200 Days in the Life of the College

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Sunday, December 12

A Chapel tradition, alive with light

By John Wulf ’12

You walk out of the snow, up the front steps and quickly realize the Chapel has dressed itself up for the occasion. A wreath sits atop the entrance. Red ribbons hang from the pillars. A pine tree stands on the chancel, flashing lights of holiday spirit. It is only Dec. 12, but tonight at Candlelight Mass, it is Christmas.

While that may sound crazy, it is no Christmas miracle. A Protestant church one night, a Jewish temple the next, and with its Muslim prayer room upstairs, the Chapel is known for its transformative abilities. Yet tonight the Chapel has produced a transformation of a different variety — it is taking a packed house of Hamilton students away from the stress of exam period and into the joy of Christmas Eve.

But the Chapel cannot take all the credit. There are the Bible passages read aloud, the candles held in each student’s hand and the choir that, in the words of Father John Croghan, “took the service to a sonic level.” And then there is Croghan himself.


Ever since he arrived on campus in 1982, Father Croghan has brought Christmas and the spirit of Christmas to Hamilton students at the annual Candlelight Mass. Each year is different (just ask him about the time President Joan Hinde Stewart helped shovel out his car), but his message is always the same. At the service’s end, Croghan asks those in attendance to close their eyes. “Imagine,” he says, “that you are sitting in your living room, looking at your Christmas tree, looking at your favorite ornament, surrounded by your family and friends. It’s Christmas.”