With apologies to the musical The Fantastiks the diocese has begun to dream and think about the day we will dedicate the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle, Thursday night, September 12, 2013 at seven o’clock in the evening. Even today looking on the diocesan website at the live-camera pictures streaming from outside and inside the project, the skeptic might be led to believe that there is no way it can be finished by then but it will be, I promise. And what a great evening that will be for all this local church!
In our ecclesiology, the Cathedral is the bishop’s parish, the bishop’s church. It is where his seat or cathedra (from which the very name “Cathedral” is derived) can be found and the only place in a diocese where it can be found. The bishop can and should be found there, in his chair and at the ambo (lecturn) and altar for ordinations to the diaconate and priesthood, for the Rite of Election on the first Sunday of Lent, for special moments like the Marriage Jubilee Mass, the Anniversaries of Religious women and men, the annual award of the St. Jude the Apostle award and for the normal parish major moments: Holy Week, Christmas midnight Mass, Pentecost, etc.
Our St. Jude Cathedral was never formally dedicated as a “cathedral” though it was dedicated by Archbishop Hurley as a parish church building. So when we talk about the formal dedication of the cathedral on September 12th, it is precisely that and not just a blessing of a remodeled Church.
When you see it you will swear that we built a new cathedral church from scratch and not simply remodeled an older building. The dome and roof structures remain the same but they are “clothed” in new coverings (anodized aluminum and tile), about 30 per cent of the structural walls are the same but 70 per cent of the support is new. The inside now has an additional 7000 square feet of space it did not have prior and the altar, ambo, presider’s chair and cathedra are all new. The tabernacle is the same though it has been replated, cleaned, restored and its locking mechanism repaired and spatially it is in precisely the same position as it always has been. A portion of the gate and altar/communion rail from the older building has been saved and will be where people can kneel in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. The corpus or figure of the crucified Lord from the old crucifix will hang on the new crucifix which you can now touch in the sanctuary and reverence with a kiss on Good Friday.
The statuary remains though in different spaces but there is a new life-size statue of St. Jude the Apostle in its own shrine which you will see upon entry and a new, beautifully carved wood pieta also in its own shrine. There is a large baptismal pool and baptism by immersion will be a possibility but it is very visible at the main entrance into the Cathedral signifying by placement that it is through baptism that we are received into the Church in the first place.
Speaking of the entrance, in the unlikely event of rain you can be dropped off under a canopied cover for the first time. People with disabilities will find access ramps all over the place to the Church (no longer just in the front of the Church) and there will be ramps into the sanctuary on both sides for wheelchair or walker lectors to approach the ambo. There is a first ever bride’s room and large bathrooms for women and men.
The choir loft remains (for storage only) but you will not be able to see it. There is a formal choir area at the front of the Church which can hold a choir of eighty people (how I wish), a new organ and there is also a music area for a smaller group or organist/pianist and cantor nearer the sanctuary. Going to and from Holy Communion will be less a chore because of wider aisles and easier access to the pews (also new and curved). What you will not see are the working sacristies, the choir practice room, the vesting area for the bishop and for the priests and for the altar servers. And if all goes well, and I may just jump off the Skyway Bridge if I does not, a sound system that is worthy of our new space and a lightyears improvement on the previous sound system.
There are to be three robotic television cameras largely out-of-sight which will capture liturgical action and make it possible for us to livestream the Sunday Mass from the Cathedral and perhaps even broadcast it on paid cable. If you cannot attend the dedication Mass on September 12th, you will be able to watch it via livestream on your home computer. Two very large but unobtrusive flat-screen LED televisions will be available for all to see when there is a need to show something to the assembled.
Finally, there are the windows! Our natural sunshine is God’s gift to us and the Cathedral will have more windows than it ever has had. The main window behind the tabernacle, itself behind the main altar, should be stunning. It will change color throughout the day depending on the ambient light shining in from outside and when it is totally dark outside, the window will still show a remarkable color behind the tabernacle.
For the first time since it was completed in 1962, every one who worships inside the Cathedral will be able to see some of the twelve stained glass windows in the dome (previously hidden from almost everyone save the celebrant of the Mass at the altar – it was just before they were to come down that I noticed them for the first time). They and the windows on either side of the two semi-transcepts will suggest that passage from the third Eucharistic Prayer, “from the rising of the sun to its setting, may the name of the Lord be praised.”
But that will be it for this moment in time for the windows. What we will install and have ready for September 12th will have cost about $125,000. To finish the windows in the ambulatories and the entrance ways would have cost an additional $500,000 and something has to be left to future generations. No Cathedral should ever, ever be finished on the day of its dedication but rather be an expression of faith over generations.
What I love about the new space is that there will no longer be three communities at prayer at the same time but one. Previously those sitting on the side transcepts could not see those in the main transcept. Now the eye can take in the whole interior expanse of the great church. It can seat 1300 if we need it, all visually and spiritually in sight of one another. There are no longer any pillars in the sanctuary blocking the vision of people from the altar and/or the ambo. The altar of sacrifice and the altar of the ambo where God’s word will be proclaimed will all be in view of all (I know, I used the same word twice but for greater emphasis).
Before even thinking of a project of this size, I needed to do something having nothing to do with liturgy. I needed to assure myself that we were doing all we could and effectively for the region’s poor and needy. Catholic Charities has expanded and grown exponentially, caring for many more people than ever at their most desperate moments. We are always in the process of building up our fund to assist parents access Catholic education for their children if they need it or guarantee the best possible experience in Faith Formation outside of a school setting if they choose. These are all works in progress but so is the Cathedral. It was time to do something because St. Jude’s needed a new roof, pointing of the exterior, the replacement of dangerous electrical, dubious plumbing and disturbing sound systems. A few years ago, we replaced the mechanical cooling system with new air conditioning and plumbing which cost us $650,000 at the time and is included in today’s total cost of the renovation. It was time.
Try to remember that time in September when life was slow and oh so mellow.