Cathedral emerges from surging growth of Catholic Church in NC
Posted July 26
Wake Forest, N.C. — While Catholic churches are closing in other parts of the U.S. because of declining members, the Catholic Church in North Carolina is experiencing record-setting growth.
A steady stream of parishioners pack the pews at St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church in Wake Forest every Sunday.
"Coming from different places around the country, it was sort of a mediocre turnout, and we came here, and it just seems to grow and grow," said Tom Ranaudo, who moved to the Triangle with his wife, Darlene, about a decade ago. "It's really fantastic to see."
The Ranaudos said the thriving Catholic Church in the region is more than just people moving to North Carolina.
"(It's) God, for sure," Tom Ranaudo said. "I think there is a renewed enthusiasm in the area. I think it is a very hopeful community, and I think that is contagious."
St. Catherine's has grown from 300 families in 1997, when it opened, to about 3,700 families today. The church had to move from its original building three years ago into a $9 million, 37,000-square-foot church.
"We've gone from an itty-bitty, 600-seat church to one that seats over 1,500," said Janel Grossheim, who has been a parish member with her family since the church opened. "When you sit in the back and look out at the congregation and just so many people (are) there from so many walks of life, that's what our Catholic nature is – it's universal."
The number of registered Catholics in the Diocese of Raleigh, which encompasses 54 counties in central and eastern North Carolina, has grown nearly 200 percent since 1990, to more than 231,000. As many as 1,500 families join the diocese every year, said Monsignor David Brockman, pastor of St. Catherine's and vicar general for the diocese.
"It's like a tiny parish every year, which is pretty amazing," Brockman said. "When people come here, there is a dynamism of life here in the South, and there is something to that."
Including Catholics who aren't registered with a parish, such as the large number of Latino immigrants, officials estimate about 500,000 Catholics are in the diocese.
The growth prompted former Bishop Michael Burbidge to lay out plans several years ago for Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral in Raleigh. Sacred Heart Cathedral downtown didn't have the space to bring the increasing numbers of Catholics together to worship as a community, he said.
"There is a challenge of facilities with growth. So many of our Masses are 1,400 to 1,500 coming to those," Brockman said, noting that a worldwide effort to foster the Catholic faith only adds to the momentum.
"If we don't do that, there can easily be an erosion of the life of faith, and we don't want that," he said.
Local Catholics said they have eagerly awaited the new cathedral and view it not as a culmination but as the next step in the evolution of the church in North Carolina.
"Our former pastor said to us that it's really important that we all have a place at the table, and I think this cathedral is going to represent that growth and give a place for everyone in our diocese to celebrate together and worship the news of Jesus," Grossheim said.
"Having a cathedral locally is huge – it is huge," Tom Ranaudo said. "It’s that landmark, 'Hey, the Catholic Church is here.' This is a foundational position for people to look to, certainly to look at that on the skyline."