Bishop: Renovated cathedral will showcase ‘the beauty of our Catholic faith’



JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A major renovation of St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Jefferson City is underway, with hopes of completion and a new mass in about a year.

Parishioners temporarily celebrate their services in nearby locations while Sircal Contracting Inc. and a group of talented artisans work to showcase the building’s striking architecture with timeless art.

Bishop W. Shawn McKnight of Jefferson City likened parishioners’ time away from the cathedral to a shared journey and “time in the desert.”

He assured them that the work done was well worth the wait. Catholics from across the diocese are invited to take part in a spiritual pilgrimage during the renovation, praying for all those involved in the work.

In addition to supporting some needed repairs, the renovation will “increase our hospitality to visitors and guests” and “will more clearly manifest the beauty of our Catholic faith in the various works of art fashioned by artists near and far,” he declared at the end of his homily on January 2, the Solemnity of the Epiphany of Our Lord.

The renovated cathedral will include a much larger gathering area, known as the narthex, as well as an exterior canopy and bell towers. Symbols of Saint Joseph will adorn the front of the canopy.

As originally planned during the construction of the cathedral, bells will be placed in both towers.

The narthex will include additional and larger rest rooms and an elevator leading to a renovated basement, site of many parish and diocesan gatherings.

Character-defining elements of the mid-century cathedral, including its circular design, geometric windows, Douglas fir beams, crown-shaped roof, terrazzo flooring and white travertine marble, will be preserved.

A new altar, tabernacle, ambon, episcopal chair and nearby baptistery will be created for the reconfigured sanctuary. The new woodwork and the cross of the new crucifix will be in regional white oak.

New stained glass windows will draw more sunlight into the cathedral. Each will represent scenes from the Old and New Testaments and the saints of the Church, brought together under the theme of the Acts of the Apostles 2: 42: “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to community life, to bread and prayers.

New carvings, mosaics, paintings, stencils and colored stones will help define other areas of prayer throughout the cathedral.

These prayer spaces will include shrines dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne, Saint Isadore the Farmer and his wife, Blessed Maria, and Father Auguste Tolton, born and baptized in northeast Missouri. The priest is a candidate for sainthood and bears the title of “Venerable”.

Ancient polychrome Stations of the Cross will be framed in brass and installed in the ambulatory. A new custom-designed organ, incorporating parts of the current instrument, will be installed.

“It will be a wonderful space,” said church architect William Heyer, architectural consultant for the project.

He noted that careful planning over the past year has resulted in even more thoughtful use of materials and artwork than envisioned in the initial renovation plans.

“What’s really exciting is the amount of artwork that’s going to be put up in the cathedral. I think people are going to be very surprised and happy,” Heyer told the Catholic Missourian, newspaper of the Diocese of Jefferson City.

“Certainly the new stained glass window will be much more colorful and brighter than we anticipated,” he said. “The mosaics and marble work are going to be more colorful and intricate.”

Artisans from as far away as Germany and Italy and as close as St. Louis and Kansas City to Missouri and Chicago will create the artwork.

Heyer said the purpose of every detail will be to make the invisible presence of Christ more visible.

“It’s our specialty,” he said, “to celebrate in the best possible way all the effort that went into building this cathedral, while making it more beautiful and more recognizable as Catholic. “.

St. Joseph’s Cathedral was completed in 1968 in a style known as Mid-Century Modern.

The renovation will incorporate classical elements into the familiar structure of the cathedral, enhancing its beauty, functionality, visitor capacity and unique Catholic identity.

Father Louis Nelen, pastor of St. Joseph’s Parish Cathedral, said the 52-year-old cathedral has served the people of the parish and diocese well, but now needs updating. practical and aesthetic update.

Electrical systems and other utilities are worn and outdated, as are the lights and sound system. Toilets need to be bigger and more accessible.

The renovated interior will draw worshipers into deeper communion with God through beauty.

“It will be a mix of modern and traditional,” Nelen said. “We try to maintain ties to the timeless tradition of the church while respecting and building on what we have here.”

In preliminary surveys, many parishioners, especially young parents, said they wanted inspiring and instructive images around them.

“It goes back to the days when faith was taught not only by word but also by symbols and art,” Nelen said.

When people who pass the cathedral and see it from the outside, starting with the canopy above the entrance door, they “will recognize that it is a sacred space, a place of welcome, a place truly Catholic, and you’ll want to come in and visit,” the priest added.

McKnight hopes the cathedral will become a frequent place of pilgrimage for people across the diocese.

Heyer said his prayer for this project has always been “that God will bring this to a beautiful end, that the details will be correct, that the building will be built solidly, that it will last for many generations to increase the faith of the people. ”

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Nies is editor of the Catholic Missourian, the newspaper of the Diocese of Jefferson City.

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