SALT LAKE CITY — The Most Rev. Gerald F. Kicanas, Bishop of Tucson, is the guest speaker for this year’s Bishop’s Dinner, the annual fundraiser for the Cathedral of the Madeleine.
"The cathedral plays a very critical role, not only in our dioceses but throughout the history of the church, because the cathedral church is the bishop’s church, and the bishop is the source of unity for the church in that local area," Bishop Kicanas said. "The cathedral is a symbolically significant place for the diocese because from there flows, as it were, fresh ideas and initiatives to energize the whole Church. It’s from the cathedral that the bishop’s voice and teaching permeates the diocese, and from which he listens to the concerns of the diocese and the issues that are important to the people within the diocese."
The word ‘cathedral’ is derived from ‘cathedra,’ or bishop’s chair, which is a symbol of the bishop’s authority. The cathedra is placed in the center of the sanctuary, and only the bishop presides there – if the bishop isn’t present, the chair remains empty. The cathedra traces back to the Chair of Saint Peter, which once was used by popes in St. Peter’s Basilica but now is considered a relic and preserved by a gilt bronze casing. The pope is Bishop of Rome, and the chair symbolizes his authority as Vicar of Christ and a successor of St. Peter. The cathdra also has ties to the Old Testament tradition of the chair of Moses, which Jesus referred to in Matthew 23:2.
"In a sense you could say that every Catholic in Utah belongs to the Cathedral parish," said the Most Rev. John C. Wester, Bishop of Salt Lake City. "It’s the mother church of the diocese."
The parish that is now the Cathedral of the Madeleine began as the Church of Saint Mary Magdalene in 1871, when Utah was part of the Archdiocese of San Francisco. The church itself was a small adobe building on the west side of Second East between South Temple and First South.
"This is where Catholicism began in Utah. It was the first Catholic church in Utah and for a time the only one, until finally in the 1870s we built St. Joseph in Ogden and St. Mary in Park City," said Gary Topping, the Diocese of Salt Lake City archivist.
As years passed and the number of Catholics in Utah increased, so did talk of a local diocese. This would, of course, require a cathedral. For this purpose, land was purchased and groundbreaking for the Cathedral began on July 4, 1899. The last Mass at the old St. Mary Church was celebrated on Dec. 27, 1907; the Cathedral of Saint Mary Magdalene was dedicated on Aug. 15, 1909. The Right Rev. Joseph S. Glass, second Bishop of Salt Lake, changed the name to the Cathedral of the Madeleine during the interior renovation that was completed in 1917.
The Cathedral has been renovated twice since then; work on the exterior was completed in 1980 and the interior was redone in 1994.
"It’s been 20 years since the Cathedral was renovated under Msgr. M. Francis Mannion (the Cathedral rector from 1986 to 2000), and it’s really time for another facelift," Topping said. "Because it is the primary church of the diocese, we’ve got to look out for the Cathedral."
The Bishop’s Dinner is the Cathedral’s annual fundraiser to help pay for regular maintenance.
"The purpose of the dinner is to call awareness to the ongoing need for people to recognize the importance of the Cathedral, and to elicit their help and prayers in making the Cathedral viable for generations to come," said Monsignor Joseph M. Mayo, the Cathedral’s rector. "It’s a monumental effort. It’s the single most important church in the diocese, so hopefully many people will step forward and help us in the best way that they can."
The Cathedral is the responsibility of all Catholics in the diocese, Bishop Wester said, and supporting it financially, especially by attending the Bishop’s Dinner, is one way to care for it. "It’s also a chance to remind ourselves of the very great sacrifices that so many people made for the last 103 years," he said.
The 2012 Bishop’s Dinner will be Sept. 20 starting with a social hour at 6 p.m. at the Grand America Hotel, 555 S. Main St., Salt Lake City. For information or reservations, contact Laurel Dokos, 801-328-8941 ext. 108 or firstname.lastname@example.org.