In the Middle Ages, life was not easy. However, with life’s difficulties came a central focus on people’s faith. Cathedrals and churches were very important to the faithful. It was common for them to offer great effort and sacrifice in the construction, as beauty was essential in their reverence to their sacred places of worship.
They often modeled their creations after the Chartres Cathedral in France, constructed in the 12th century. It still stands today as a real beacon of the Catholic Church. The stained glass windows of Chartres are filled with images depicting stories from the Bible. Back in the Middle Ages, these images offered a form of catechism for those who could not read. The beauty of these uplifting, gothic designs provided an inspiration to their faith.
When I arrived in Green Bay a little over seven years ago, one of my first stops was to visit St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, the mother church of the diocese. I was so delighted by its beauty, with its many murals, beautiful stained glass windows and robust, stately structure and design.
Over the years, our ancestors in faith, including my predecessor bishops, Fr. Joe Dorner’s predecessor rectors and pastors, and all its dear parishioners have seen the Cathedral as a gift handed down from earlier generations. It is truly a legacy that continues to provide a beautiful, sacred worship space for the gathering of the church where the people of God offer fitting and noble worship and praise to the God who saves us and makes us his sons and daughters.
Thanks to many, we are nearly two-thirds of the way in completing the $3 million financial campaign. Many have stepped up generously with lead gifts from cathedral parishioners, as well as members of other parishes in the diocese. We have seen very generous gifts from priests, deacons and bishops along with a generous matching gift from Catholic Foundation. As the mother church of the diocese, the cathedral belongs to all parishioners and parishes, as it is being used very often for diocesan-wide celebrations.
From the brochure of the campaign, called “Preserving the Past: Shaping the Future,” the cathedral is described in the following way:
On Nov. 20, 1881, St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, built by the people of the Diocese of Green Bay, was consecrated by Bishop Francis Xavier Krautbauer.
For more than 125 years, St. Francis Xavier Cathedral parish has been the caretaker of this diocesan treasure.
This sacred space is where our priests have been ordained and bishops have been installed, and at times, even ordained. These men have been sent forth to share the Gospel and the love of Jesus with the people of the Diocese of Green Bay.
This is the church where our Chrism Mass has been celebrated, the presbyterate has gathered and thousands of people have been welcomed into the faith.
The cathedral holds the cathedra, the chair symbolic of the apostolic origin of the Catholic Church of Green Bay and of our bishop’s vocation as chief teacher and pastor.
Over the years, the faithful have ventured to our cathedral to be inspired by the beautiful artwork and sacred liturgy.
To date, we have been able to fully fund the two largest areas of need: the cathedral roof and the cathedral brick restoration; but there are many items still needing to be supported. There are still needs in the flooring, the sound system, restoration of murals, the pipe organ maintenance, the cathedral bells (four of which are currently not working), and the exterior paint and door restoration; all of these needs must be met.
I realize that some of your own parish churches need your attention and generosity as well. However, I ask that you please keep in mind the importance of this real treasure, our diocesan church. It is the responsibility of all of us. I ask all of you to please give this project your full and prayerful consideration to offer a gift. Together our offerings will enable us to reach the remaining goal to ensure the preservation of this jewel of a cathedral for all faithful to have in the future years.
I encourage you to visit the cathedral any time; especially during this Jubilee Year of Mercy, called for in each diocese by our Holy Father, Pope Francis.
Special graces called “an indulgence” will be received by those pilgrims who visit the cathedral during this Year of Mercy, which begins Dec. 8. If you have not yet visited your mother church of the diocese, please plan a visit to tour St. Francis Xavier Cathedral and spend some special time of prayer during this coming Jubilee Year of Mercy.
May God bless all of you as we approach this beautiful Advent season. I pray that you will find a faith-filled sense of generosity in your hearts for our “Jewel of a Cathedral, St. Francis Xavier Cathedral.”