Modo Rockefeller

UChicago creatures

Cat in the belfry

Meet Modo, the cat who livens up Rockefeller Chapel.

Rhonda L. Smith

One Tuesday evening, a couple of students showed up at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel just as restorative yoga was starting. The instructor directed them to take blankets and sit down. After a few minutes one student admitted, “We really only came to see the cat.”

Several times a week, someone stops by to visit Modo, short for Quasimodo, says Reverend Elizabeth Davenport, dean of Rockefeller. An abandoned six-week-old kitten when he was adopted in 2010, Modo now holds the grand title of Chapel Cat/General Health and Wellness of Rockefeller Chapel.

“There’s a long history of cathedrals in Europe having a cat,” says Davenport, who’s originally from England, citing Hildegard of Bingen in the 12th century and Julian of Norwich in the 14th century.

“They take care of mice, not that we have mice at Rockefeller, of course—at least not that I’m aware of. If we did, Modo would get them.”

Modo spends his time in the dean’s office, helping Davenport and chapel administrator David Wyka with their work, snuggling his stuffed bear, and updating his Facebook page (at press time, Modo Rockefeller had 375 friends). He’s not only listed in the Sunday bulletin, he makes Hitchcock-like cameos in every Rockefeller publication.


Modo’s antics liven up staff meetings, entertain visitors, and provide comfort to students missing their pets from home. Several times a week, someone visits the chapel just to see him. (Photography by Rhonda L. Smith)