Vatican approves Diocese of Madison, Wis., proposal for new cathedral

The exterior of St. Bernard Church in Madison, Wis., is pictured in an undated photo. The church is undergoing both exterior and interior renovation ahead of it being elevated as the new cathedral for the Madison Diocese. (OSV News photo/courtesy Diocese of Madison)

MADISON, Wis. (OSV News) ─ The Diocese of Madison is closer to having a cathedral once again.

With decree in hand, the diocese has the Holy See's approval for its proposal to make the existing St. Bernard Church in Madison its new cathedral.

"The cathedral is an important part of the mission and identity of the diocese," said Bishop Donald J. Hying of Madison in a video announcing the approval.

He called a cathedral the "symbolic mother of the entire diocese. It's the church of the bishop, but it is also the church of the people (of the diocese)."

The Diocese of Madison has not had a dedicated cathedral since an arson fire destroyed St. Raphael Cathedral in downtown Madison in 2005.

Since that time, there have been many ideas discussed about how to replace the structure.
The cathedral question was answered as part of the diocese's "Into the Deep" multi-year strategic planning effort that is presently realigning diocesan resources to better accomplish and live out the mission to go make disciples.

The diocese explored three options during its most recent efforts to fill the need for a cathedral.

The options were: Continue to utilize diocesan parishes for celebrations, rebuild the cathedral on its previous site, or petition the Holy See to name an existing church as the new cathedral.
In light of these three options and feedback, Bishop Hying chose the petition option and proposed to name St. Bernard Church as the new cathedral.

St. Bernard was chosen partly because it lies within the boundaries of the city of Madison proper, which church law requires for the location of the cathedral.

"It brings me great joy to see a campus with a prominent past here in the Diocese of Madison become the cathedral parish," said Father Michael Radowicz, pastor of St. Bernard Parish.
"It is a most worthy structure, and its ornamentation, architecture, and presence on the east side of Madison since its opening in 1927 will tell a story of history and be for all the faithful a sign of great hope for the church here in the future," the priest said.

Like St. Bernard, St. Raphael Cathedral was an existing parish that was elevated to that of a cathedral when the Diocese of Madison was established in 1946.

The cathedral will host many of the major diocesan events such as priesthood ordinations and the annual chrism Mass. For the past several years, other churches in the diocese hosted these events.

St. Bernard Church is undergoing renovations and remodeling to prepare it for its elevated status. Masses are being celebrated in the parish center. The school building has been torn down.

Bishop Hying called the project an "apt symbol of the 'Into the Deep' process," adding, "We're taking a gift, a legacy that already exists, and then lovingly transforming it to serve our needs in the current moment."

Father Radowicz added, "We have assembled an excellent team of contractors and craftsmen who are all coming together to make this great project a reality. Our Lord always gives us who we need, and we have been tremendously blessed with the talent, faith, and zeal that so many are bringing to this project."

"We will have a cathedral in the city of Madison," Bishop Hying said.

He added it will be a "beacon . . . in the heart of the city reminding us that yes, God loves us, God is primary and (in) Jesus Christ, the victory has been won for us."

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Kevin Wondrash is editor of the Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Diocese of Madison.



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