What an amazing fifteen years! In 1996, we began a modest capital campaign with a goal of raising $1 million for the construction of a 3,000 sq. ft. student center and $4 million for the endowment. In 2011, with the support of over 3,000 donors from all 50 states and 5 countries, we raised over $25 million to construct a 30,000 sq. ft., Cesar Pelli-designed student center and to renovate the chapel and Chaplain’s residence. These beautiful facilities, along with our expanding program of excellence, will continue to be supported by alumni and friends and a $25 million testamentary agreement. What has happened here is beyond our wildest dreams and a truly historic accomplishment. We hope that each donor takes pride in this extraordinary achievement and knows how grateful we are for their continued commitment to fostering a vibrant Catholic community at Yale University. There is so much for which to be thankful.
In 1934, Fr. T. Lawrason Riggs, the founding Chaplain of Saint Thomas More Chapel, petitioned Bishop McAuliffe for the construction of a new chapel on Park Street to offer the Yale community a permanent presence on campus. Without a physical space to call home or the ability to be part of the rhythms of students’ lives, Fr. Riggs believed the construction of the chapel in 1937 that, “a ‘chaplain’ [could] only nibble round the edges of his task….” He believed the new chapel could offer students their “own place of worship, where they could join in the liturgy, hear instructions adapted to their needs, and come into regular contact with the Chaplain. Around it as a center would develop a far more vigorous spiritual life for the Catholics at Yale.” His goal was also to provide students a venue for exploring their faith intellectually so as to keep their “religious knowledge on a par with [their] general education, not as an irksome burden, but as a source of spiritual progress and intellectual health!”
He went on to write, “upon leaving the chapel, [students] would be all the better Catholics, all the more loyal and intelligent leaders of Catholic action, as members of their home parishes…. And, it is my profound conviction that the strengthening of religious life among Catholics, with all that it implies, would affect many more than those Catholics themselves, would indeed be a most potent force in the whole University…. If we American Catholics are to meet the demands and opportunities of the new stage in our history that is before us, an impression must be made on the nation’s intellectual life, a ‘cultural offensive’ must be launched….” Now, over 70 years later, Fr. Riggs’ dream has become a reality. We have a beautifully renovated space for worship, a newly constructed Thomas E. Golden, Jr. Center for intellectual advancement and we have become a fully integrated part of the Yale community.
References to Fr. Riggs’ correspondence to Bishop McAuliffe and his own reflections are found in A History of Catholicism
at Yale to 1943, by Peter C. Alegi '56 '59 ll.b. (1956).