Doors opening on Catholic cathedral in Raleigh
Posted July 25
Updated July 26
Raleigh, N.C. — After more than six years of planning and two years of construction, the Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral opens in Raleigh on Wednesday.
Former Bishop Michael Burbidge, who first envisioned the cathedral to reflect the growth of the Catholic church throughout eastern North Carolina, returned to Raleigh to lead a special dedication Mass at 2 p.m.
WRAL will live stream coverage of the dedication on WRAL.com and in the WRAL News mobile app. WRAL-TV and WRAL.com also will air a half-hour special at 7 p.m. Wednesday to provide reactions from church officials and some of those who attended the dedication, as well as more background on the cathedral.
"This (is a) joyful, historic day in the life of the church, in the life of the Diocese of Raleigh," Burbidge said at a Wednesday morning news conference on the steps of the cathedral. "For so many years, you're talking about a vision and ideas, and when the day comes that is becomes reality, you're overwhelmed."
The $46 million cathedral sits on property Father Thomas Price, the first native North Carolinian ordained as a Catholic priest, purchased in the 1890s as the site of a Catholic chapel and later an orphanage. The property off Western Boulevard also has served as the site of Cardinal Gibbons High School and Catholic Diocese of Raleigh offices.
"This is holy ground," Burbidge said. "Everything in this building – everything – is designed to lift people's hearts and souls to God."
The cathedral, which seats 2,000 people, succeeds Sacred Heart Cathedral in downtown Raleigh as the home church of the bishop of the diocese, which covers 54 counties in central and eastern North Carolina. Sacred Heart seats only 300, and Burbidge and others said the growing diocese needed a larger space for the faithful to gather.
Father Justin Kerber, rector of Sacred Heart, said the cathedral will relieve pressure on the small church, which has overflow crowds at all of its 12 Sunday Masses.
"This is a tremendous gift from God that will enhance our ability to pray," Kerber said, noting that Sacred Heart will still hold daily Masses during the week, as well as weddings.
Through an extensive fundraising campaign, the diocese was able to pay for the cathedral – it opens without a mortgage or any other outstanding debt – and provide extra funding for outreach efforts to the poor, answering critics who said donations should target more pressing needs than a new building.
Officials scavenged Catholic churches in Pennsylvania that were closing to obtain panels depicting the Stations of the Cross, as well as 46 stained glass windows. They also saved a bell from Father Price's Holy Name of Jesus Chapel to incorporate into the 50-bell carillon in a tower that rises over the cathedral.
"The population of Catholics has moved to new places, so this dedication today and the fact that those stained glass windows, the Stations of the Cross have found a new home is really reflective to the church in the United States, that we continue to be a vibrant church," Burbidge said. "It's a great blessing to this diocese to be part of that growth."
The main architectural feature of the cathedral is the 162-ton copper dome, which rises 164 feet from the floor of the cathedral and is positioned directly over the altar. The dome can be seen from many places downtown and across west Raleigh.