Retro Riley: Riley chapel dedicated in 1958

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Riley Hospital for Children’s first chapel

Riley Hospital for Children’s first chapel was made possible in 1958 by funding from the Riley Hospital Cheer Guild. On Oct. 13, 1958, the new chapel was dedicated in memory of Mary Emma Thiebaud Porter, who founded the Riley Cheer Guild in April 1924, and was officially presented to Herman B Wells, president of Indiana University, by Ona Temple Eddingfield Layne, who chaired the chapel committee of the Riley Hospital Cheer Guild. Funds for the chapel were donated by 565 Riley Cheer Guild chapters, from individual members, and other organizations.

Riley Hospital for Children’s first chapel

The meditation chapel was located in a refurbished storage room just inside the front door to the hospital’s original lobby. Every detail of the small quiet room was planned by the guild’s chapel committee working with longtime hospital architects Daggett, Naegele and Daggett. Robert Frost Daggett was the architect for the original Riley Hospital for Children built in 1924. The chapel was paneled in oak to match the hospital lobby. The six oak pews were padded with soft green velvet, and gray sculptured carpeting covered the floor. Gray draperies, patterned with a “tree of life” embroidery, framed the stained-glass window that featured the following quote from “America’s Thanksgiving 1900,” one of James Whitcomb Riley’s poems:

“And, Father, give us first to comprehend,
No ill can come from Thee; lean Thou and lend
Us clearer sight to see
Our boundless debt to Thee,
Since all Thy deeds are blessings, in the end.”

The Rev. Dan Young, a former Riley Hospital chaplain, recalls that in the early 2000s, when Riley leaders were planning for the new tower, there was a decision to move the chapel door from the north side of the chapel to the west end. This move provided an opportunity to create a new door with stained glass. The Riley Children’s Foundation funded the new door. The chaplain team met with a stained-glass artist from a small art glass company to design the new door and glass. The new door window had a rainbow (a sign of hope that children would recognize) and a tree (sign of life).

The Cheer Guild continued to build the vision for the Medical Center’s chapel program and funded a second chapel at Indiana University Hospital in 1975 that was dedicated in memory of Anne L. Walker, longtime Cheer Guild volunteer, who passed away in 1974.

Since 1958, the nondenominational sacred space of Riley Hospital’s chapel has continued to find frequent use by families, friends of families and staff. Prayer books were provided in the chapel for people to write prayers for loved ones. Some of these prayers, included in the 2012 book “Voices from Riley” are shown below:

Dear Lord: Please stay with my little sister for the rest of her life and thank you for healing my little sister.

Dear God: Please help me. I know I am strong, but I am so scared. Please help me heal . . .

Dear Lord: Please give us one more good day with our baby.

Compiled by the Riley Hospital Historic Preservation Committee, photos courtesy of the Riley Cheer Guild, Indiana State Library, the Rev. Dan Young