• Chapels reflect post’s religious diversity

  • “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

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  • Quentin Schillare | Special to the Fort Leavenworth Lamp
    Fort Leavenworth has three chapels and one chapel memorial to bear witness to the preeminent American value of the free exercise of religion as enshrined in the first two clauses of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
    In 1838, War Department General Order 29 authorized a chaplain for the post. Religious services were conducted on post, often in any available building.
    Memorial Chapel, dedicated in 1878 as the Post Chapel, served the Protestant community until replaced by the former Main Post Chapel in 1966. The Catholic community built St. Ignatius Chapel on Kearny Avenue in 1871. This building was later replaced with a second St. Ignatius Chapel at the corner of McClellan and Pope avenues.
    Memorial Chapel is the oldest existing religious structure on post. It was constructed in 1878 on the bluffs overlooking the Missouri River using native stone quarried on post by labor from the U.S. Military Prison.
    Memorial Chapel served as the post chapel until rededicated with its present name on Dec. 28, 1965. Plaques on the walls memorialize men and women who served or lived at Fort Leavenworth. There are 100 names on 88 plaques. Post tradition relates that 1st Lt. William J. Volkmar, who served as the aide-de-camp and chief signal officer to Department of the Missouri Commander Brig. Gen. John Pope, suggested the use of plaques to memorialize the men of the 7th Cavalry who died in the Little Big Horn Valley, Mont., in June of 1876.
    The plaque tradition continues. Six civilians are memorialized, as are the men of several regiments. A plaque above the church organ honors the memory of Margaret Coarza Berry, who served as Memorial Chapel’s organist and music director from 1930 to 1980. With some irony, Berry, a Roman Catholic, became expert in the ritual and liturgy of the Protestant denominations holding services in Memorial Chapel and oriented many recently arrived clergyman on how things were done in Memorial Chapel.
    St. Ignatius Chapel was built in 1889 to replace the earlier structure and named for Inigo Lopez de Recalde de Loyola (St. Ignatius Loyola) (1491-1556), one of the founders of the Roman Catholic Jesuit order. Loyola had a 22- year military career, which ended when he was badly wounded. During his covalescence, he read religious texts and vowed to live a religious life. He studied at the Universities of Alcala and Salamanca in Spain, and received a master of theology degree.
    St. Ignatius Chapel was built under a license granted by the Army for a private structure to be built on post. The license was terminated and the building returned to Army control March 1967. The chapel was destroyed by fire in December 2001. A memorial constructed in 2006 now exists on the site. The memorial consists of a low brick wall outlining the foundation of the former building with a higher wall containing the cornerstone of the original church in the southeast corner of the site. The St. Ignatius Chapel memorial is the only thing on post memorializing only the honoree’s first name.
    Page 2 of 3 - Completed on January 1966 at the corner of Pope and Thomas avenues, Pioneer Chapel (formerly Main Post Chapel) for many years was the locus of religious life on Fort Leavenworth, hosting Catholic, Jewish, Protestant services and associated activities. It is distinguished by 21 stained glass windows dealing with both religious and secular themes. The 10 windows on the western side are based on the New Testament, three in the vestibule commemorate American history, including those hardy souls who braved the elements and endured hardships to be the first U.S. citizens to settle in the West, and eight on the eastern side are based on the Old Testament. All have a military connection reflecting the Army and the world situation in the period 1967 to 1970 when they were installed. In the vestibule is a display of artifacts salvaged from the ruins of St. Ignatius Chapel.
    Dedicated on Sept. 17, 2010, to the memory of the ministers and people of faith who established religious life on the frontier as the United States moved west, Frontier Chapel owes its existence, in part, to the fire that destroyed Saint Ignatius Chapel and an expanding post population.
    The resulting movement of Catholic activities to the Main Post Chapel increased crowding, not just in scheduling services in the sanctuary, but also the meeting space and classrooms in the support wing. Frontier Chapel provides an additional sanctuary for all faith group services as well as office space, classrooms and other support rooms. The worship space and an adjoining activities center are in the middle of the structure with other rooms around the outside.
    For more information on his book: Fort Leavenworth: The People Behind the Names, visit here.
    For the 1st installment of the People Behind Post Places series, visit here.
    For the 2nd installment of the People Behind Post Places series, visit here.
    For the 3rd installment of the People Behind Post Places series, visit here.
    For the 4th installment of the People Behind Post Places series, visit here.
    For the 5th installment of the People Behind Post Places series, visit here.
    Fort the 6th installment of the People Behind Post Places series, visit here.
    For the 7th installment of the People Behind Post Places series, visit here.
    Page 3 of 3 - For the 8th installment of the People Behind Post Places series, visit here.
    For the 9th installment of the People Behind Post Places series, visit here.
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