After nearly 11 months of renovations, on Monday, July 21, the Congregation of Holy Cross moved back into the Congregation’s property at Via Framura 85 in Rome, Italy.
The building on Via Framura is known as the Generalate because it is the home of the Superior General and many members of the General Council and General Administration. It has served as the Congregation’s international headquarters since 1969.
The Via Framura building was being built as an apartment building when the Congregation purchased it for its Generalate under then-Superior General Fr. Germaine-Marie Lalande, C.S.C. At the time, several modest changes were made to the building to accommodate a kitchen, dining room, chapel, community room, and meeting room, yet it essentially remained an apartment building, which was not conducive for community living, Congregational gatherings, or the growing international work of the Congregation.
“It was at the very beginning of this General Administration’s tenure that the decision was made to remain in the building,” said Br. Thomas A. Dziekan, C.S.C., Vicar General and First Assistant of the Congregation. “We realized that we were not able to afford a larger building or one located in the heart of the historic center. In addition, the present building was ideally located especially with regard to the airport. Public transportation within the city of Rome is excellent and we were able to get wherever we needed easily enough.”
Fr. Richard V. Warner, the Superior General of the Congregation, Br. Dziekan, and other members of the General Administration began meeting with architects to explore possible renovations to the Via Framura property.
“After several meetings and months of discussion, a renovation plan was presented which would include 10 offices, 11 resident apartments including a bedroom, study and private bathroom, two rooms for religious studying in Rome, and 14 guest rooms with private bathrooms,” said Br. Dziekan. “A larger chapel, dining room, and community room were planned. The attic was to be transformed into a meeting space to accommodate gatherings of the various groups and commissions as well as a council room, a small archives, and two storage spaces.”
In March 2013, the General Council gave the approval to go ahead with the renovation, once the funding was assured and secured. In addition to outside donations, all of the Congregation’s Provinces and Vicariates contributed to the project. The plans were approved, and the documents for all the necessary permissions were prepared. Work on the renovation, which required a complete gutting of the building, commenced on September 6, 2013.
During the renovation, the Generalate community was the guests of the De La Salle Christian Brothers in a convent located in their Generalate, just a few kilometers from Via Framura. The Christian Brothers were generous and welcoming hosts, and the arrangement worked exceedingly well for the 11 months of the project.
While the outside of Via Framura 85 looks the same, it is a completely new building inside today. The previous garage was turned into the kitchen and a spacious dining room that can accommodate 30 people or more. The offices for the General Administration have been consolidated on the ground and first floors, making the collaborative work of the administration in overseeing the Congregation easier.
Resident rooms are on the first, second and third floors, while guest rooms are on the third and fourth floors. The community room, which has been expanded, is on the fourth floor as well. The fifth floor, which was formerly the attic, has been converted into rooms for students, an improved conference room, council room and archives.
One of the real gems of the renovated Generalate is the new chapel, which was constructed on the ground floor. Prior to the renovation, the chapel had simply been a dining room apartment that had been converted into use as a chapel. The new chapel is named Chappelle Notre Dame de Sainte-Croix after the original chapel of the Congregation’s first school in LeMans, France, which is now the Conventual Church of the Congregation.
The chapel was a special project spearheaded by Br. Dziekan. The schools of the St. Joseph Province and Sacred Heart Province of Bangladesh and the Vicariate of the Brothers in India as well as most of the schools of the Moreau and Midwest Provinces contributed $150,000 to the decoration and furnishing of the chapel.
With regard to the furnishing of the chapel, the original altar of green marble from the previous Generalate, located on Via Aurelia Antica, is being used. The crucifix and the wood carvings of the Pietà and St. Joseph also come from the previous Generalate and were cleaned and refurbished. Likewise, the original Stations of the Cross, all hand-carved in wood, were in excellent shape and only needed some dusting.
A local stained glass artist, Paolo Corpetti, designed and executed the nine panels of the three stained glass windows. All the windows are framed with arches based on the arches located on the façade of our Conventual Church.
Closest to the sanctuary are windows depicting the Sacred Heart and Blessed Basile Moreau with a small group of children representing the students in the Congregation’s educational institutions throughout the world.
The central windows depict Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, the patroness of the Congregation, holding the body of Jesus with a luminous cross in the background. Small “tondi” or circular inserts depict the other six sorrows of Mary.
The last set of windows depict St. André Bessette with a young boy who has left his crutches behind and then St. Joseph and Jesus. The image of St. Joseph and Jesus is based on the bas-relief which is located near the tomb of Moreau in the Conventual Church in LeMans.
Although the Generalate community began moving back into the renovated building almost a month ago, work still remains for them to get fully settled.
“We are slowly organizing the various areas of our ‘new’ home,” said Br. Dziekan. “There is still some work to be done. As with all new buildings, there are some small things which need attention. Also, there are now some ‘new’ areas which we did not have before which will need some furnishings. However, the end result is beautiful and certainly gives us a Generalate which is a true symbol of our religious life and mission located here in the heart of the Church.”
The building will be dedicated and blessed during the Council of the Congregation to be held in November 2014.