GREEN BAY — Labor Day weekend Masses will be the final liturgies at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral for nearly three months. Interior renovations will require the Cathedral church to be closed from Sept. 4 through Dec. 2. The entire premises, including the Bishop Wycislo Center, which will be used to store supplies, and the Green Bay Diocesan Museum, will be off limits.
“We need to close the whole grounds for safety purposes,” said Fr. Joe Dorner, rector of the cathedral and pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish, Green Bay. “(Work crews) would be slowed up if we tried to have Mass or any events. We are blessed to have our sister parish (St. John the Evangelist) and the leadership there. We are going to be moving our 4 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. Mass on Sunday over there. We are able to keep the same Mass times and same volunteers.”
Weekend Masses at St. John the Evangelist Church are celebrated at 5:30 p.m. on Saturdays and 10:45 a.m. on Sundays. Fr. Dorner doesn’t anticipate any issues with the added liturgies, including the back-to-back Masses on Saturdays.
“We will be done at 5 or 5:10 p.m. (4 p.m. Cathedral Mass). I will encourage people from St. John’s to come 10 minutes before Mass starts,” he said with a laugh. “We have a little bit of gap between 9 and 10:45 a.m. on Sundays.”
Margaret Kleinschmidt, liturgist and sacristan at the cathedral, and Maureen Rompa, liturgy and music director at St. John the Evangelist, have collaborated on logistics.
“I’m very proud of our staff at Cathedral and St. John’s,” said Fr. Dorner. “They are working together and figuring out all the possible problems and addressing them ahead of time, including the parking issues. We are educating our people at Cathedral so they know where to park.”
The parking spaces marked in white paint at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral will be used by contractors. Parking spots marked in blue paint will remain open to area businesses that rent the spaces.
The renovation project, largely funded by a diocesan appeal that raised $2.3 million, includes cleaning, repairing and protecting the oil paintings.
“I’m glad we are doing it, which is $400,000 of the campaign,” said Fr. Dorner. “The old varnish has gone dark on us, so they are going to lift the old varnish and put a new varnish on it. We are sort of looking for a Sistine Chapel effect.”
A new floor will be installed and the pews will be refinished. The new floor will be placed over the current floor. The pews will be deconstructed.
“These pews are such that you don’t remove them and reset them up,” explained Fr. Dorner. “You really have to take them completely apart. When you move pews, typically the glue and the screws are affected. It’s best to remove them, take them apart, refinish them, bring them back and reassemble them. The pews are solid. They can use a refinishing.”
The organ, which was installed in the 1980s, will be overhauled. Wicks Organs, the company that built it, will be doing the work.
“The console is going to be rebuilt with modern electronics,” said Fr. Dorner. “There are more things we can do with this organ now. It will be much more user friendly.”
The Sacred Heart altar is going to be restored to the right of the main altar when facing the tabernacle.
“We are going to raise it a little bit, so the Sacred Heart statue stands out prominently,” said Fr. Dorner. “This means that the St. Francis statue will be set up off to the right as you enter the cathedral through the Resurrection Room from the Bishop Wycislo Center. We will put the statue there on a prominent stand and there will be a kneeler. We are looking forward to promoting devotions to St. Francis Xavier.”
A statue of St. John Paul II, donated by Bishop David Ricken, will be placed on the Doty Street side, symmetrical with the St. Francis Xavier statue. The small organ that currently occupies the space will be removed.
A number of upgrades, including brick work, bell repair and a new sound system, have been completed in advance of the upcoming restorations. Those projects were also part of the campaign.
Fr. Dorner described the financial support for the renovations as “providence to what we needed.”
“God has been good. We have resources,” he said. “We fell $150,000 to $175,000 short of ideally what we would have liked to have had, but we have parish reserves.”
St. Francis Xavier Cathedral will be ready for Advent, Christmas and the 2018 sesquicentennial of the founding of the Diocese of Green Bay. Jubilee Masses will be celebrated with different contingencies each month in the cathedral.