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Loyola University New Orleans Breaks Ground on New Construction

By Loyola University on Thu, 06/17/2021 - 12:04

Chapel of St. Ignatius and Gayle and Tom Benson Jesuit Center to be completed in 12 to 15 months

(NEW ORLEANS – June 17, 2021) Loyola University New Orleans today held a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the beginning of construction of a new chapel and community gathering space. The new building will be the sacramental and liturgical center of Catholic life for the Loyola community, a spiritual home at the heart of campus that is open and welcoming to all.

“The Gayle and Tom Benson Jesuit Center will place our Catholic identity at the center of campus and of campus life,” said University President Tania Tetlow. “The Center will hold a new Chapel of St. Ignatius, where I have gone to church since I was six years old.  It will also house spaces where students can come together across faith traditions.  We hope it will be the most beautiful and welcoming place on campus.”

Located on a quad outside Monroe Hall, the new Chapel of St. Ignatius and Gayle and Tom Benson Jesuit Center will be a circular-shaped and light-filled modern building that draws on aspects of Jesuit spirituality and the natural world for its architecture and design. The Catholic chapel and Jesuit center will hold up to approximately 250 people.

Construction of the sacred space and community center begins this summer, with build out expected to last approximately 12 to 15 months and all construction occurring on the interior of campus. The Tobler Company, LLC, a New Orleans-based company that has been in business for over 30 years, serves as program managers, guiding the project through build and closeout. Trahan Architects, FAIA, ranked the number one design firm by Architect 50, an official publication of the American Institute of Architects, headquartered in New Orleans with offices in New York City, leads the project design.

CEO and Founder Victor F. “Trey” Trahan III, FAIA said that the building was designed to connect it to the natural world, including the circular and interconnecting circles, the long glass slit on the side of the building that will look out on a live oak, and particularly the choice of cast-in-place concrete as the main building material. The latter will be formed using cypress and other types of wood to give the cylindrical building a variegated and natural look.”

“A faith that does justice is core to a Loyola education and this new space will be transformative for our Jesuit Catholic mission,” said the Rev. Justin Daffron, S.J., Vice President for Mission and Ministry. He added that while the Catholic chapel provides a new place for Mass and Catholic devotions, the Benson Jesuit Center will also provide community gathering spaces welcoming people of all faiths for prayer and reflection.

Completely donor-funded, the $6 million project was launched with a lead gift of $4.8 million from the Gayle and Tom Benson Charitable Foundation. Generous donors, including alumni, friends, neighbors, even members of the Loyola community, helped provide the remaining support through the Faith in the Future campaign.

“We are truly grateful for the generous community gifts that have allowed us to launch this special project. The Chapel of St. Ignatius and Gayle and Tom Benson Jesuit Center will be an important addition to the spiritual life of our campus and the city of New Orleans.  We are also immensely grateful to be able to contribute to the local economy and create a place of joy, beauty, and repose for our campus and the New Orleans community as we work our way through and recover from the pandemic,” said Vice President of University Advancement Chris Wiseman. 

“Most of all, we are thrilled about the ways in which the project supports our University Mission, which calls on us to be ‘men and women for and with others’ and live that mission every day, through lives of service and a commitment to justice.”

At today’s groundbreaking, the Rev. Tom Greene, S.J., provincial for the Central Southern Province of Jesuits USA presided over the ceremony. President Tetlow, Jesuit community rector the Rev. Gregory Waldrop, S.J., New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond, and Gayle Benson provided remarks.  Archbishop Aymond blessed the site.