“How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord, mighty God” (Ps 84:2). This verse from the psalm at Mass on Thursday of this week is a fitting introduction to my Catholic Sun article. Last week I visited two beautiful cathedrals. Although God’s dwelling is not confined to cathedrals, they are special, sacred dwellings where God’s presence is acknowledged and celebrated.
Last week, I attended the dedication of the Cathedral of the Holy Name of Jesus in Raleigh, North Carolina, at the invitation of Bishop Michael Burbidge, a friend and the former bishop of the Diocese of Raleigh.
The Diocese of Raleigh serves approximately 232,000 Catholics representing approximately 5 percent of the total population of nearly 5 million. Sacred Heart Cathedral served as the mother church of the diocese from 1924 through July 2017.
Sacred Heart Cathedral, with a seating capacity of 300, was the smallest cathedral in the continental United States and the second smallest in the country. Due to its size, 11 Masses were necessary each weekend to accommodate the attendees. In 2011, Bishop Burbidge announced the construction of a new cathedral that would replace Sacred Heart, which could no longer accommodate the growing parish and diocese.
After 8 years of planning, fundraising, and building, the Diocese of Raleigh opened the doors to the Cathedral of the Holy Name of Jesus on July 26. Bishop Burbidge presided over the project during his 10 years as bishop of the diocese. Although he was reassigned to the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, last October, he returned to Raleigh to be the principal celebrant at the dedication Mass. More than 2,000 parishioners attended the dedication Mass.
The dedication was a joyous occasion! It was an opportunity to see the beauty of the new cathedral, to recognize the growth of the faith in Raleigh, and to acknowledge the generosity of the faithful, the living stones of the diocese, whose generosity and sacrifice made the dream of a new cathedral a reality. I share the sentiments of a parishioner who posted on Facebook, “Our new cathedral is gorgeous. The elegance of the structure, the beauty of the altar and tabernacle, lift the heart in prayer and adoration to the Lord.”
Following my return from North Carolina, I visited Kingston, Ontario. The Archdiocese of Kingston, located in Eastern Ontario, serves over 100,000 Catholics. It is Canada’s oldest English-speaking Roman Catholic diocese. The diocese was founded in 1826 by the division of the Archdiocese of Quebec. It became an archdiocese in 1889. The population is primarily English-speaking, although a considerable number of French-speaking people live throughout the archdiocese.
When I arrived at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception, it was obvious that a wedding would soon be underway. My visit, therefore, was brief but long enough to admire the stained-glass windows that tell the story of salvation from Adam and Eve until the death of St. Peter and Paul; the magnificent organ; the peaceful, prayerful quiet of its interior; the Lourdes Shrine on the west wall; and the Crucifixion scene on the east wall. The exterior is also imposing, constructed in Gothic style with limestone quarried from the ground on which the Cathedral stands, and an impressive slate roof.
Both cathedrals I visited last week were beautiful buildings — one of recent construction, the other nearly one-and-a-half centuries old. But more than their architectural beauty, the cathedrals stand as a sign of the faith of the living stones — the faithful — past and present, whose generosity and sacrifices built and maintain them.
My recent visits to the cathedrals in Raleigh and Kingston brought my thoughts to our mother church, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. I am looking forward to September 8, when we will celebrate the completion of our cathedral restoration. I invite you to look at our diocesan website where you can view recent pictures of the restoration. In addition, a brief YouTube presentation, narrated by Msgr. Timothy Elmer, provides a sneak preview of the restoration and comments from people who visited the cathedral during the AmeriCU Syracuse Arts & Crafts Festival on July 28 and 29. [Watch it at youtube.com/syrdio.]
We have been blessed by the generosity of so many of our faithful whose contributions support our efforts to maintain a beautiful and sacred place for God’s dwelling among us. “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord. Blessed are those who dwell in your house! Continually, they praise you” (Ps 84:2, 5)
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.