By SUSAN JONES
Heinz Chapel "Women in the Windows" Tour
Celebrate Women’s History Month in March with special tours of the women depicted in the stained glass windows at Heinz Chapel. The tours will be held on several days during March. Reservations are required. Find more information on the Heinz Chapel website.
Heinz Memorial Chapel is getting a jump on its 85th anniversary this December with a call for love stories from couples who exchanged vows in the building, which was dedicated in 1938.
Corinne Bechtel, Heinz Chapel coordinator, said more than 10,000 couples have gotten married or had commitment ceremonies at the chapel since the first one in 1946. It was one of the first sites in the Pittsburgh area to offer same-sex commitment services. After a slump during the pandemic, the site is back up to hosting about 165 weddings a year.
Those who share their Heinz Chapel love stories also can participate in a group vow renewal on the anniversary date, Dec. 9.
“This really is about people sharing their love stories here,” Bechtel said. “We’ve been hearing from couples themselves. We’ve been hearing from folks sharing their parents’ love story. There was one last week that came in, her parents had met in a chemistry lab here at Pitt and got married in the 1950s.”
Stories about Heinz Chapel weddings can be submitted here. The stories may be shared on Pitt’s social media and in University publications at a later date.
Rosann Sgro-Mueser and Robert Mueser Jr.:
We are a Pitt/Heinz Chapel family! Both my mother (Rose Tolino Sgro) and my father (John Sgro) graduated from Pitt, as did I (Rosann Sgro-Mueser). Also, both my mother and I were Quo Vadis tour guides during our tenure as college students at Pitt and we also led tours of Heinz Chapel. … After graduating from Pitt in 1984, I also worked at Pitt (once in the Cathedral of Learning on the 37th floor in the Development Office) and loved attending mass at Heinz Chapel for weekday noon masses as well as during the Christmas holidays. I always wanted to get married at Heinz Chapel and on April 28, 1990, my wedding dreams came true. It was a wonderful day and it holds a special place in my heart.
From Pamela Golias about her parents, Varvara Federoff & Richard Golias
Mom & Dad met while studying for their degrees at the University of Pittsburgh in the ‘50s. Mom received her BS in bacteriology and worked in the pathology laboratory at Presbyterian University Hospital, and Dad received an MS in chemistry and initially went to work at Heinz in their research lab. They fell in love in a shared chemistry lab — mom always said my dad didn't want to share his test tubes with her! Not necessarily love at first sight but working together in the lab, two only children came together and married on a snowy day at Heinz Memorial Chapel, and honeymooned during a blizzard in New York City in January 1955. Three kids later, we watched our parents insist on our own completed educations, and they loved watching their five grandchildren grow up. We miss them every day.
The group vow renewal is open to all and includes an officiant, music on the pipe organ, time for guests to take photos on their own, and a sweet treat to take home. Tickets are $25 per couple and additional guest tickets are $10. Tickets can be purchased here.
There also is an enhanced group vow renewal available on Dec. 9 for $150 per couple, $25 for each guest, that includes personal flowers for each couple, a chance to walk down the aisle, and a portrait taken by a professional photographer, music from soprano Jennifer Russell and organist Jon Tyillian, a toast with sparkling wine or juice and a sweet treat to take home. Tickets can be purchased here.
Both ceremonies are open to couples who were married at Heinz Chapel and those who weren’t but who want to “recommit to each other in our beautiful space.”
The Dec. 9 celebration also will include a docent-led tour, open visitor hours and a concert featuring the Heinz Chapel Choir. Find more details here.
Heinz Chapel history
Money to build the chapel came from a bequest by H.J. Heinz to Pitt to construct a building in honor of his mother. The Cathedral of Learning was already under construction when ground was broken in 1933 for the chapel, which was designed by the same Philadelphia architect, Charles Klauder, to be a companion to the larger building next door. Various religious services are held in the chapel, but it does not belong to any denomination.
“All couples bring their own officiant, and that’s how we’re able to have so many different types of ceremonies,” Bechtel said. “On a Saturday, we might have one ceremony that’s a civil ceremony, maybe just a friend or family member is officiating. The next one might have a priest and a rabbi doing an interfaith ceremony. I know for the staff here, it’s a really wonderful place to work because you do interact with so many different people about different traditions.”
At one time, at least one member of the couple being married at the chapel had to be an alumni of Pitt. “Today, anybody is welcome to get married here,” Bechtel said. “We do have a discount for Pitt alums, students, faculty and staff.”
You can book as far as two years out, but she said, since the height of COVID, “we are seeing more and more couples that aren’t planning as far in advance. We’re actually still doing a lot of bookings for this summer and this fall.”
The chapel also does space rentals to campus and non-campus groups. The Pittsburgh Compline Choir has been presenting an 8 p.m. Sunday service for several years. The Catholic Newman Club holds a Mass every Wednesday at 9 p.m.; University Christian Outreach worships at 8:30 p.m. Thursdays; and the Coptic Orthodox Youth Association meets one Tuesday evening a month.
Heinz Chapel has regular open hours during the week when anyone can visit, and you might even hear a Pitt student practicing on the large pipe organ. The general history tours are free for anyone with a Pitt ID. And a lot of the other programming is free or discounted those with a Pitt ID.
“We’re such a small part of campus,” Bechtel said. “We do a lot of things and we try to keep the balance so that we’re never too heavily weighted down in the direction of weddings or religious services or student engagement. We really want to keep that balance. That really was the view of the Heinz family, for this to be a place of religious learning, but also a social aspect for the University community.”
Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at email@example.com or 724-244-4042.
Have a story idea or news to share? Share it with the University Times.