CHAPEL OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION,
St. Francis University, Loretto PA
St. Francis University was established in 1847 by six Franciscan teaching Brothers from Mountbellew, Ireland, who had been given land in Loretto by Michael O'Connor, the first Bishop of Pittsburgh, to establish a school. The university was one of the first Catholic universities in the United States and the first Franciscan college in the nation. It is still conducted under the tradition of the Franciscan Friars of the Third Order Regular. The chapel was built in the 1950s. The design included a large mosaic on the altar wall which however was never executed. A generous private endowment through The Loretto Project, a non-profit organization for the promotion of Catholic music and art, has made it possible to bring to fruition the original vision of the founders. A large mosaic of the Immaculate Conception was started in 2019 and has now been partially installed.
"Our time with iconographer Ioana Belcea was certainly a display of a 'faith that sees.' It was beneficial to hear and see how many of Cardinal Ratzinger’s insights about images are realized in practicality through her art.
When she showed us the video of the revealing of her mosaic work, I was stunned by both its beauty and her dedication to its completion. The image for Ioana truly seems to be a revelation of Christ, in both process and product, and I am thankful that we got the opportunity to witness her faith in this way."
E. Steel, PhD candidate, Princeton Theological Seminary