CLOSED FOR REMODELING – WILL REOPEN IN LATE MAY 2013
Last week was the final week for the Cathedral of St. Jude as we have known it since its opening in 1962. Built prior to the first meeting of the Second Vatican Council, the Cathedral has served a parish community and the diocese for fifty years. It is now about to undergo a major facelift. Why? And why now?
First, the Cathedral needs a new roof and other code requirements which add up to a whopping three million dollars. Were we to end our investment with just meeting the needs to remain in business for another fifty years, we would still have a Church with no access to the sanctuary for the physically challenged, terrible sightlines because of restricting pillars to the left and the right of the main altar, and especially the “ambo” or place where the Word of God is proclaimed and the main altar in desperate need of better definition. There is no place for an adequate presidential chair for any presider other than myself and there is no fixed “cathedra” or chair of the bishop which is required for Cathedrals throughout the world. The sound system is horrible, has been and remains so after five decades of “fixes.” There is no main entrance to the Cathedral Church itself and the so-called “front door” is used by about 15% of all those entering the Church. So staring at just maintenance costs of three million, it seemed time to address the mother Church of the diocese in a broader way – perhaps even making it a showplace for all of our parishes, a site where good liturgies reflecting the Council’s call for “full and active participation by the faithful” can be had at every liturgy – parish or diocesan, and major liturgies of this diocesan Church can continue to be held.
After consultations with an expert in liturgical design, a fine local architect, and contractor and after several years of consultation and discussion with the Diocesan Finance Council, the College of Consultors, the Diocesan Pastoral Council, the Cathedral Parish Council, all of our priests, and just about anyone else who would listen, we are launching this week a renovation project whose cost I am limiting to eight million dollars. All of the consultations have been uniformly positive with the proviso that parishes, etc. not be forced to pay for it. When completed in one year, we envision a remaining debt of somewhere in the neighborhood of three million dollars to be retired as additional funds become available. The diocese is presently in good financial condition and can carry this debt burden until it is retired. The difference between three and eight million dollars will be sought and received in the sale of surplus properties which are on the market and some under contract throughout the diocese.
I want to reemphasize that in launching this project, I sought, waited for, and received the positive responses of almost everyone I could consult. I am the third bishop who has attempted a renovation of the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle and the first two ended with no decision to move forward. None of my predecessors did and nor do I take any special delight in undertaking this project. Some along the way have recommended transferring the Cathedral to another, perhaps newer Church but when a diocese is created (erected in Canon Law terms), it is the Holy See itself who chooses the church which will serve as its Cathedral. Changing the Cathedral can be done, for example look at the Crystal Cathedral purchase in Southern California which will soon become the Cathedral Church for the Diocese of Orange, but it is very difficult. Instead of going that route, others and I think that after the renovations, St. Jude’s can once again be a beautiful “mother Church” for the diocese. I’m including some photos taken of the Cathedral in May 2012 and the artistic renderings of how the Cathedral will look after the renovation is complete.
So what will remain the same after the renovations? As you can hopefully see in the artistic renderings posted above: (1) the sanctuary will be lowered slighly and enlarged but the tabernacle will remain in its prominent place at the center rear of the sanctuary; (2) part of the old altar railing will be used for private prayer before the reserved sacrament and in front of some of the statues.What will be different after the renovations; (1) what is now the front entrance will be even less used as a new main entrance will be built on the Tyrone Boulevard side of the building; (2) a full baptismal font will be in place as one enters the Cathedral from the newly designed main entrance; (3) the main sanctuary will be lowered one step from the present and the four present pillars which block the view will be replaced by four steel beams supporting the dome or rotunda from the sides thus allowing a full, free view of everything within the sanctuary; (4) a new altar and ambo made of marble will replace the present wooden ones which were introduced after the Second Vatican Council when altars were removed from the back walls enabling Mass facing the people; (5) ramps will be located on both sides of the sanctuary enabling access for the physically challenged for the first time; (5) a proper Presidential chair for the presider at Mass as well as Cathedra for celebrations with the bishop present will be in place in the sanctary; (6) new, curved pews will be installed with kneelers and without cushions and will be situated in such a way as the flow during the Communion Rite will be much better; (7) there will be places for statues and private shrines throughout the Cathedral for personal devotions; (8) the sound system will be critical so that everyone can hear everything that is said and/or sung, new lighting will be utilized throughout the Church, restrooms expanded, and the new air-conditioning system will cool and heat the entire Church as needed.
Every diocese should be proud of its Cathedral Church. In Florida in the last twenty-years, the Cathedrals in Orlando, Miami, Palm Beach and Pensacola have been remodeled (one of them several times) as local Churches strive to have a worship space worthy of its dreams and aspirations. I have chosen a much simpler and less expensive approach to this project and it will not be completed when we move back in on May 29, 2013. Matters like stained glass,statuary, and other nice but perhaps more expensive touches can be left to my successors and to the pastors and people of St. Jude’s who will continue to worship there.
Keep an eye on the diocesan website (www.dosp.org) for renovation updates. Already posted are photos of the construction so far, the background behind the renovations, the project timeline, frequently asked questions, and the history of the Cathedral.
I hope you will like what we plan and love what we complete.