Verbum Dei Seeds of Life Spirituality Center | Tracy, CA
Praying in the newly finished and blessed Jaime Bonet chapel, it is impossible not to bring to prayer in gratitude all the hands and hearts that have literally built this beautiful chapel. This chapel, built from straw (do not worry, it will not fall down!), draws you into the mystery of the incarnation. You feel embraced as you step into the round chapel and are met by God’s love in the Eucharist who chooses to be born in the humble straw.
On November 13, 2016 one hundred and fifty people or so from so many different nationalities and backgrounds gathered for the ground breaking of the new chapel. As part of the liturgical celebration, everybody wrote their dreams for this sacred space and placed them in the foundations. The Jaime Bonet chapel is built on and sustained by the hopes and dreams, prayers and cries of the people of this land.
As the wooden frame started to grow higher, it began to reveal the architectural design of the chapel: a round structure, tent-like, with the copula opening up into the skies above. In 2019, we held the first of three weekend long events which brought together members of the Verbum Dei family along with volunteers from a Californian Strawbale building association to build the chapel. In choosing a strawbale structure, we sought to be more ecologically responsible in the face of the devastating threat of climate change. The thick strawbale walls require less cooling in the summer and less heating in the winter.
More than 50 people from completely different walks of life worked together during these three weekends to raise the strawbale walls, and then plaster them using natural material. As we began and ended each day in prayer with people of faith and no faith tradition, we were reminded of the connection that we all have as a human family to reach out to one another and to build together in hope and love. These weekends were a real witness to the Kingdom of God is among us.
Week in and week out, dedicated electricians, painters and carpenters and all who could lend a hand from the Verbum Dei family continued working to see the chapel to completion. The altar, crafted as well by a member of the Verbum Dei family is made from a section of a fallen redwood tree. These ancient trees, native to California can live for thousands of years.
Finally, on September 18, 2022 Bishop Myron Cotta of the Stockton Diocese presided at the inauguration of the Jaime Bonet Chapel. In drought stricken California, the heaven’s opened and blessed the land and us with rain! More than three hundred people came to share in this long awaited for and joyful event. The chapel overflowed and outside all the people gathered around, whilst the rains thankfully held back for the duration of the inauguration. As soon as the last person left, the rains started again and a rainbow filled the sky and entered into the copula of the chapel! A confirmation of God’s covenant and Jaime smiling!
Bishop Cotta proclaimed just before the liturgy of the Word: “May the Word of God always be heard in this place…” With Mary’s tender gaze and the certainty of her help along with Jaime looking on in witness, may the Word of God reach so many hearts from this sacred place, hidden among the orchards of the Central Valley of California.