For more than 100 years, St. Mary Cathedral has served as the center of the Catholic Church for the Diocese of Lansing, but its rich history dates back to before it was even named a cathedral.
“A cathedral gets its name surprisingly enough from a piece of furniture – the cathedra, the chair. The chair is symbolic of the teaching authority of the Church and the bishop that sits in the chair. And, so, thinking about Rome as the center for the Church around the world … the cathedral – if you will – is the center for the other parishes in the diocese, and that happens really in every diocese,” explains Msgr. Bernard Reilly, rector of St. Mary Cathedral.
What is unique about St. Mary Cathedral is that it was, and remains, a parish. The building itself dates back to when the church was consecrated in 1913, and in 1937, St. Mary Church became the cathedral for the Diocese of Lansing.
“St. Mary Parish was the first parish in the city back in 1866, so we just finished celebrating the 150th jubilee of the parish last year, and in 2013, we celebrated the centennial of this building, the cathedral, which is the third church that has been in existence for the parish,” Msgr. Reilly explains. Being the center of the Church within the diocese, activities that take place there include ordinations – for the smaller ordination Masses – the Chrism Mass and regional confirmation services. During the Year of Mercy, the cathedral was the only site designated with a Door of Mercy where plenary indulgences could be gained, and people came by the busloads. “Some were scheduled visits, and some were individuals who would come and stop in and ask, “Where’s the door?”
The diocese provided a new Holy Door for the Year of Mercy, and it was a beautiful addition.
At more than 100 years old, the building isn't immune to creaks and cracks. As a result of a successful response to the parish’s goal for the diocesan-wide Witness to Hope campaign, the infrastructure will see improvements in the future, such as fixing water damage from a leaking roof, attending to the window frames along the outside of the building, and replacing the 20- to 25-year-old carpet.
The windows, Msgr. Reilly says, are “priceless treasures,” and additional external protection is needed to protect those treasurers for “at least another 100 years. I hope they last that long and that the next generation will see the treasures that these windows are,” he remarks.
Msgr. Reilly says the funds will also address how they can protect the entryways. “Right now, the first effort is our interior space and making contact with some artisans … people who can do this properly and show tenderness for the building because it is one of the older buildings in town.”
The congregation consists of 750 households, but those households have a large impact on the diocese because their parish resides within the cathedral.
“We’ve all been asked to stretch a little bit with this and realize the role that we have, not only for the parish itself, but our involvement in the diocese. There are probably people out there who don’t realize that we are a parish just like they belong to. … We’re self-sustaining; we have a budget and have to meet the budget just like every other parish, or draw on our reserves if we go overboard somewhere,” he explains.
In addition to the money the cathedral raised as part of its parish-wide contribution to Witness to Hope, St. Mary will receive funds from the greater diocesan-wide campaign under the category of “supporting our shared ministry” because of the importance of the cathedral to the whole diocese. Shared funds from the diocesan campaign will be used to update the heating system, install air conditioning and update the sound system.
St. Mary Cathedral is our shared treasure, and the funds from Witness to Hope will help to preserve and pass down this treasure to future generations.