Ground broken for Baraga chapel

MARQUETTE – The groundbreaking ceremony for the New Venerable Frederic Baraga Chapel – honoring the first bishop of the Diocese of Marquette – was held at St. Peter Cathedral Tuesday afternoon.

A crowd of attendees and church officials gathered in the commons at St. Peter to celebrate the start of construction with a ceremony led by Bishop Alexander Sample.

Sample held a small prayer service with the Knights of Columbus and Monsignor Michael Steber, pastor of St. Peter Cathedral, followed by a procession into the courtyard – where Sample broke frozen ground to symbolize the start of the project.

During the prayer service, Sample said the groundbreaking ceremony is bittersweet because he won’t be able to see the project’s completion.

Sunday, Sample will be leaving for Portland, Ore., where he will continue his duties to the church as Archbishop of Portland.

The chapel project was initiated when Bishop Baraga was named venerable by the Vatican in early 2012, Steber said.

“When someone is named venerable – as with saints – their remains are appropriately placed not just with other people that are buried (deceased bishops of the Diocese of Marquette) but in a location where there can be proper veneration,” Steber said.

“Public fundraising for the project kicked off in early fall during Baraga Days,” Steber said.

Since then, donations have already produced close to half of the anticipated $500,000 in project expenses.

After the groundbreaking ceremony, Sample gave a special thanks to a couple from western Minnesota – Dr. John and Mary Jane Beaumier – who agreed to match all funds raised for the chapel up to $100,000.

Both were in attendance at the ceremony.

“You guys have done more for us than we have done for you,” Mary Jane Beaumier said.

The Beaumiers have a long running history in the Upper Peninsula, including previously being parishioners of St. Joseph and St. Patrick Parish in Escanaba and Bishop’s Ambassadors for Legacy of Faith, the endowment foundation of the Diocese of Marquette.

The Knights of Columbus contributed $1,000 toward the chapel. Catholic Extension, a national fundraising organization, has also made a commitment to provide matching funds for the chapel but the amount and specifics of its support have not yet been decided.

Bishop Baraga’s remains are currently being held in a lower crypt with other former bishops of the diocese but once he was named venerable, a new resting place was needed.

Matt Keiser can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 243.