In addition to everything that happens in parishes during Lent and Easter (which is a lot), I’ve been very busy with another project one the past months. I was called upon to be the master of ceremonies (MC) for the solemn Mass of Dedication for the new Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon.
To be an MC in a liturgy is not like it would be for a banquet: I didn’t speak publicly. Rather, to MC is to direct the flow of the liturgy. And since the dedication liturgy is among the most complex liturgies we have in the Roman Catholic Church, those of us who were involved were busy. Very busy.
Thankfully it went very well! There were a few minor niggles that (hopefully) most people would not have noticed unless they were looking at the ritual. This week I’ve been attempting to catch up on sleep while I get ready to go back into Saskatoon this weekend for a wedding.
You can get a chance to watch the dedication on Salt and Light TV this Sunday at 7pm CST. A DVD is also being produced which should be available for purchase soon.
We are quite proud of this new, beautiful building. The towering cross (which is also a structural element that literally holds the building together) stands as a visible beacon for people to come and encounter their Lord, who comes to where we are.
The building is a product of a private, nonprofit fundraising appeal that was both extremely ambitious and which also speaks volumes about the depth of faith and the generosity of the people of the diocese. Essentially, we had to do better than the annual Telemiracle provincial telethon for at least 5 years running – and we had to do so with far fewer people from which to ask for contributions. The people came through! It is a much-needed new parish church for Holy Family, a much-needed, larger diocesan pastoral centre (with parking!!), and a much-needed cathedral capable of hosting common diocesan events.
Structurally, the building takes the form of a spiralling roofline that reflects the prayers of the people rising to God, and the eventual journey to heaven which we all hope to make. The lower half of the building is cladded in tyndal stone, which is a material that has been used in the city for many years, most notably at the University of Saskatchewan. In addition to the main body of the church, the building incorporates a smaller chapel that seats approx. 80 people, a Blessed Sacrament chapel (which, following the directive concerning cathedrals in #49 of the Ceremonial of Bishops, “should be located in a chapel separate from the main body of the church”), parish offices, a rectory, meeting rooms, a large hall, and the diocesan offices. And it has large amounts of parking. All of this was accomplished on just over 5, somewhat oddly-shaped acres of land on the city’s east end.
The interior has many features of note, a few of which I’ll highlight here. The main lobby incorporates a fireplace / informal meeting area that includes field stones from all over the diocese. The main aisle, sanctuary, and wall behind the sanctuary is made from limestone imported from Jerusalem, both tying together the significance of the baptism font, altar, ambo, and cathedra (bishop’s chair), but also calling on all to remember the history of the Church and the central mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus that took place in Jerusalem. The altar, ambo, baptism font, and cathedra are each made from the same dark granite. The furnishings in the side chapel (“Queen of Peace Chapel”) were refurbished from the furnishings that used to be in the old St. Pius X seminary in Saskatoon. The building is also a work in progress. Elements such as statues and a magnificent, 51-stop Casavant pipe organ are planned, as the funding allows.
The stained glass created by Canadian artist Sarah Hall is beautiful. Frankly (even though I include a photo here), photos do not do them justice. There is so much detail and depth to them, as they help lead us through several moments in the story of salvation: creation, covenant, incarnation, resurrection, and eternal glory. In addition, three large windows visible from the outside reflect the beauty of the northern lights while also containing solar panels to capture energy for the building’s use.
One of my favourite windows is the large resurrection window behind the sanctuary. In addition to attempting to show a glimpse of the light and glory of Jesus’s triumph over death and sin, it also contains words of life from Scripture and Tradition that go forth to all the world. The words included are written in Aramaic and are: The Lord’s Prayer, the Beatitudes, the greatest commandments (Matthew 22.35-39), John 16.23-24, and the Apostle’s Creed. I am also quite partial to the creation window, which contains a painting of the actual sky as seen from Saskatoon.
If you’re interested in learning more, check out Bishop Donald Bolen’s new book, Transfiguring Prairie Skies: Stained Glass at Cathedral of the Holy Family. This can be purchased at the cathedral for $25.
Having been in the church for a few Masses, the feeling I get is one of intimacy in worship – even though the church seats roughly 1200 people. No one is further than about 65 feet from the altar. We are all gathered together around the mystery of Christ as he is present to us in the people gathered, the priest, the Word that is proclaimed, and most of all in the Eucharist (Sacrosanctum Concilium #7).