UPMC Altoona opens new all-faiths chapel

UPMC Altoona dedicated its new Friends All-Faiths Chapel Friday morning.

A standing-room-only crowd attended the ceremony held in the semi-circular room that overlooks the hospital atrium. The former Mountain View Cafe has been transformed into a sanctuary where families of patients and hospital staff can come for solitude or reflection.

It is named for the Friends of UPMC Altoona, the hospital auxiliary, which dedicated $100,000 to the $160,000 project.

“Friends of UPMC Altoona is humbled to have the new All Faiths Chapel on OP4 named in its honor,” said Peggy Cawthern, president of the auxiliary.

Opened Jan. 19, the chapel can accommodate about 40 to 50 people, or about three times the capacity of the former facility.

Masses are held five times a week along with a nondenominational Christian service on Sundays.

Tony Conrad, Pastoral Care Department director, said plans to build the new chapel began about two years ago when the Bon Secours Campus of the former Altoona Regional Health System closed.

The new facility includes elements of both former chapels, as well as new ones.

A stained-glass window depicting the burning bush and the Ten Commandments represents the Abrahamic faiths – Jewish, Islamic and Christian – and was part of the Altoona Hospital All-Faiths Chapel.

Many of the appointments came from the former Bon Secours-Holy Family (Mercy) Hospital Chapel, including the 14 floor-to-ceiling stained-glass windows depicting the Stations of the Cross.

New additions include three icons of Jesus as healer in the meditation area. They were created by local iconographer Mary Susick and donated by the Susick and Lubert families in memory of Julia Susick.

Angie Lubert, a hospital employee, said Julia was her mother and a patient at the hospital before she died. Mary and Angie are sisters-in-law.

“The pastoral care is wonderful here, and we wanted to do something in her memory,” Lubert said. “I come here every day to meditate on my break. It’s a special place for me.”

Other gifts include a donation by the UPMC Altoona Laboratory Services in honor of co-worker Patty Rebar and the icon cross of San Damiano in memory of Travis Chuff from the Travis Chuff Fund.

Jerry Murray, president of UPMC Altoona, said pastoral care is an important part of health care, and the pastoral staff does a phenomenal job.

“The chapel offers families a place to get away, where they can relax, meditate and connect with God,” he said.