Cathedral due for renewal, updating
Category: From the Bishop
I have always enjoyed the ceremonies of Holy Week. Even when I was a young altar server, they were part of the rhythm of life and always special.
That has never been more true than it was last week at Sacred Heart Cathedral. Everything flowed well. The celebrations were carefully planned. The congregation at the several liturgies engaged in them with lively spirit. Liturgical ministries, such as proclaiming and serving, were beautifully done. Music enhanced our prayer through it all, and so did reverent silence.
I remain grateful for all of those elements and to the people who worked so hard to make the liturgies rewarding for all who shared in them.
Another factor was operative in all of us through the week. That was our awareness that it was the last time we would celebrate Holy Week before the renovation of our revered cathedral.
I love our cathedral. It has been my home for 24 years. It is made holy by the people who have worshipped there. Their stories are testimonies to God’s enduring love for us all. But Sacred Heart is also a place that has long needed physical updating and liturgical renewal. I am very happy that the day has come when through Partners In Faith we will be able, God willing, to finance this work and also advance the other components of our capital campaign.
Let me offer a few comments about our cathedral project. I offer them to encourage your interest, understandings and support. If you have misgivings about the endeavor, I hope that this information might allay them:
1. In our tradition the cathedral is the main church of the diocese. Some call it the mother church. It is the church where the bishop presides -- in charity over the whole local church. The cathedral is, in that sense, the special home of all in the diocese. It is the principal site of diocesan liturgical celebrations such as ordinations, Chrism Mass, Rites of the Christian Initiation of Adults, jubilee Masses and the like. As such, the cathedral church, its configuration and appointments, the liturgies and other events that are celebrated there should be such that they model the church’s life in an effective way.
2. Our diocese actually has never built a cathedral. St. Patrick’s, our first cathedral, and Sacred Heart were both built as parish churches -- and later were designated as cathedral churches. The first St. Patrick’s was built in 1823. An enlarged St. Patrick’s was designated our cathedral shortly after the establishment of our diocese in 1868. In 1898 Bishop Bernard McQuaid enlarged and fully adapted the church to its new purpose. To do so he spent $67,000 of which the people of St. Patrick’s paid half. The remainder was paid by the other parishes of the diocese. I am told that $67,000 in 1898 would be well over a million dollars in today’s money. And that was in an era when the Catholic population was notably smaller and poorer than it is today.
3. In 1937, Archbishop Edward Mooney sold St. Patrick’s to an expanding Kodak for $300,000. In November of that year James E. Kearney was installed as our fifth bishop at Sacred Heart pro-cathedral, which had been built as a parish church in 1927. When the debt on that building was liquidated in 1952, Sacred Heart became our cathedral.
In 1957 and 1962 significant renovations were done in Sacred Heart in response to the liturgical renewal inspired by Vatican Council II. To the best of my knowledge, the parish, then very large and well-situated financially, handled the expense of those renovations.
4. At the present time Sacred Heart Cathedral is very tired. We need to do much to rejuvenate it -- major work on roof and windows, sound system and lighting. Further needs include such amenities as rest rooms and adequate parking.
It would be a failure in stewardship to do this substantial work without, at the same time, attending to the church’s long-standing need for further liturgical updating. Our goal is to restore the notable beauty of Sacred Heart while conforming it to our church’s norm for cathedrals.
During my tenure as bishop all of the other seven dioceses in our state have completed or are working on major projects on their cathedrals -- all for purposes similar to our own.
5. We have engaged a gifted, experienced and committed group of artists and craftsmen to help us to refashion Sacred Heart Cathedral so that it will be a blessing for us and our children in faith for years to come. The interior will shine with brightness and beauty. The great symbols of ambo, altar, baptismal font and ambry will fit the beauty of the place and will be in proportion to one another. The eucharistic chapel will be a gem, a special place of quiet contemplation. I anticipate with great joy the day following the renovation when we can gather at Sacred Heart to praise and thank God for the gift of our faith.
In the meantime, please pray that God will bless Partners In Faith and smile on the work we are doing at Sacred Heart.
Peace to all.