The Interior Splendor of Sacred Heart Chapel

Jim Erps, S.J.

MISSION AND MINISTRY | In 1990, Jim Erps, S.J., was serving at LMU as a campus minister and prefect of Sacred Heart Chapel when he obtained the backing of President James Loughran, S.J., to make some enhancements to the chapel, which had been built in 1953.

Together with a young local architect, Dan Young, Father Erps moved the focus of celebration from the old high altar to the crossing of the church. Pews were removed to accommodate this move and chairs were installed in the transepts. The altar and ambo were designed by Young and crafted by Don Engh, the father of Mike Engh, S.J., who was an LMU faculty member at the time.

The improvements included a new sound system and enhanced lighting. The original plan was for the altar furniture to be placed on a wooden platform. However, financial constraints didn’t allow that; instead, wooden platform units were built and covered with green carpet. The project was completed in 1991 and the green carpeted platform endured and served the university community for almost 30 years. In the fall of 2019, Father Erps, serving as director of Campus Ministry, obtained funding to finally complete the project and build a suitable wooden altar platform, known as a predella.

Together with Marc Reeves, S.J., associate vice president of Mission and Ministry and John Flaherty, associate director of Campus Ministry, and with the assistance once again of architect Young, they spent several months consulting and designing an appropriate platform for the iconic chapel.

Sacred Heart is revered as the spiritual heart of the campus and so it was very important to get the design correct. It was decided to use the IHS (the first three letters of the Greek name for Jesus, I??O??) and sunburst from the seal of the Society of Jesus. Special emphasis was given to the pierced heart at the base of the Jesuit seal to highlight the titular dedication of the chapel.

The design was carried out by a local artist and woodworker who has also designed and contributed works for the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles. The multifaceted symbolism was accomplished by using a variety of species of wood inlaid on the platform itself. Last week, even in the midst of the pandemic the impressive predella was delivered. It is a fitting addition to our worship space and will serve the LMU worshiping community for many years to come.