Private chapels inject spirit into commercial spaces

By Daniel P. Smith | Contributor
Sunday, June 19, 2011

Private chapels inject spirit into commercial spaces

A statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe has a prominent presence in Carnicerias Jimenez. (Karen Callaway / Catholic New World)
The chapel in the Jimenez Fullerton Avenue store. (Karen Callaway / Catholic New World)

A Fullerton Avenue grocery store in the Logan Square neighborhood. A Michigan Avenue bookstore across from Millennium Park.

Both seem odd spots for a chapel to consume physical space. In today’s world, one in which even discussing spiritual issues in the commercial arena or public space can attract stares and judgments from some, private chapels have become something from a long-forgotten era.

But for grocery store magnate Jose Jimenez and the Daughters of St. Paul, private chapels are a necessary part of life.

Carnicerias Jimenez

Jose Jimenez, who operates eight Chicago- area Carnicerias Jimenez grocery stores, added a private chapel to the second floor of his establishment located at 3850 W. Fullerton Ave. three years ago.

As a child in Mexico, Jimenez would journey with his mother each week for solemn prayer and devotion to St. Martin de Porres. Inspired by his mother’s commitment, Jimenez continued weekly visits to St. Martin when he arrived in Chicago. Working a job near St. Pius Church, 1901 S. Ashland Ave., which has a devotion to St. Martin, Jimenez would walk to the church each week for prayer.

When Jimenez opened his Carnicerias Jimenez store on Fullerton Avenue, he feared his weekly devotion to St. Martin would wane given the distance, because no area church claimed the saint’s presence. So Jimenez took action, constructing a private chapel that would afford him and his staff prayer space and secure the presence of St. Martin, Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Jude.

“I had the room and I had the faith in God,” Jimenez said of his decision to build the chapel, one he has outfitted with wooden pews and live plants.

Though the chapel is not open to the public, Jimenez hosts a range of private events in the space. The chapel seats 50, though opening the space’s double doors doubles the capacity.

“Having God’s presence here and a place for prayer is uplifting and special,” said Jimenez, who has also constructed a private chapel in his River Forest residence.

Daughters of St. Paul

Since the Daughters of St. Paul opened their bookstore 32 years ago at 172 N. Michigan Ave., an address that also serves as their convent, a 20-seat chapel in the store’s rear has invited customers and business folk into prayer.

“The public can simply walk in and pray,” said Daughter of St. Paul Anne Flanagan. “We have a number of regulars, some of whom aren’t Catholic or even Christian. While they may not recognize the full source of peace, they can appreciate it.”

The modest chapel features an altar, portable table and tabernacle, all sitting in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.

Both the bookstore and chapel exist as an extension of the Daughters’ evangelization mission. Eager to give Jesus to the world through as many media as possible in realworld settings, an aim that led the congregation into publishing, the chapel invites people into prayer and, quite often, compels a return to the Eucharist.

“The chapel is a gentle way to do this,” Flanagan said. “It’s not an intimidating space at all and people are pleasantly surprised that they can access a beautiful, intimate space for private prayer.”