“Shout joyfully to the Lord, all you lands; worship the Lord with cries of gladness . . . . Enter the temple gates with praise, its courts with thanksgiving” (Ps 100:1, 4). Joy, praise, and thanksgiving – these are the sentiments that fill my heart as we prepare to dedicate our restored Mother Church, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
Our cathedral is an enduring symbol of the faith and sacrifice of generations of Catholics. Its beginnings can be traced to early immigrants who desired a better way of life and a spiritual home that would sustain and nourish their faith. Its name bears witness to their love and devotion to our Blessed Mother. Mary is the mother just as the Church is our mother. She offers her maternal care to the people of our diocese. It is only fitting that our generation preserve the cathedral dedicated to her under the title of the Immaculate Conception.
During the last couple of years, I have often addressed the need to restore our Mother Church. It is a magnificent building, which has served as the spiritual center of our diocese for well over a century. However, over the years water penetration pointed out the need to undertake the structural restoration of the roof and the walls. In addition, the heating system needed updating; the beautiful stained glass windows and the paintings on the walls were in need of repair. Furthermore, we wanted to enlarge the gathering space for the many faithful who come to the cathedral for the Chrism Mass, ordinations, Confirmation, the Immaculata Awards, and other diocesan events. Handicap accessibility was also needed so all the faithful could join in prayer and worship in our cathedral.
Through the generosity and sacrifice of people from the seven counties of the diocese, the cathedral restoration has been completed. My words cannot describe the beauty of the restoration. I invite all of you to see for yourself. Closed since Easter, the cathedral will be reopened and rededicated during a special Mass of Thanksgiving on Friday, September 8. Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York will be the main celebrant.
The rededication of the cathedral is a fitting time to recall the image of the Church as a mother. The Church is not a mother in the sense of our earthly mother, but she maternally nurtures and strengthens us through the sacraments. Through her, we are reborn in the saving waters of Baptism, nourished in word and Sacrament in the Eucharist and receive the strength of the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Confirmation. Our sins are forgiven, through the ministry of the priest, in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In the presence of the Church, couples pledge their life and their love in the Sacrament of Matrimony. For those called, the Sacrament of Holy Orders enables some men to be ministers of God’s saving work in a unique way. In times of sickness or as death approaches, the consoling graces of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick are given to us.
The Church is our mother and she will never abandon us. May we come to know her and love her ever more deeply. St. John Chrysostom, one of the early Fathers of the Church, offered this advice: “Do not separate yourself from the Church! No power is as powerful as she is. The Church is your hope; the Church is your salvation; the Church is your refuge. She is higher than heaven and bigger than earth. She never ages, and her vitality is eternal” (The Splendor of the Church, Henri de Lubac, p. 127).
For over a century, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception has been a place of permanence and peace. May she continue to be such for generations to come. In her maternal womb, may we receive the strength and nourishment to continue the journey of life and faith. From her maternal womb, may we go forth to spread the beauty and joy of the Gospel.
If you have a prayer intention you would like me to consider during the weeks ahead, please mail it to my attention at 240 E. Onondaga St., Syracuse, N.Y. 13202.