Chilly weather, warm welcome

| January 17, 2012 | 0 Comments

Ty Klesh, a member of St. Michael in Stillwater, sitting third from left, celebrated his 11th birthday at the Red Bull Crashed Ice World Championship finals in St. Paul Jan. 14. With him are friends, from left, Jaxon Leverty, Isaac Anderson and Wyatt Ecker. Dianne Towalski / The Catholic Spirit

While the Red Bull Crashed Ice World Championship ramp outside the Cathedral of St. Paul was being disassembled, Father Joseph Johnson, Cathedral rector, took a moment to reflect on the three-day event, which drew close to 100,000 spectators Jan. 12, Jan. 13 and Jan. 14.

“We had a lot of people coming through the Cathedral because of the wind chill and . . . people who normally wouldn’t be drawn to the Cathedral but were there for the sporting event,” he said.

Keeping the church open during the entire event was a successful exercise in outreach and hospitality, he said, although it required a lot of sacrifices. The parish gave up most of its parking spaces, moved its regular Masses on event days to the St. Vincent de Paul campus, dealt with street closures and increased its maintenance work to clean busy bathrooms and floors that were trampled by thousands.

“There were many people who came and were overpowered by the beauty of the Cathedral and, we hope, inspired,” he said.

When spectators needed a break from the cold and the action — watching skaters in hockey gear fly over jumps, twists and turns on the downhill track — they entered the church, where staff and volunteers welcomed them.

“I’ve seen this church so many times and never knew you could just walk in and look around,” said Robin Zima of Mound as she explored the church on Jan. 13. She and her husband, Tim, planned to visit the Cathedral while they were in town for the Red Bull event. They even researched it online the night before.

“I’ve never been to a church this nice. It really is breathtaking, just stunning, I can’t believe it,” Tim Zima said.

Chris Judd, a student at McNally Smith College of Music, grew up in Virginia and heard stories about the Cathedral from his parents, who lived in St. Paul 30 years ago.

The Cathedral of St. Paul served as a backdrop Jan. 14 for the Red Bull Crashed Ice World Cham­pionship. Dianne Towalski / The Catholic Spirit

“They said this is probably one of the most magnificent pieces of architecture they’ve ever been in,” he said. “They always encouraged me to come here, but I didn’t until today. Something just said, ‘Come on in.’ It’s really peaceful here, it’s really cool,” Judd said.

Father Johnson said the Cathedral; received a lot of attention; NBC will air footage of the event on Jan. 21, which is beneficial in two ways.

“That attention can only help people to realize, first of all from a historic point of view, what an important and beautiful building the Cathedral is; so, hopefully, that appreciation will lead to support to be able to keep the Cathedral in good shape,” he said.

The second thing is that “the very stones shout out,” he said, referring to the story of Jesus entering Jerusalem to the people crying out “Hosanna.” Jesus was told to quiet the people, but he said if they didn’t shout out the very stones would shout out, Father Johnson explained.

“The building itself is one of the most powerful tools of evangelization we have. You can’t walk into that building without thinking about God and heaven,” he said. “Having people come in contact with this, it’s an opportunity, it’s a foot in the door that the Holy Spirit may be able to whoosh on by and touch someone’s heart.”

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Category: Local News