Authors: Dawn Fredrick-Seibert, Robert Salas and Orlando Vazquez

Petra is proud to have played an integral role in planning the Chapel of Unity and Reconciliation at the Richard Meier-designed Cathedral Cultural Center on the Christ Cathedral campus. Upon completion, the chapel was dedicated to the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange, to honor the ministry of care and significant community contributions of the sisters who have lived and worked in Orange County since 1922. In fact, the chapel project was funded by a contribution from St. Joseph Health, which the sisters founded. The history of the order dates back to 1650, when it got its start in France.

The approximately 30-seat Chapel of Unity and Reconciliation was carefully and intentionally designed to reflect the sisters and their mission, including simplicity, community, and meaning. The goal was to create a serene gathering place in which people could come together in a sanctuary for prayer and meditation. Artists and their work were carefully chosen for the space, as was everything from finishes to flooring to furniture. In addition, the chapel’s location on the second floor of the Cathedral Cultural Center presented unique engineering challenges to resolve, in order to ensure symmetry within the space as well as secure installation of the cross and corpus.

The Chapel of Unity and Reconciliation features two works by Alexander Tylevich, including the crucifix and a welcoming bronze sculpture of Joseph, patron saint of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange. A stunning wall mural, titled “The Washing of the Feet II,” is a gift from artist John August Swanson to Christ Cathedral. Altar furnishings were constructed by Joel McCoy from madrone, a hardwood native to Humboldt County, where the sisters founded their ministry in the United States.

Petra’s experience and spirit of collaboration were critical to the planning, project management, and design processes. Petra successfully managed an engineering solution for the wall on which the cross and corpus were placed, creating a furred-out wall to avoid penetrating a shaft wall. Petra also helped each artist design and finalize their pieces, by generating 3D renderings within the chapel space that could be used to guide design decisions. Perhaps most importantly, Petra’s particular expertise with special projects and work within a mission-based context ensured sensitivity to the project’s vision and goals as well as how work was conducted and how budgets were created and maintained.

Petra began the design process with the sisters in January 2013, and the Chapel of Unity and Reconciliation was proudly dedicated with a formal blessing ceremony by the Most Reverend Kevin Vann, Bishop of Orange, in July 2015 in honor of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange.

Said Bishop Vann at the ceremony: “I am truly delighted to have blessed this chapel today at the physical and spiritual center of our Diocese. This chapel is more than a place of reflection and meditation, it stands as a tribute to and as a thank you for the many gifts the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange have shared with our community over the past 100 years. This beautiful space will serve as a fitting reminder to all who visit the Christ Cathedral of the profound love of God shared with millions through the ministries of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange.”

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