SALT LAKE CITY — An angel bedecked in blue, with a halo of reddish gold, filled the screen of the Grand America ballroom on Sept. 6 as more than 550 people gathered to celebrate the Cathedral of the Madeleine during the annual Bishop’s Dinner.
The angel is one of many that can be seen in the Cathedral of the Madeleine, which is not only the mother church for the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City but also hosts numerous concerts and other community events throughout the year. The Good Samaritan Program, which offers free sack meals every day of the week, is run by the cathedral as well. The dinner is a benefit for the cathedral; this year marks the 25th anniversary of the building’s rededication, a process that closed the doors for two years while the worship space was reconfigured to meet the norms called for by Vatican II. In addition to moving the altar forward and the installation of an immersion baptismal font, there was a seismic retrofitting, cleaning on a grand scale and other changes. The reopening in 1993 was a grand occasion that spanned several days and included a blessing of the Our Lady of Guadalupe shrine, a rededication to public service and a rededication to sacred service.
The $8.1 million project was supported by the wider community as well as by Catholics; the capital campaign was chaired by Ian M. Cumming, Jon Huntsman, Sr. and Jack Gallivan. The Most Rev. William K. Weigand, seventh Bishop of Salt Lake City, oversaw the entire renovation process.
The support of the wider community as well as Catholics for the cathedral also was evident at this year’s Bishop’s Dinner. Among those attending were President Russell M. Ballard, Elder and Sister Ronald A. and Melanie T. Rasband and other representatives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Khosrow and Ghazaleh Semnani; members of the McCarthy Family Foundation; Paul and Jane Hitzelberger; Frank and Barbara Layden; Msgr. Colin F. Bircumshaw, vicar general of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City; Msgr. J. Terrence Fitzgerald, vicar general emeritus; Deacon George Reade, chancellor, and his wife, Mary; and numerous clergy and religious of the diocese.
The McCarthy Family Foundation donated $10,000 in memory of Deacon Silvio Mayo, who died Aug. 3 following a long illness. Deacon Mayo was for many years the diocese’s chancellor; he was the first deacon in the United States to be appointed chancellor of a diocese.
The opening prayer for the dinner was given by the Most Rev. Oscar A. Solis, 10th Bishop of Salt Lake City.
As he welcomed those gathered, the bishop said, “Your gracious presence tonight is heart-warming and personally touching. I know you’re aware that our Catholic Church is embroiled in a very shameful sexual abuse scandal due to the sins of some of our priests and bishops for their moral failure in their sacred responsibility in protecting the children. For these failures, I beg your kind forgiveness.”
Other bad news abounds: negative rhetoric in the public square, racism, poverty, homelessness and addiction, the bishop added. “Sometimes it becomes very difficult to find the presence of God and his beauty and majesty in the midst of such ugliness. In fact, I had my own doubts – doubting that this dinner would be successful during this challenging time. But our loving God proved me wrong once again. He never abandons us and never fails to manifest his love for us. Tonight you are all a God-sent blessing to us; a brilliant light of his loving presence in us and among us. You are Christ’s ambassadors of hope and providence not only to us but to our community that we all belong to and lovingly serve. Thank you very much from the bottom of my heart for your generous support, especially during these trying times.”
During the dinner, a video history of the cathedral was shown. In addition to file footage of Bishop Weigand and Jon Huntsman, Sr., the video included interviews with President Ballard; Msgr. Joseph M. Mayo, who was rector of the cathedral from 2000 to 2013; Peter Huntsman, CEO of Huntsman Corp.; Gail Miller, chairwoman of the Larry H. Miller Group; and Scott Anderson, president and CEO of Zions Bank, among others.
Anderson said the support for the renovation came about because “the community should all get together and say, ‘We will protect the cathedral; we will ensure that it is maintained as it should be to be a place of worship, a place of beauty, and a place of gathering.’”
Bishop Weigand, who was the speaker for the evening, opened his remarks by recalling the tri-chairmen of the restoration capital campaign: Jack Gallivan, Jon Huntsman, Sr. and Ian Cummings, all of whom have died. He also acknowledged the support for the project received not only from Catholics but from the broader community.
“All of you, while being beneficiaries, are also valued custodians, helping to keep up the programs and the maintenance of this artistic jewel of Utah – yes, of Utah, not just of Salt Lake City,” he said. “The Cathedral of the Madeleine is a cathedral for all people in lots of ways. That was our intention from the beginning of the project. It is a prominent and powerful symbol of Catholic presence, life and values in Utah. But for Catholics, this marvelous edifice has very special meaning and importance. It is the mother church of the diocese; a vibrant symbol of the unity of Catholics of all ages and ethnic backgrounds, of the many parishes and missions gathered around the diocesan bishop in his cathedral – a sacred site where Catholics, scattered around Utah, symbolically come together in Christ to praise God; to lift up your lives and needs to the Father of Mercies; to celebrate Holy Mass, receive the sacraments and grow in understanding of Catholic teachings and of the duty to give witness to your Catholic faith in your daily lives, in your families, communities, professions and civil engagements. In union with all that goes on in the Cathedral of the Madeleine, the same is echoed throughout the state in the many Catholic parishes and missions. Together you form a whole, a one community of faith,” he said.
Before beginning the renovation, the diocese “spent some eight years trying to build up the people communities of faith,” Bishop Weigand said. He made pastoral visits to all of the parishes in the diocese, numerous rural Catholic churches were built or expanded, and other efforts were undertaken to serve the local Church and broader community.
“All this was background for the cathedral project. So, by the time we launched the cathedral retrofit, the voice of the faithful and of the community at large had been listened to and a sense of participation and shared responsibility had grown; the grassroots communities of faith had been strengthened and the bonds between them in the network of the diocesan church had grown stronger,” he said.
The Cathedral of the Madeleine is “the sign of our Catholic presence and service in Utah,” Bishop Weigand said, adding, “Hopefully, the splendor of the cathedral will keep reminding you of your own splendor in Christ. It takes a relentless effort to keep up the splendor of the Cathedral of the Madeleine and its programs. The same is true of you, the spiritual temple ‘who are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.’ Both are a work in progress – God’s work and yours. How very blessed you are to have the Madeleine to facilitate the latter, both in itself and as replicated in your many parish and mission churches throughout Utah. And you have done so very well over these 25 years. Thank you for inviting me back; I am energized once again by this renewed contact with you, the ‘living stones.’”