Discover the Difference: Volunteers build school chapel

by Diocese of Des Moines | April 17, 2024

Bishop consecrates altar at Saint Theresa Catholic Scho

In the summer of 2023, St. Theresa Catholic School Principal Gretchen Watznauer had a vision of turning an unused classroom into a chapel.  

She wanted students, teachers and staff to have an accessible place in the school to go and pray individually, in small groups, and as a class.  

Although a church is just across the parking lot, a smaller space in the school would be more intimate and accessible during the school day for students and staff.  

She shared this idea with the parish pastor, Father Raphael Assamah, parish business manager Kenneth Seymour, and facilities director Tony Tedesco that summer.  

They all embraced the idea and worked to bring the vision to life.  

On March 26, Bishop William Joensen blessed the fruit of their labor. He blessed the Little Flower Chapel and consecrated its altar. 

As a team, the group learned about erecting a chapel from the beginning concept to the blessing of its beautiful space with the guidance of Father Trevor Chicione, diocesan Vicar for Divine Worship. 

Tedesco, along with dedicated volunteers Thomas McMahon, Jon Thill, and Denny Koenigsfeld worked endless hours to make the chapel what it has become today.  

There was little cost to build this space. 

Students prayThe pews were donated by a church in the Des Moines area. The crew of volunteer workers cut down, sanded, reassembled, and stained the pews to make them perfect for the chapel space.  

Parishioner Mike Tigges donated his services to repair the drywall prior to painting.  

The crucifix was found, restored and donated by McMahon. 

The Seymour family donated the beautiful wood-carved Stations of the Cross which line the wall of the chapel as a reminder to pray and offer love and thanksgiving for Christ who gave it all for us.

Tedesco donated small lights to illuminate the stations and also to bring a calming glow to the chapel. 

Principal Watznauer donated the marble holy water font, ciborium, and chalice. 

Molly Tedesco, Tony’s mom, collected altar cloths donated by St. Mary’s and handmade an additional set after speaking withBishop with students Father Chicoine.  

A statue of St. Therese was donated by a former class of St. Theresa Catholic School.  

A statue of Mother Mary came from a teacher, who received it when her mother passed away years ago. The stained glass windows were salvaged by Tedesco, Thill and McMahon from the parish office conference room, which was previously a chapel when the building was a convent. 

The school invites the public to visit the St. Theresa Little Flower Chapel at its open house on Sunday, April 21, 9:30 a.m. to noon. 

Diocese of Des Moines

The Diocese of Des Moines, created in 1911, serves people over a 12,446 square mile area in the southwestern quadrant of Iowa, including 23 counties.