Consolation chapel serves as sacred space for the bereaved

The back wall of the Chapel of Our Lady of Consolation features iconography of the Crucifixion and Resurrection. (Trinity Icons)

Chicago — Keri and Patrick Godon were expecting their third child when Keri suffered a miscarriage 20 weeks into the pregnancy. Although devastated by the loss of their son, they found consolation from their church community, where Patrick works as the music minister and Keri teaches religious education.

Because of an earlier tragedy at St. Gregory the Great Parish in Chicago, the Godons found a positive way to channel their grief. They decided to commission a panel in the parish's Chapel of Our Lady of Consolation, which features iconography painted by two Chicago artists.

The chapel grew out of the parish's collective mourning after the death of a parishioner who had also lost a child shortly after birth. She was pregnant again, with twins, when she died.

Located above the sanctuary of the 93-year-old English Gothic church, the chapel is meant to be a sacred space of prayer and healing for those who have lost loved ones, especially children.

"It's a tragedy that has been turned into a place of prayer, community, fellowship and love," said Joe Malham, a painter who worked on the chapel iconography with fellow artist Meltem Aktas and assistant Patrick Lyne.

The artists turned what had been a graveyard for old pews and kneelers into a colorful and welcoming place for prayer and reflection. White stars dot the dark blue ceiling, while a depiction of the Crucifixion and Resurrection dominate the back wall. On the opposite wall are five panels, each featuring one of the joyful mysteries of the rosary. (Three of the five panels have been completed so far.)

At the bottom of the panel of the finding of Jesus in the temple is the name of the Godons' son: Moses David. They chose that mystery because they resonated with "that sense of waiting and yearning" in that Scripture story, said Keri, who finds the chapel to be perfect for reflection. "There is something so rich about having a space of healing and beauty."

A version of this story appeared in the Dec 15-28, 2017 print issue.

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