Before Mater Christi School purchased the former Mount St. Mary Convent — and with it its chapel — in Burlington, students attended Mass in the school gym, the same place they had basketball practice and school events.

But since last year, the former convent’s Chapel of the Sacred Heart — where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved — has been used for more than just school Masses. It’s used for school such things as retreats, adoration, morning and private prayer, and school choir concerts. It’s also used by the Sisters of Mercy — who founded Mater Christi School and had their motherhouse at Mount St. Mary — for funerals, jubilee celebrations, and covenant ceremonies. The sisters join the Mater Christi School community for their annual Mercy Day celebration in September.

“Having a chapel is transformative,” said Jason Moore, assistant head of school. “It’s really beautiful.”

Mater Christi’s enrollment has grown to more than 300 students, and not everyone has seen such a sacred space before, he continued, so for them, the chapel is a place to encounter rich Catholic traditions and beauty.

Head of School Tim Loescher said children can be told about the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but for them to experience that in the chapel is more meaningful.

The chapel was for many years a place for the Sisters of Mercy to be nourished by the Eucharist so they could “go out an be mercy in the world,” said Moore, a Mercy Associate, noting that it’s important for students to get that message and to do the same.

Sister of Mercy Laura DellaSanta, a former Mater Christi principal and current sister life minister for her religious community, said when the former motherhouse became part of Mater Christi, there was a sense of joyful relief and gratitude among the sisters. “It was like Mount St. Mary stayed in the family, and our chapel was once again going to be the sacred space it always was.”

Originally published in the Fall 2023 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.