Amazing patterns of light now flood through the Mary Phelan Chapel at Sacred Heart Girls’ College in New Plymouth after seven stained glass windows were
installed early this year.
The chapel windows were blessed by Fr Simon Story on January 30.

The commissioning of the stained glass windows was the brainchild of Sacred Heart chaplain Carole Tipler and DRS Catherine Landrigan.

Ms Tipler told NZ Catholic that having the stained glass windows was part of their desire for the chapel, which was donated by the family of Mary Phelan, a Sacred Heart teacher who died some years ago.

The building had been a small church in Govett Avenue in New Plymouth before it was moved to the college.

“[We] were very interested to make it more of a Catholic chapel so the plain cross over the altar was replaced by a rather beautiful crucifix on permanent loan from the presbytery of Our Lady Help of Christians,” said Ms Tipler.

The school was able to get Palmerston North Bishop Charles Drennan’s permission to have the Blessed Sacrament present in the chapel.

Ms Landrigan thought it would be lovely to have stained glass windows. As luck would have it, Ms Tipler knew someone who they could ask to make them.

“God was looking after us. I think he approved of the project,” noted Ms Tipler.

She said funds for the project were found through some supportive staff, their families, and friends of the college by word of mouth.

“The PTA helped us, the Trust Board and the Mission Sisters. It was not necessary to hold a funding drive, nor did we want to. The funding of the project took care of itself; organically, spiritually,” Ms Tipler said.

Eltham-based stained glass artist Paul Burgham was tapped to do the project.

He spent more than a year and half to create and fit the chapel with the windows.

Though not a Catholic, Mr Burgham said he had a background in Christianity through his mother. He researched window design ideas based on the school’s
wish list.

Some of the windows in the chapel.
Some of the windows in the chapel.

The school asked that each of the seven windows depict something that is meaningful to them: the Eucharist, the Sacred Heart, the Mission Sisters, the Holy Spirit, Our Lady, New Zealand and a rainbow and dove at the back of the chapel above the door.

For the the windows depicting New Zealand and the dove on a rainbow, Mr Burgham got a local Maori artist to cut a design on poenamu (greenstone).

“The dove above the doorway, planted on a rainbow, is three-dimensional. It comes out of the window,” he said.

And though the windows have already been installed, he still has one gift left for the school.

When he purchased the brown glass that he used for the cross on each window, he noticed a figure in one piece as he held it up against the light.

“[It is] an image of Christ. It’s quite stunning really. It’s about 400 millimetres high and about 250 millimetres wide. I’m just in the process of framing it. I’m giving it to the ladies in the school,” Mr Burgham said.

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