A Match Made in Madonna della Strada

Photo courtesy of Mark FederighiNoel and Jazzie Puno, former Loyola students who became college sweethearts, got married at Madonna della Strada in 2015.

For many Loyola students, Madonna della Strada chapel is a holy place for praying, attending Mass and making connections with members of the community. For some Loyola alumni, Madonna takes on another role: It’s the place to begin a new life with a new husband or wife.

That was the case for Loyola alumni Jazzie and Noel Puno, who got married at Madonna della Strada on Aug. 29, 2015.

“We really didn’t even consider any other place for our ceremony, to be honest with you,” said Noel, 27.

The couple met in 2009 at the Information Commons (IC) when Jazzie was a first-year student and Noel had just transferred to Loyola, according to Noel. Jazzie said she had been interested in Noel before they met, having recognized him from Kapwa, Loyola’s organization celebrating Filipino and Filipino-American cultures.

Photo courtesy of Mark FederighiThe Punos pose in front of the Information Commons where they first met.

“I actually thought he’d be sort of a playboy, [because] he was so cute,” said Jazzie, 25. “It wasn’t until the IC [that] I had enough guts to say hello to our mutual friend, knowing that, eventually, I would be introduced to Noel.”

The pair continued dating throughout their time at Loyola and after they both graduated — Noel in December of 2012 and Jazzie in May of 2013. They had been together six years before getting married and knew they wanted the ceremony to be held at Loyola.

“Our number one priority was getting married at the chapel, which was such an important part of our relationship with Loyola,” Jazzie said.

Madonna della Strada, located on the Lake Shore Campus (LSC), has only hosted weddings since 2007 after Loyola requested permission to do so, according to Lisa Reiter, director of Campus Ministry.

Cardinal Francis George, the archbishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago at the time, granted Loyola permission to host weddings at Madonna only if the bride or groom has a Loyola affiliation, which makes it an option for alumni, faculty, staff and trustees, Reiter said. This condition was set because Madonna della Strada is not considered a parish, which is a community defined by geographical location and led by a designated priest.

Additionally, either the bride or groom must be Catholic to be married at the chapel.

The flat fee for getting married at Madonna della Strada is $2,000, according to Madonna’s wedding information packet. This amount covers operational costs and other expenses, according to Reiter.

Reiter said most of the 35 to 45 weddings that occur at Madonna each year involve Loyola alumni who choose the location for a variety of reasons. One reason is that they used to attend Mass at the chapel and feel a connection to it, according to Reiter.

That connection is what brought the Punos back to campus to tie the knot.

“It’s kind of like saying, ‘Thank you, Loyola, for letting me meet my soulmate here at your school,’” Jazzie said.

Photo courtesy of Mark FederighiThe couple kneels before the presiding priest during their wedding ceremony at Madonna della Strada.

The pair also has Loyola to thank for some of their friendships. Jazzie, who majored in social psychology, said five of her bridesmaids were former Loyola students. Noel, who studied ad/PR at Loyola, had two friends from Loyola as groomsmen. As a student, Noel was a member of Loyola Acapella, and at his wedding reception, Noel had some of the former members help him perform to Jazzie.

Loyola first sought permission to host weddings because of a high demand from former students, according to Reiter, and wanted to provide a service that would strengthen alumni’s identities as Loyolans.

In addition, renovations completed in the same year that Loyola made the request made the chapel brighter and more suitable for hosting weddings, Reiter said.

Those renovations began in 2004 and included the addition of marble floors and a raised marble altar, along with air conditioning, according to Loyola’s online book, “Song in Stone: The History of Madonna della Strada Chapel.”

Now, much planning and paperwork go into creating the perfect day for couples who get married at Madonna, according to Reiter.

Campus Ministry works with couples to pick music, guides them through counseling to prepare for the sacrament, records the wedding and notifies the original parish of the bride or groom (whomever is Catholic) that the sacrament of marriage has occurred, according to Reiter.

It is the couple’s responsibility to find a priest or deacon to perform the service, however, whether that person is a Jesuit or a priest from the couple’s hometown. The priest then provides counseling in the months and weeks before the ceremony in order to prepare the couple for the challenges of marriage.

“A wedding is a day, and a marriage is a lifetime,” Reiter said on the importance of counseling.

Jazzie Puno said she appreciated the chapel’s thoughtfulness after the wedding occurred, when she received a card in the mail saying that Madonna would dedicate a mass to her mother — who passed away two months before the wedding — later in the year.

“That was something that I really found touching,” Jazzie said.

The Punos said that although some of their last memories at Loyola will be of getting married, Loyola will always be part of their lives.

“We would not have everything that we have had it not been for Loyola University Chicago. That day, honestly, was the best day of our lives to this point,” Noel said. “We’re very, very grateful for all that the school has given to us and, honestly, the least thing we could’ve done was to have our wedding there.”

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