A month may seem like a long time for a snow sculpture, but the projects undertaken by student organizations have proven time and time again to push the limits of what can be accomplished in this window.
In recent years, St. Al’s contribution to Winter Carnival has been to construct a chapel in the church parking lot using little more than the snow cleared from its surface. Every year, dozens of volunteers work on designated building days to make the icy chapel grander than the year before. Not only does it have to feel like the real deal, but there also needs to be enough floor space to hold about as many people as you can inside an actual church. Father Tom said, “This is typically one of our highest attended masses of the year.” If you plan on attending one of the services at the completed chapel, expect to be standing very close to someone else for about an hour.
Father Tom invites everyone who is able to aid in construction so they can add more snow than ever to the chapel. What started as nothing more than the bare minimum has since seen the addition of a confessional, stained glass, and an elevated pulpit for giving the readings. For 2023, they have plans to construct a bell tower. If this seems daunting, they always need people to clear snow and construct the roughly ten-foot walls. He said it’s a great chance to get to know people, and a great workout too.
One detail Father Tom provided that likely few people realize is how the altar is constructed. Sometimes, students can be seen ironing their sculptures to melt the top layer of snow and have it freeze to create an ice finish. As it turns out, this is not how St. Al’s makes their altar. A team is sent into the Keweenaw to saw out a block of ice and transport the roughly one-ton piece back to Houghton. Just another example of the lengths students will go to make their creations that much more impressive.
For more information on St. Al’s and the chapel build, students can go to https://mtucatholic.org/ice-mass-progress.