Bishop Robert J. Cunningham delivered the following remarks at the close of the Sept. 8 Mass marking the rededication of the restored Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
Well, the view from up here is pretty good. But I think really no matter where you’re sitting, you have a good view.
It’s wonderful to be with you today, and even those watching from home see our beautifully decorated and restored Cathedral, preserved for years to come. I’m deeply grateful to all who have contributed to this project, most especially with their prayers and their gifts.
Special thanks today to His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan for being with us. My gratitude to Bishop Matano from Rochester, Bishop Grosz from Buffalo, Bishop Witold from Brooklyn. We’re sorry that Bishop Costello could not be with us today, but he has assured me of his presence with us through his prayers. I’m grateful for our civic and political leaders who are with us today, and to the superb and hardworking craftsmen and craftswomen who have walked this journey with us. To the faithful of the diocese — priests, deacons, religious, and lay — who have encouraged and supported this work, I am grateful to all. To one and all, you have my gratitude and my love.
When we began this project, we knew there was much to do. Roofs and heating, windows and painting, a gathering space, handicapped accessibility — so much needed attention. And as we traveled the diocese asking for your prayers and support, the response was tremendous. Close to 9,000 people have made this restoration possible and so many more have prayed for our success. The stones, stained glass windows, marble, and wood testify to the generosity of so many. Thank you.
Although there are many facets of the restoration I could mention, I will leave it to you, this evening and in the days to come, to experience the beauty, detail, and serenity of this sacred place. But allow me to mention two meaningful restorations.
Entering the Cathedral at the front entrance and walking down the middle aisle, my eyes immediately focus on the altar of repose and the tabernacle. How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord, God of hosts. Here in this place, we find love and mercy. Here God takes us and transforms us into His people.
In every diocese there is a church dedicated as a cathedral. The cathedra, the bishop’s chair, occupying a prominent place in the sanctuary, is the distinguishing feature of a cathedral. In Christian tradition, the cathedra symbolizes the bishop’s role as a teacher to whom Christ entrusts a particular local church to sanctify and govern. The bishop’s chair is what makes a particular church building a cathedral and the bishop’s church. Due to its significance as the Mother Church of a diocese, the cathedral is usually the most beautiful and historic of all the churches in a diocese.
Special words of gratitude today to Mrs. Aminy Audi and Edward Audi, and the entire Stickley family, who crafted the chair for our cathedral and are with us today. When I look at the chair I am reminded of the people from 37 nationalities that work at Stickley — some refugees and migrants — skilled craftsmen and craftswomen who designed and built the chair. Two of them are with us today. At a time when many in our country are questioning our immigration policies, I assure you: We stand with the immigrant. We recall the great contributions so many have made and are making in our society and culture. And as we move forward from this day, I will look at the chair and be forever grateful to the many people of this community from so many different nationalities and countries. Help us and make us one in the Body of Christ. The chair symbolizes, in a sense, our unity — unity of purpose, unity of faith, unity of life.
In the warm and tender embrace of our Mother the Church, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, God’s holy people, the chosen flock of this local church, are nourished and strengthened. From here, all of us, living stones transformed by grace, go forth to proclaim the Gospel with joy, especially attentive to those on the peripheries: the poor, the needy, the isolated, the neglected.
May Mary wrap her protective mantle around each of you and keep you in her tender care as we continue the joy of life and faith.
Thank you very much.