Benedictine Sisters Sacred Heart Chapel and Lobby

Project Name
Benedictine Sisters Sacred Heart Chapel and Lobby

1910 Maple Ave
Lisle, Illinois

Project Status
Active Monastery

Project Date/s
Chapel: 1933-1934 and 1943-1944; Lobby: 1943-1944

According to the Benedictine Sisters of the Sacred Heart website, “Benedictinism was founded in Rome over 15 centuries ago by St. Benedict and his twin sister St. Scholastica. The first Benedictine Sisters came to America from St. Walburga Abbey in Eichstatt, Bavaria in 1852 to St. Mary’s in Carrolltown, Pennsylvania…” Mother Mary Nepomucene Jaeger “first established the Benedictine Sister’s community Chicago in 1895 and then was able to erect a new monastery in the scenic surroundings of Lisle in 1912.”

Lisle is located southwest of Chicago and is near Benedictine University, which was founded in 1901 to educate males of Czech and Slovak descent. The Sacred Heart chapel is housed inside the retirement community of Villa St. Benedict.

Based on Mallin’s chronological list of church decorations, sometime between 1933-34 John Mallin was hired to decorate the Sacred Heart chapel. Other documents from the Benedictine Sisters Archives suggest that he did additional work in the chapel in 1943-44 for the amount of $11,000. The documents note that on January 31, 1944 “Mr. Mallin’s four workers who are to help with the decorations begin to board here-at $1.50 per day.” Since most if not all of Mallin’s workers lived in Chicago, they probably boarded at the monastery because there were no good public transportation options at that time for them to travel to Lisle, a distance of about 26 miles. The Sisters provided a copy of liturgical symbols from the periodical, Orate Fratres, for ideas for the chapel decorations. Mallin painted female saints behind the altar, as well as other decorations in the chapel.

Some restoration and changes were made to the Chapel several years ago, whereby some stencils may have been painted over. However the original murals behind the altar of the female saints still exist.

The lobby of the chapel was also decorated by Mallin at the same time, in 1943-44, according to information provided by the Benedictine sisters. Descriptions of the lobby paintings are described in a plaque on the stairway shown in one of the photos on this page. The paintings include “Sister Instructing child”, “Madonna and Child,” “The Baptism of Bozivoy”, “St Wenceslaus Distributing Food to the Needy,” “The Sacred Heart of Jesus,” and “The Last Meeting of St Scholastica and St. Benedict.” The descriptions of the paintings on the plaque were written by Sister Mary Electa Omasta, shortly before her death in 1984. She was an artist who influenced the choosing of these paintings.