Msgr. Mannion receives Legacy of Service award on 25th anniversary of cathedral's rededication

Friday, Mar. 02, 2018
Msgr. Mannion receives Legacy of Service award on 25th anniversary of cathedral's rededication + Enlarge
Msgr. M. Francis Mannion, who oversaw the 1991-1993 renovation of the Cathedral of the Madeleine, was recognized with a Legacy of Service award on Feb. 21, the 25th anniversary of the rededication.
By Marie Mischel
Intermountain Catholic

SALT LAKE CITY — On Feb. 21, the solemnity of the 25th anniversary of the rededication of the Cathedral of the Madeleine was marked with a Mass celebrated by Msgr. Joseph M. Mayo and concelebrated by Msgr. M. Francis Mannion and Father Patrick Elliott.

Msgr. Mayo was rector of the cathedral from 2000 to 2013. Msgr. Mannion was rector from 1986 to 2000, and oversaw the renovation of the building’s interior. Fr. Elliott was parochial vicar of the cathedral from 2000 to 2003. All three are now retired priests of the diocese.

The renovation, which required five years of planning and closure of the cathedral for almost 22 months beginning in 1991, included restoration of the interior and all of the cathedral’s artwork “as closely as possible to the 1918 renovation,” Msgr. Mannion said.

In addition, the sanctuary was reconfigured to meet the requirements called for by Vatican II, and the baptismal font was moved to the narthex, symbolizing that the Sacrament of Baptism is entrance into the church.

Bishop William K. Weigand rededicated the cathedral under the patronage of St. Mary Magdalene on Feb. 21, 1993.

“The dedication celebrated the renewal and restoration of this place, set apart for the worship of God, originally built with great sacrifice and effort by our ancestors, and now beautifully re-fitted for another century of service to the people of Utah,” Msgr. Mayo said in his homily during the Feb. 21 Mass.

Like Mary Magdalene, those who worship in the cathedral “are invited to kneel with her at the foot our suffering Lord, to remember again that our lives are not about self-aggrandizement and self-promotion, but rather we are invited to stand by the cross and see again our suffering Lord in people around us, especially in the hungry and the thirsty, the stranger and prisoner, the sick and the lonely,” Msgr. Mayo said.

The cathedral responds to this invitation not only by offering to fill spiritual needs, but also through its Good Samaritan program, which provides sack lunches seven days a week to all who come to the door. In addition, the cathedral opens to the wider community during events such as the Madeleine Festival for the Arts and Humanities and the Eccles Organ Festival. The Madeleine Choir School, which now offers education to students from preschool to grade eight, began as an after-school program in the cathedral basement.

Msgr. Mannion was a driving force behind all of these programs even as he raised the $12 million necessary for the restoration, said Fr. Christopher Gray, the cathedral’s parochial vicar, as he presented a Legacy of Service to the monsignor at the end of the anniversary Mass.

Fr. Gray, who was a student in the first class of the choir school, said he owes much of his formation as a priest to Msgr. Mannion.

The award acknowledged Msgr. Mannion’s “tireless effort and years of sacrificial work that have transformed the cathedral,” Fr. Gray said.

Accepting the award, Msgr. Mannion said it was not just for him “but for all those who associate with the renovation of the cathedral.”

In an interview afterward, Msgr. Mannion said the Mass was bittersweet because during the celebration he recalled several of the people who were involved with the renovation process and have now died, including Jon Huntsman, Sr., Ian Cumming and Irene Sweeney.

“During the Mass I was very much aware of their presence in spirit,” he said.

The motto of the restoration was “a cathedral for all people,” he said, acknowledging that it is “not just an historic monument but a living building which ministers in a variety of ways to the needs of the community.”

He will cherish the award, he said, adding, “I will always look back on the days of the renovation as among the best days of my life as a priest.”

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