Historic preservation work at Cathedral part of upcoming diocesan capital campaign

After a century of service, the three copper domes atop the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita are in need of repair. (Advance file photo)

To learn more about the restoration of the Cathedral domes, windows and the other projects that will be funded through the One Family, Fully Alive in Christ! Campaign, you may visit OneFamilyFullyAlive.org.

The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception is the spiritual home of every Catholic in the Diocese of Wichita. Its iconic domes and stained-glass windows have served as beacons of hope and faith for parishioners and visitors for over a century.

Today, the Cathedral is home to a vibrant and diverse parish community and hosts many important diocesan liturgies and celebrations throughout the year. It also serves as the final resting place for Fr. Emil Kapaun, a hero of the Korean War whose cause for sainthood is now under consideration by the Holy See. The Cathedral’s spiritual and historical significance to our diocese cannot be overstated.

Cathedral a key priority

In recent years, it has become clear that additional preservation work at the Cathedral is necessary to protect and maintain the beauty and structural integrity of the historic building. For this reason, a key priority of the $50 million diocesan campaign is $12 million in funding to cover the costs of repairing the domes and restoring the stained-glass windows of our mother church.

“Diocesan leadership had the Cathedral’s copper domes professionally evaluated about 13 years ago,” said Cathedral business manager Mike Rowland. “At the time, it was determined that the copper had another 10 or so years of life remaining. That time has come and gone, and now the domes need to be repaired and the copper needs to be replaced.”

Domes have deteriorated

The planned repairs, however, go well beyond cosmetic updates. In addition to the aging copper, the moisture seals and support structures in the domes have deteriorated due to changes in temperature and exposure to the elements over the years. This has led to some structural damage to the masonry columns supporting the domes. The project will include extensive restoration and preservation work, carried out over several years, to ensure that the building remains structurally sound and watertight for many years.

“We are blessed to have such a beautiful and prayerful Cathedral in our diocese,” said Bishop Carl A. Kemme. “I am excited and grateful that we will be able to address these important restoration projects and preserve this sacred treasure for future generations through our diocesan campaign.”

Preparing for the next century

“When they laid the cornerstone 100 years ago for the Cathedral, they were thinking down the line,” said St. Thomas parishioner and diocesan campaign chair Blake Wells. “Any home requires maintenance and we’re at a point now where our home requires some maintenance to keep it lasting for another 100 years.”

In addition to the repairs to the domes, the Cathedral’s beautiful stained-glass windows need significant repairs and restoration. After more than 110 years, the windows are beginning to sag and bulge in places where the leading between glass segments has started to fail. To avoid additional damage, the windows need to be fully restored and re-leaded sooner rather than later.

Window restoration expensive
time consuming

Restoring the stained glass is a time-consuming, detailed, and expensive process that will take two to three years to complete. Each window will be removed, taken to an offsite workshop, restored by craftsmen, and reassembled by hand.

“Restoring the Cathedral’s stained glass is a true labor of love,” said Cathedral rector Fr. Adam Keiter.
“The amount of time, energy, and effort required to properly restore these artistic and spiritual treasures is remarkable. The stained-glass windows are a big part of what makes the Cathedral so special – we’re excited and grateful that the entire Catholic community is rallying in support of this important project.”

Although some funds have been set aside to address these needs, the scope and scale of the project go well beyond what the Cathedral parish or even the Chancery could fully cover on its own. For this reason, Bishop Kemme is asking everyone in the diocese to support the restoration work through the upcoming diocesan capital campaign. The Cathedral project was one of the priorities tested during the campaign feasibility study conducted earlier this year, and there was strong support among clergy and lay leaders alike for addressing this need through the campaign.

Cathedral is everyone’s church

“This is everyone’s church,” said Cathie Hayes, a St. Thomas parishioner and chair of the campaign. “We see the need to protect the Cathedral and are happy to do our part to help. It is the heart of our diocese and a place of great spiritual and historical significance, especially now with Fr. Kapaun there.”

“I am grateful that people across our diocese – even those some distance from downtown Wichita – recognize the importance of protecting and preserving our Cathedral,” said Bishop Kemme. “Decades from now, we will look back with great pride on the restoration work we accomplished through this campaign. The Cathedral is and will be for many years to come a visible sign of our commitment to witness the Gospel to all God’s people.”

Funds raised through the campaign will help cover design and engineering fees, construction costs, roof access and support, interior modifications, and other associated project costs and contingencies.