Constructed by a lighthouse stonemason in 1925 for his wife and son, it now serves as a place of prayer for all
by Renae Bauer
There's a certain irony in having to search for the Le Mieux Chapel. The 12- by 18-foot stone structure is dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua, the Church's patron for lost articles.
No matter, once you locate the chapel within the Cofrin Memorial Arboretum on the UW-Green Bay campus you will find a prayerful spot, built with family love and reverence for St. Anthony, the Blessed Mother and Jesus Christ.
That family love is our very own Associates Joan and Norbert Jadin. It was Joan's grandmother, Odile Le Mieux, a devout Belgian Catholic, who in the early 1920s asked her husband, Joseph, to build a chapel on their land. It would become a place of prayer for their son, Father Edward. Plus, "my grandmother had some health problems and she couldn't always go to (Holy Cross) Church so I think that was a blessing for her to walk down the ridge" and pray in the chapel, says Joan.
Birds in the basement
Joseph, a retired stonemason who perfected his craft by building lighthouses around the Great Lakes for the U.S. government, enlisted the help of Odile's brother, Fabian La Plant, a carpenter, to build the chapel's furnishings such as the altar, kneelers, pedestals and creche. According to a 1930 newspaper article, when Odile needed some extra money to pay for some chapel construction costs she relied on her entrepruerial skills and sold chicks she was raising in her basement.
The chapel was officially dedicated by Father Edward on Oct. 25, 1925. The other families who were instrumental in bringing the chapel to life are remembered in nameplates on the chapel windows.
The chapel itself was constructed from the limestone ridge called the Niagara Escarpment on the Le Mieux's property. Once completed, the family gathered regularly at the chapel for prayer, particularly the rosary. One of the fondest of family memories are the novenas leading up to St. Anthony's feast day (June 13). As many as 25 family members would congregate, says Joan. Nearby family members still return to the chapel for the feast day celebration.
Was there a miracle?
When Odile died on June 25, 1942, her casket was carried down the escarpment to her beloved chapel where she was laid out. The family held a vigil that night. One of Joan's cousins who attended the vigil says that despite several rain showers and a leaky chapel roof, Odile's casket never got wet.
The chapel continues to be a quiet respite for the visitor who wants to sit and marvel at God's handiwork both inside and outside the stone walls. According to Joan, the chapel has for the most part remained the same for 88 years.
The one change is the ownership of the land on which the chapel sits. In 1984 UW-Green Bay purchased the Le Mieux homestead and agreed to provide routine upkeep of the arboretum grounds around the chapel. To ensure the structural needs of the chapel are tended to, Joan and Norbert established a fund called the Le Mieux Chapel Fund through the university.
As for the chapel's next 88 years, Joan says, "I hope the children will continue to maintain it."
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