Two weeks ago, the Cathedral Ministry Conference was held in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota. Personnel from Cathedrals representing 38 states, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand were joined this year by the Conference of Roman Catholic Cathedral Musicians (a group that meets annually) and the Association of Consultants for Liturgical Space. This was the fifth such Conference in which I participated having attended the sessions in Los Angeles (2004); Seattle (2006); St. Augustine (2008); and Salt Lake City (2013). The Holy Name Cathedral delegation was the largest ever. Joining me were Father Brad Zamora, Associate Pastor and Director of Liturgy; Morgan Henington, Chief Development Officer; Ricardo Ramirez, Music Director; and David Jonies, Associate Music Director. The event was co-sponsored by the St. Paul Cathedral and the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis. Liturgies took place in both magnificent churches, both designed and built over 100 years ago by Emmanuel L. Masqueray. Headquarters for the Conference was at the Minneapolis Hyatt Regency.
The Conference is a biennial meeting of those involved in ministry at Cathedrals throughout North America and beyond, and offers opportunities to share experiences and learn from one another. The conference regularly features national leaders who inspire strategic thinking, broaden the vision, and offer insights helpful to those in cathedral ministry. Workshops address the practical concerns and challenges encountered in a cathedral setting. Inevitably, there is the opportunity for networking and building relationships. Participants include rectors/pastors, ministerial staff, administrative staff, and volunteers.
What is the difference between a Cathedral like the one in St. Paul and a Basilica like Minneapolis’s St. Mary? The Cathedral is the bishop’s church, the location of his cathedra or teaching chair. At Holy Name, our cathedra currently sits on top of three steps in the center of our sanctuary. Previously since 1969, our chair had been located against the east wall of the sanctuary approximately forty feet behind the altar. Just five people have sat in that forty-six year-old chair during ceremonies at Holy Name – John Cardinal Cody (1969-1982); Joseph Cardinal Bernardin (1982-1996); Francis Cardinal George (1997-2014); Archbishop Blase Cupich who took possession of the chair at his installation Mass last November 18; and the most famous person ever to visit Holy Name Cathedral, St. John Paul II who sat in that chair on two consecutive nights (October 4 and 5, 1979) when he visited Chicago less than a year after he was elected Pope. Holy Name has been the local bishop’s church ever since we opened the present Cathedral in November, 1875. A basilica is an important church building designated by the pope because of special spiritual, historical, and/or architectural significance. Once named a basilica the church cannot lose its status as a basilica. A basilica may or may not also be the cathedral of the diocese. This is the highest permanent designation for a church building. There are a total of 1,675 basilicas. There are 81 in the United States, and Chicago is home to three – Our Lady of Sorrows (Kedzie & Jackson, 1956); Queen of All Saints (Sauganash area, 1962); and St. Hyacinth (Logan Square neighborhood, 2003). In general, there is one cathedral per diocese. Holy Name is the only one in the Archdiocese of Chicago. Still, the “one cathedral per diocese” is not a hard rule. Example? Minneapolis-St. Paul recognizes the majestic St. Paul Cathedral and the equally impressive Basilica of St. Mary as co-cathedrals. There are two in St. Louis, two in San Francisco, and two in Galveston-Houston for historical reasons. Chicago’s original Cathedral in two or three various locations before the Chicago fire was Old St. Mary’s.
At this season’s Conference, there were three keynote addresses. Father Thomas J. Reese, S.J., who is a senior analyst for the National Catholic Reporter delivered a talk entitled “Pope Francis and Church Reform.” Sister Dianne Bergant, C.S.A., the Distinguished Professor of Old Testament Studies at Catholic Theological Union here in Chicago spoke on “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.” She was forceful in promoting missionary discipleship as a given in Christian identity and in promoting our primary message that “God loves you.” University of St. Thomas professor, author of several theology books and scholarly articles, and composer of 25 collections of liturgical music, Father J. Michael Joncas spoke on “The Second Vatican Council and Liturgy: Learning from the Past and Hopes for the Future.” All three liberally used the vocabulary of Pope Francis – encounter, inclusion, welcome. All presented a vision of a cathedral as a model for other parishes; and, in fulfilling that role, called upon to be true to the tone that the Holy Father has set. There were almost twenty workshops dealing with Art & Environment, Community Outreach, Learning, Music, Rector/Pastor Leadership, Development and Communications. Over and over, presenters urged those attending to set the example by “opening wide the doors” with enthusiasm for those seeking Christ. Although doctrine is important, the conversion of the heart should be the goal of any flagship church of a diocese. I found the presentations valuable.
Again this year, I saw what always has seemed true. No two American cathedrals are identical. We differ in history, location, languages used, staff size, resources, registered households, age range, and number of visitors. One thing we all share in common is our identity with our bishop. You cannot seriously discuss the mission of a cathedral without accounting for the bishop. I may have had to ask the rectors of the cathedrals in Santa Fe, Yakima, Rapid City, Lubbock, Juneau, and Rochester who their bishops were. No one had to ask me who the Archbishop of Chicago was or is. I wish I had a quarter for every time I was asked, “How is Archbishop Cupich getting along?” They all know Archbishop Cupich. In their minds, Cupich = Chicago. I wish, too, I had another quarter for every inquiry I got about Cardinal George’s health. Each questioner offered the promise of prayer. Never have I attended one of these conferences without getting a new appreciation of the unique status of the cathedral parish especially in relation to the bishop.
I am grateful for those who expressed concern when they learned that I spent one overnight during the Minnesota trip in the Hennepin County Medical Center. During an afternoon walk on a Minneapolis skyway, I passed out as an apparent result of hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. It seems all is back to normal in the management of my diabetes now. About two hours before I blacked-out, I remember registering at the Hyatt. The clerk handed me my room key and joked, “There’s no significance.” I was assigned to Room 9-1-1.
This week is Catholic Schools Week in Chicago. Please pray for Catholic education in our piece of the Vineyard. There a 5 colleges/universities with about 50,000 students; 36 high schools serving just over 23,000; 207 elementary schools with about 60,000 students; and over 5,700 full-time educators. The Archdiocese has begun a search for a new superintendent for the largest non-public school system in America. Please pray this week for Catholic education in Chicago.
Msgr. Dan Mayall