Parishes in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis will take up a special collection at Masses Sept. 22-23 to help the Cathedral of St. Paul pay down the debt remaining from emergency exterior restorations made a decade ago.
The work from 2000 to 2002, which included replacing the Cathedral’s leaking copper dome, cost approximately $30 million. Capital campaigns, several archdiocesan collections and other fundraising efforts through the years — including one honoring Archbishop Emeritus Harry Flynn’s 50th anniversary as a priest in 2010 — have helped to repay much of that cost.
Today, the remaining debt stands at $6 million.
“The original Cathedral roof lasted longer than [the builders] probably thought it would, and now it’s good for several generations to come,” said Father John Ubel, Cathedral rector. “But we have not finished paying for that work and that’s what this collection will help do.”
It took nine years to construct the exterior of the Cathedral after Emmanuel Masqueray was selected in 1905 to design the church, and another 43 years to complete most of the interior decoration, Father Ubel said. Similar to great European cathedrals, such construction is followed almost immediately by the need for preservation and maintenance efforts.
“In a cathedral like this, one of the big challenges is that you’re never done,” Father Ubel said.
Reducing the principal of the debt is necessary so the Cathedral can sustain its ministries and continue the work of ongoing restoration, he said. The Cathedral’s monthly interest payment on the debt is about $25,000.
Host to significant events
The Cathedral is home to the archbishop’s chair — the “cathedra” — and it is considered his official church. In 2009, it was designated as the National Shrine of the Apostle Paul by the Vatican and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Catholics from around the archdiocese come to the Cathedral each year to celebrate confirmations and other events important in the life of the local church, including ordinations to the priesthood and the Rite of Election for catechumens being initiated into the church. In addition, the Cathedral hosts public tours as well as concerts and educational programs for the local community.
“Well over half the people who come to the Cathedral on any given Sunday are non-parishioners,” added Father Ubel, who also greets people on tour buses that arrive on many days at the church. “Clearly this building attracts people from all over.”
The hospitality extended to visitors resonates with the intentions of Archbishop John Ireland, who initiated the building of the Cathedral and “saw the Cathedral as belonging to everyone,” Father Ubel said.
“If you go into the [Cathedral’s] Founders’ Chapel, you see that commemorative book listing all of the donations from people [to build the church], including from my relatives, and all the parishes,” he said. “Archbishop Ireland wanted to make it very clear that the Cathedral belongs to everyone.”