Sacred images set tone for encounter at diocese’s new Sacré-Coeur Retreat Center

Workers from Daprato Rigali Studios in Chicago place stained glass windows Sunday in the Chapel of the Sacred Heart, the largest of two chapels at the Diocese of Peoria’s new Sacré-Coeur Retreat Center in Magnolia. The nine windows from Germany formerly adorned Sacred Heart Church in Rutland, which was closed in 2013. Final preparations were being made this week for an open house at the retreat center scheduled from 2 to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 1. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

Stained glass windows. Statues. Sculptures. Scripture verses on guest room walls.  Icons. Crucifixes. Inside. Outside.

Almost anywhere one goes in the new Sacré-Coeur Retreat Center, there is sacred art.

“It’s an amazing facility,” said Msgr. Stanley Deptula of the new three-building complex. “But it is the sacred images that make it go from being a conference center to a retreat center.”

This colorful San Damiano Cross, measuring more than six feet tall and weighing 220 pounds, will hang in the main lobby of the Diocese of Peoria’s new Sacré-Coeur Retreat Center. The icon cross is designed after the one beneath which St. Francis of Assisi was praying when he heard Christ commission him to “rebuild my church.” Its prominence in the new retreat center calls to mind the Franciscan contributions to our diocese, including the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis, which own and operate OSF HealthCare and will use the retreat center extensively in the training of its mission partners. This crucifix — as well as a smaller, mobile one — was crafted by Nadia Perez of Mexico City. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

Some of the art is original and was commissioned by the Diocese of Peoria. Other pieces have histories in other parts of the diocese. All have been thoughtfully planned by a four-person select committee for sacred art headed by Coadjutor Bishop Louis Tylka.

“Bishop Tylka has an incredible eye for detail,” said Msgr. Deptula, the pastor of St. Matthew Parish in Champaign and St. Boniface in Seymour, who served on the committee along with Philip Lee, director of the diocesan Office of Divine Worship, and Rosie Romero, diocesan director of Hispanic Ministry.

Romero also praised Bishop Tylka’s skills as a designer.

“Nothing was, ‘OK, we’ll put this there,’” she said. “Everything was thought through to best inspire the guests to have an encounter with the Lord.”

“He was very mindful that we do this right,” continued Msgr. Deptula. “Bishop Tylka was also very mindful that we’re going to grow into it.”


There is plenty of room to grow. The new retreat center has extensive wall and hallway space. So the sacred art visitors will see on open house tours Aug. 1 are what Msgr. Deptula called “essential elements,” starting with the center’s two chapels.

And the art in the chapels and elsewhere is essentially . . . beautiful.

The larger Chapel of the Sacred Heart has a blend of new and historic art. In wall niches at the entrance are sculptures of St. Therese of Lisieux and Jesus the Divine Mercy, newly crafted by Suzanne Young of Michigan. (See related story here.)

The crucifix hanging on the sanctuary wall high above the altar will be familiar to those who prayed in the chapel of the site’s former Nazareth House/King’s House. The corpus has been lovingly renewed.

Each conference room in the retreat center will have a statue corresponding to its designated name. The statues were crafted by Nadia Perez of Mexico City. Pictured prior to placement on their pedestals are, from left, statues of St. Francis of Assisi, St. Clare, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. There is also a fourth statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

On either side of the crucifix on the sanctuary wall will be two new pieces not yet arrived by July 25 — a seven-foot tall image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, an authentic reproduction coming from Mexico City — and a commissioned portrait of St. Joseph the Worker in similar style and colors, done by Daprato Rigali Studios of Chicago.

Msgr. Deptula called them “beautiful bookends” for the sanctuary.

The sanctuary furnishings, including a new altar and ambo with matching presider chair, were also designed by Daprato Rigali to architecturally connect with the new space.

The chapel walls include nine stained glass windows from Germany that originally hung in the former Sacred Heart Church in Rutland. “They’re just magnificent,” said Msgr. Deptula, who noted that the main tabernacle is also from the Rutland church, which was closed in 2013. The walls also hold a set of Stations of the Cross that were saved and renewed from the former St. Mary Church in West Point.

“It’s a great use of the patrimony of our diocese so people can continue to pray in front of these sacred images,” said Msgr. Deptula.

The retreat center’s second, much smaller chapel, will have an entirely different style. The Chapel of the Holy Cross is a Byzantine-inspired chapel, filled with icons — some from the private collection of Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC.

“This chapel is really dear to Bishop Jenky’s heart,” said Msgr. Deptula, noting its name calls to mind the bishop’s religious community, the Congregation of Holy Cross. A specially commissioned icon crucifix will hang over the altar.

Visitors will “feel like they’ve walked into an Eastern Rite Church,” said Msgr. Deptula. “That’s the hope.”


The Stations of the Cross in the Chapel of the Sacred Heart originally hung in the former St. Mary Church in West Point. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

But sacred beauty is not limited to the chapels. A colorful and large hand-carved San Damiano crucifix, honoring the Franciscan heritage in the diocese, will hang in the main lobby opposite the dining room. Each of the four main conference rooms will have a statue of the rooms’ namesakes — St. Clare and St. Francis of Assisi, the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

A large diocesan coat of arms will hang above the fireplace in a community room named for Bishop Jenky.

Each of the 70 guest rooms will have a crucifix, an icon of the Blessed Mother, and inspirational word art on a wall with a Scripture verse or a quote from a saint or the Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.

“There will also be a lot of outdoor art,” promised Msgr. Deptula, “including a beautiful Stations of the Cross walkway.”

Both inside and out, there is room to do more.

“A year from now we’ll have a whole different sense of how the building is being used,” said Msgr. Deptula, noting Sacré-Coeur Retreat Center is much different from its predecessors on the site.

“We’ve never had a retreat center like this,” he said.




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