Carroll College receives $1 million donation to build new chapel

carroll-college_200x200Carroll College has received a million dollar donation to help construct a new chapel on the Helena campus.

The catholic institution made the announcement shortly before the Christmas holiday.

A surgeon who graduated from Carroll in the late 50s made the donation.

The new chapel will address overcrowding during church services.

Carroll College President Tom Evans says his institution of about 15-hundred students is seeing growth in its religious services.

“We have about 450 students on average coming to any of our masses on campus which is really extraordinary and we just don’t have space to actually handle the programming that we have burgeoning on campus,” he said.

Evans was recently inaugurated as Carroll’s new President and he says alumnus Dr. Earl Heller came to that event and then a Sunday Evening Mass.

“(He) was really able to see, you know how we’re just standing room only, out the doors with our students,” Evans said.

Dr. Heller graduated in 1958, before earning his medical degree at the University of Kansas.

He practiced orthopedic surgery in South Bend, Indiana until he retired this year. He still owns a home in Helena and visits about once a year. President Evans says Heller began discussing a large gift around the time of the Inauguration.

Heller’s one million dollar donation is one of the largest in Carroll’s history. A new chapel has been a part of the school’s strategic plan for about five years. Evans says the overcrowding Heller saw lead to his wanting to move that plan forward.

And spirituality is also very important to Heller.

“That is a real interest of his,” Evans said. “He’s very interested in church history and the Cathedral of St. Helena in particular.”

The two high orange spires of the Cathedral of St. Helena rise over the capital city’s downtown, dominating the skyline.

“I’ve had great appreciation for the St. Helena Cathedral and its beauty since I was a grade schooler at St. Helena,” he said.

That’s Dr. Heller. He says he had been reading about the struggles encountered in trying to build the Helena Cathedral in the early 1900s and how it was finished due to a couple of big donors stepping up.

“I said well this may not be the best time economically but it’s time for me to do it,” Heller said.

Heller says Carroll’s founder, Bishop John Patrick Carroll, had originally intended to build a chapel on the north side of the campus.

“But I assume they just didn’t have the funds to do it and I thought well this would be a great way to complete Bishop Carroll’s great vision for the college,” he said.

Evans says the college had been looking at potential locations for the new chapel. He says Heller’s donation will allow the school to begin working with architects and engineers to make it a reality.

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