Mother church, campus renovation complete The renovation of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception campus may be complete, but for Bishop Michael O. Jackels, the work of evangelization has begun anew. “I think one of things that really excites me is that with the changes in the color – the additions – a lot more people will come in and it will be a great chance for new evangelization,” he said. “I was in here about a week ago and the tile setters had stepped in and were looking around. They were Catholic and they were asking about this, what’s that, and it was just a natural and a very beautiful opportunity to evangelize. So, I think there’s going to be a lot of opportunities for that. I’m excited about it.” Bishop Jackels and several of the other principal persons involved in the renovation were interviewed Jan. 7 by the Catholic Advance about their reactions to the work. At the beginning of the interview they were asked to give a one word reaction to the renovation work. Here are their responses:
Father John Sherlock, rector of the Cathedral, “hopeful.” Monsignor Robert Hemberger, diocesan vicar general, “prayerful.” Architect Randy Crook, “inspiring.” Project manager Chris Baalmann, “excitement.” Contractor Bob Simpson, “great vision.” Bishop Jackels, “overwhelmed.” The Cathedral’s rector, Father Sherlock, said the renovation has resulted in an inviting space. “It entices you in, while at the same time it elevates you up to something bigger than yourself,” he said. The artistic elements of the Cathedral, Fr. Sherlock said, combine to draw a person to “the transcendental, the divine.” Msgr. Hemberger described the interior as harmonious, one “that tells a story of salvation going all the way from creation into the communion of the saints – touching the story of our salvation in so many ways.”
Crook reiterated a comment made by Bishop Jackels praising the beauty of the Cathedral before the renovation and added a thought that reflected his architectural background: “My hope is when people come in, they don’t see that this was a renovation. [My hope is] that they say what a great church this is and that they can’t remember what it looked like before…that people come in and say, ‘wow,’ this is just a great church and I can’t believe that I didn’t know it was here.” Simpson said the completed work was a reflection of the time spent and the attention to detail by all involved that resulted in a unified campus. Bishop Jackels recalled an incident from his most recent pilgrimage to Rome when a tour guide pointed to the hospital next to the church where the group had just attended a Mass. The guide explained that his three children had been born in that hospital and that most of the hospitals in Rome were next to churches because healthcare had always been a part of the church’s mission. The closeness of Catholic Charities and the parish and diocesan offices to the Cathedral reflects the same idea, Bishop Jackels said. “This is next to the church because it is part of the church’s mission. It’s not separate from, it’s physically proximate for a reason.” Msgr. Hemberger added that the unity reflects the idea that after a Mass those attending are charged to “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” “The Mass should flow into charities, should flow into services to go in peace to glorify God by your lives,” he said. “This campus is now surrounded with opportunities to extend the love you receive at Eucharist to our neighbor.”
Crook said the faithful of the diocese should be a bit more at peace now that the Cathedral has a sprinkler system on all levels of the building. “We went into the attic, there was nothing but exposed wood and exposed wiring, he said. “One of the first things we decided to do was put a sprinkler system in this building so that it’s here for the next 100 years.” Accessibility has been greatly improved throughout the campus, he added. Now a singer who might be handicapped can take the elevator to the balcony. “The front doors are pretty intimidating,” the architect said, “So now there’s a path you can travel where anybody can come in and get into the church.” Crook said safety and accessibility issues were resolved by the renovation. Baalmann said the mechanical and electrical systems are more efficient with everything new and up-to-date. The lighting has been improved inside the Cathedral and it, too, is more efficient. The gathering space, just east of the Cathedral, will allow the parish to be more hospitable, Father Sherlock said. “It’s a place where we can meet, we can gather, and we can attend to those who come without invading the sacred space.” In addition to the comfortable place to gather before and after Mass, Father Sherlock said the gathering space offers a bride’s room, a cry area with a TV monitor of the Mass, and much-needed toilets.
When Bishop Jackels was asked about how decisions regarding the art in the Cathedral were made, he answered: “Not without some difficulty!” “Whenever you get into things like color – you’re going to have real different opinions,” he said. “My recollection is that there wasn’t a lot of argument or storming out of the room because they didn’t accept my idea. “There was a lot of work on an artistic vision for the Cathedral with regard to color … we wanted to make it warm, we wanted to have a certain richness, even a sense of transcendence. And I think that was accomplished in the color scheme.” Bishop Jackels said the art pieces to a great extent were left to the discretion of the artist. “They accomplished their challenge, their task, as well.”
Msgr. Hemberger said early in the planning stages a group of people worked on an artistic vision. “People with biblical insights, theological insights, historical insights came up with the notion of let’s try to incorporate the Trinity, let’s try to incorporate the story of Jesus’ life – birth to death – but then also beyond that notion that it doesn’t end with death, that there’s the resurrection, there’s a communion of saints in which we share with Christ Lord.” He added that, as Bishop Jackels stated, there wasn’t a lot of rancor, it was more of the group answering the question of “How can we make this better?” Simpson said the generosity of the faithful allowed the diocese to bring in craftsmen who worked hard to do the job correctly. Tile setters came from Portugal and Boston, the sculptor from Oregon, the painters from Florida, New York, and Chicago. “It’s not unusual in construction for suppliers to supply things,” he said, “but to actually have the craftsman travel and pull off the vision is what the art was mostly about.” Baalmann said one of the biggest challenges he had was in making sure the crews were prepared for each phase and aspect of construction, “that decisions were being made to keep it rolling forward.” Crook talked about how much care was taken to protect the interior of the Cathedral. “The stained-glass windows were covered with plywood, the columns were covered, everything was protected through the whole process,” he said. “The scaffolding was just amazing! It was an engineering feat in and of itself.”
Father Sherlock said he enjoyed working with everyone involved in the project. “The ‘grand old lady’ needed a facelift, but she got more than a facelift, she got a total renovation. And I think for her it’s a greater glory for the greater glory of God.” Msgr. Hemberger said the project revealed to him the unifying power of our faith. “We have very different personalities, we have very different skills and crafts – there would’ve been a hundred opportunities for arguments, fights, and conflicts,” he said. “Somehow, once people got into the faith dimension, even the craftsmen and the artists said there was something different as they began working on this as opposed to a public works project. There was something about conveying our faith that drew people together.” Crook said professionally he learned how to match old construction exactly with the new construction, such as the cutting of stone. “There’s a lot of craftsmanship that went into this for me, I had to relearn some of those old world techniques in doing the detailing, which was a lot of fun for me,” he said. “And beyond that, spiritually it’s been a great journey for me. I’ve learned so much just about my faith as well in the artworks themselves.” Simpson said he learned how an architectural and artistic vision is carried out using the gifts of stewardship and the talent of workers and craftsmen who are working together to do a good job and as a result, they become a master builder. Bishop Jackels said he learned about the great faith of the people of the Diocese of Wichita. He said initially there was some concern that the people of Hamilton or Baxter Springs, for example, would really have any interest in the Cathedral. “But what I found is a great interest … and that the cathedral is a symbol of our Catholic faith community,” he said. “People were very, very generous in responding with their interest and their prayers and sacrificial offerings – quite generous in their sacrifices to make this possible.” Bishop Jackels added that as he has returned to parishes to thank the faithful they have responded by telling him they have been following the progress and how they can’t wait to see it.
Msgr. Hemberger said he believes one of the legacies of the Cathedral renovation will be that the church itself is more versatile for prayer. “It has some wonderful little private prayer places, whether it would be with Joseph and Mary, the crucifixion scene, or the adoration chapel. Plus it’s a much more usable public space. Hopefully all these things will live on and people will enjoy a better prayer experience, whether by private prayer or public liturgy.” Father Sherlock said the renovation means the people of the diocese have maintained a worthy worshipping space for the present and for the future – and for our faith. “Wherever they come from – within the parish or outside the parish or even outside the diocese – there’s a beautiful space here that we can call our home for worship. I think we have left her for future generations – and they’re welcome to it!” Bishop Jackels said the legacy of the work is “communion.” There was a great effort to express architectural communion both inside the Cathedral and throughout the campus, he added. “Well, that communion was made possible by the communion of the people in the diocese who felt that this is a project that they want to invest in. That this is something that is part of them and they want to be part of. To me, that sense of unity, harmony, communion is going to be the legacy of this whole project from start to finish.”
Bishop Jackels said before this project he has never worked with so many people on such a complicated project. “But if this is any indication of what it’s like, it’s not as daunting and threatening as it might seem,” he said. “They did a great job. I want to commend them for doing something well, beautiful, in a timely manner, and – as far as I know – within budget, even with all the challenges.” Simpson said in the end it’s not just bricks and mortar. “At the end of the day it’s galvanizing people.” Crook said he believes the project will be a successful one if people will walk in and it looks as if the work has been a part of the Cathedral since it was initially constructed 100 years ago.
Pilgrimages to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception are planned in the next few months by parishes throughout the Diocese of Wichita. Here’s what’s coming up: • Monday, Feb. 11, 6:30 p.m., Delta Rho Sigma • Saturday, March 16, 10 a.m., diocesan Cathedral Pilgrimage Mass and Tours • Friday, April 5, St. Thomas Aquinas Middle School (To schedule a pilgrimage visit CatholicDioceseOf Wichita.org/celebration.)
Cathedral centennial rosaries available The specially-designed cathedral centennial rosary is now available for $10. They can be ordered in person at the Chancery at 424 N. Broadway in Wichita, or online at CatholicDioceseOfWichita.org/celebration.
Cathedral booklet A booklet guide to assist those visiting the cathedral understand the significance of the art and of the liturgical furnishings will be available at the Chancery and the Cathedral office. The information contained in the booklet is also available at the Cathedral website, www.CatholicDioceseOfWichita.org/celebration.
Re-opening Mass streamed live Feb. 2 The Diocese of Wichita will live stream and broadcast the re-opening of the Cathedral campus and the dedication of the Cathedral Altar Mass. The live stream will begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 2 and can be viewed by visiting the diocesan website: catholicdiocese ofwichita.org. A taped broadcast of the Mass will be aired on cable Cox 22 beginning at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 3. Cathedral Daily Mass schedule begins Feb. 4 Daily Masses will be celebrated at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception beginning Monday, Feb. 4. The Masses will be 8 a.m. and noon.