When ABC News correspondent Cokie Roberts spoke at St. Thomas More Chapel last year, the building was packed. Others who came could not even fit inside. Chapel officials say they now hope to avoid overcrowding by building a 35,000-square foot student center adjacent to the Park Street chapel.

The new student center will house a library, lecture hall, food service facility, lounge, meditation room, and a room for confessions. It will also house meeting rooms and offices and will be accessible seven days a week, said Matt Wrather, the chapel’s program director. Groundbreaking is scheduled for Easter 2003 and May 19, 2006 — the 86th birthday of Pope John Paul II — is the target date for completion of the center.

Father Robert Beloin, the University’s Catholic chaplain, said the center will offer appealing programs and services to bring faith into students’ lives. He cited the Joseph E. Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale as a good model for the new center.

“[Slifka Center director] Rabbi [James] Ponet has done a fabulous job in showing what a vibrant spiritual center can be on campus,” Beloin said.

Kerry Robinson DIV ’94, the chapel’s director of development, said she saw a need for a new student center at the chapel.

“It’s going to be a focal point for Catholic spiritual and intellectual life at Yale, providing in one location a whole breadth of resources that right now are scattered in many different locations,” Robinson said.

“Groups often have to meet in tiny administrative office space or even off-site, and my office is on the other side of campus,” she added.

The addition will be named for Thomas E. Golden Jr., who is donating money for the project. Cesar Pelli and Associates, the world-renowned New Haven-based firm that designed the Petronas Towers in Malaysia, the tallest buildings in the world, will design the new Golden Center. Last February, Yale hired Pelli to design a new, 50,000-square-foot engineering complex.

To pay for the student center, St. Thomas More officials are directing a $20 million capital campaign. Of the money expected to be raised, $15 million is earmarked for building the student center, while the rest will be used for the chapel’s endowment. To date, the building fund has raised $5 million. Chapel officials are seeking $10 million more in the next three years to complete the campaign. The chapel has signed a 99-year lease for the Park Street space, which currently houses organizations including the Community Book Bank. Those organizations will be relocated elsewhere on campus.

Robinson said St. Thomas More officials were very pleased with the amount of support they had received for their plans.

“Both the administration and alumni have been incredibly supportive,” said Robinson.