In 2020, thanks to a matching gift made by a donor parent couple, Giving Tuesday focused on only one thing.

“This Giving Tuesday we were delighted to focus our efforts on raising funds for the restoration and preservation of Caldwell Chapel,” said Karalee Harhaji, director of Annual Giving.

Kickstarting the project with a matching gift

After Steve and Janeece Brophy, P ’15, heard about the important role Caldwell Chapel played in the spiritual formation of their daughter, they decided to give generously in support of the Chapel’s renovation, vowing to match every gift made on Giving Tuesday up to $250,000. All told, more than $177,000 was raised to kickstart this project.

Janeece called the chapel the “spiritual heart” of campus and said their daughter, Kathleen, B.A. 2015, M.S.B.A. 2019, described Caldwell Chapel as a place for spiritual comfort and growth for herself and many other students.

Brief history of the chapel

Located in Caldwell Hall, the Chapel — originally called St. Paul’s Chapel — was the University’s first sacred space. While the building is named for Mary Gwendoline Caldwell, who gave the initial gift to create Catholic University, the Chapel’s existence is due to her sister, Mary Elizabeth “Lina” Caldwell, who made the gift to fund the Chapel’s construction. Both were built in 1888, and Lina later married in the Chapel.

Goals for the renovation and preservation

Priorities for the Chapel include preserving its historical and architectural significance, as well as making important modernizations like heating and cooling systems so the space can be used year-round, and installing an elevator to make the space accessible to all who wish to visit. The altar, sacristy, organ, choir loft, pews, and floors will all receive attention. The entire restoration is expected to cost approximately $1 million.

“Your generosity, combined with the generosity and ongoing commitment of so many others, will ensure that this beautiful and sacred space will continue to be available for many generations of Catholic University students.”

— Steve Brophy P ’15

Personal stories gave rise to giving

All told, during this year’s Giving Tuesday — Dec. 1 — 453 donors gave $73,686.40 which, when matched by the Brophys, raised $177,538. Some alumni made gifts in memory of late friends and professors, or in honor of a child’s baptism, while others recalled spending formative time there.

“I spent many moments in Caldwell Chapel in prayer, and I’m happy to help make sure future students have those same opportunities,” wrote Christopher Conzen, B.A. 1999.

“I played the tracker organ many times while a student,” said the Rev. Peter VB. Wells, B.A. 1976.

Like the Brophys, some parents gave because of the important role Caldwell Chapel played in their child’s life.

“Our son, John, worshiped in Caldwell Chapel when he was a student at Catholic University. It holds a special place in his faith journey,” wrote Susan and Phil Calandra, P ’16, members of the Parents Council.

Deepening faith and finding love

Open to the entire community, including faculty and staff, countless Catholic University students have deepened their faith there. It has also played a part in innumerable love stories, and many Catholic University sweethearts have chosen it as the location to celebrate their own marriages.

Michael and Annalee McHugh, both B.A. 2008, said they fell in love with God and each other in the Chapel.

“It was Nov. 11, 2009, when I proposed in this Chapel, and she said ‘yes’ while a friend rang the bells. Honored to support this holy place!” Michael wrote on the Giving Tuesday web page.

“My wedding was in this Chapel. It’s a beautiful, sacred space,” said Laura Graham Fetters, B.A. 1985.

“We have many cherished memories in Caldwell Chapel, particularly daily Mass and Adoration. This place has been integral in deepening our love for Jesus in the Eucharist,” shared Matthew, B.M.E. 2012, and Jessica Beben, B.B.E. 2012, M.S. 2013.

The most successful Giving Tuesday to date

Because so much was raised, Harhaji called Giving Tuesday 2020 “a momentous day” for Catholic University.

“It was the University's most successful Giving Tuesday yet,” she added. “The enthusiasm for supporting this initiative has been inspiring, and speaks highly to the importance of this space for so many within our community.”