachuy Cox, university pastor, shortly before shovels hit the dirt for the arc-shaped addition.

The Rev. Mark and Kathy Helge, who met while working at the chapel and graduated from VU in 1971, donated $15 million for renovation of the chapel, built in 1959, and the addition.

Renovation work, including new windows, a new heating system, and updated sound and lighting systems, took place over the last two years. The addition is expected to be finished in 12 to 16 months, said Brian Johnson, executive director of campus ministries.

The addition, on the chapel’s south side, includes rehearsal space, a meeting space, a full kitchen and, perhaps most importantly, will bring the university’s ministry programs into one location. They are in five places around campus, including the chapel, right now, Johnson said.

“There’s a synergy that happens when people are next to each other, and that creates a creative energy,” Johnson said after the groundbreaking. “The heart of it is deepening the mission of the institution and being open to all the kinds of ministry that happen in the world.”

Debra Albers, interim director of the Office for Church Relations, looks forward into moving into the addition once it’s complete. She and her assistant work out of a building on Linwood Avenue, several blocks from the chapel.

“Collaboration will be better, and communication, and just a sense of unity, because we’ve been so scattered,” she said, adding a consolidated spot also sends a message to campus that all of the ministerial offices are part of a team.

The chapel on the Lutheran campus, said VU President Mark Heckler, is where the campus gathers to reflect, and is part of an enduring legacy of passionate scholarship.

“The chapel is where our relationship to Valpo begins,” he said, adding it’s where the academic year starts on the first day back on campus, and where it ends with commencement. “It is where we spend our most formative time on campus.”

In addition to providing much-needed space, the addition will provide a place for formative experiences to take place for years to come, Heckler said.

The groundbreaking, said Kathy Helge, is a reverberating “yes” to the university’s mission, wherever those associated with VU go.

“It’s God’s work, our hands,” she said.



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