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Catholic diocese breaks ground for new spiritual home

Posted January 2, 2015
Updated January 3, 2015

— The Catholic Diocese of Raleigh broke ground Saturday on a cathedral in southwest Raleigh that will seat 2,000 worshippers when it's finished. 

The official groundbreaking ceremony for the Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral was held at 10 a.m., and hundreds of Raleigh-area Catholics were in attendance. The new cathedral will be located between Western Boulevard and Centennial Parkway in Raleigh on about 39 acres that used to house diocese offices and Cardinal Gibbons High School.

The diocese planned for a $75 million campus to include a fellowship hall, parking garage and crypt at the same location, but had cut back when it couldn't raise the money.

"I promise we will build only what the people of God will allow us to do," Bishop Michael Burbidge said. "No loan, nothing beyond our means. Faithful stewardship."

The cathedral will cost about $41 million. 

Burbidge held about 400 receptions across the 54-county diocese to get feedback from area Catholics on the design of the church. Using a crucifix design, it will seat 1,000 immediately in front of the altar, with 500 on either side of it.

"The design will be similar to other cathedrals, in that we are building on a 2,000-year heritage of sacred architecture," James O'Brien, the Arlington, Va.-based architect brought in to handle the project, said in a statement. "At the same time, the cathedral is intended to be a reflection of the values of the faithful of North Carolina, and so it is bound to be unique in that way."

The construction is expected to take about two years.

"We are building a worthy dwelling place for God — a home for all the faithful in the diocese. A beautiful and spacious church whose doors will be open to all. A place where sacred music will be heard and lectures will be conducted," Burbidge told reporters before the ceremony.

The cathedral will replace Sacred Heart Church, Raleigh's existing cathedral. Built in the early 1920s at the corner of Hillsborough and McDowell streets downtown, Sacred Heart can hold only 320 people and is the smallest Catholic cathedral in the continental U.S.

Burbidge has said that Sacred Heart will remain an active church once the new cathedral is built. Burbidge said it is an especially proud day for him after dedicating 11 new churches during his nine years in the diocese, which covers eastern North Carolina.

The diocese has grown from 6,000 Catholics to 500,000 people since it was founded 90 years ago, he said.

"We will do everything possible to make this entire community proud by making sure our cathedral is a powerful reminded of God's presence in our midst," Burbidge said. "The one who calls us to love and to serve Him and one another."


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