Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Anniversary of the Dedication of St. Francis de Sales Cathedral

Today is the anniversary of the dedication of St. Francis de Sales Cathedral!

Well...sort of…

This part of the history of the Cathedral of the Diocese of Baker is a bit confusing.

If you’d looked in the Paulist Press ordo up till a few years ago, you’d have seen the dedication of St. Francis Cathedral listed on April 28.  However, this is not the date of the original dedication of the church. 

[Disclaimer: I do not have the current edition of the Paulist Press ordo, and so I cannot say for certain what date is listed for the anniversary this year; it is possible that it has been changed, but I am doubtful. Certainly, I have seen nothing in the Cathedral parish bulletin about celebrating the anniversary on any date in April.]

The project of building St. Francis de Sales Cathedral was initiated by Bishop Charles J. O’Reilly, who had arrived in Baker City in 1903.  At that time, the “cathedral” was a little mission church which was certainly not able to accommodate the kind of liturgies that should be held in a Cathedral. So, on March 20, 1905, the old church was removed; on March 24, ground was broken for the new building.

The architect for the new cathedral was M. P. White of Baker City, and the builder was Thomas E. Grant. Stone was brought in from Pleasant Valley, with is southeast of Baker City. The building was actually completed in 1908 and opened on St. Patrick’s Day that year, but it was not put into use until after its dedication on April 9.

There’s the original date of dedication of the Cathedral of the Diocese of Baker: April 9.

There have been a number of renovations of St. Francis Cathedral, and after the major make-over around 1980  – which took a cathedral that once looked like this (ahhhh!):

and made it look like this (sigh):

 - there was a re-dedication on April 28, 1981. That date was probably given to the Paulist Press people by Bishop Connolly, who had initiated the renovation and who led the dedication ceremony. According to the printed pamphlet commemorating that event, the ceremony was attended by the bishops of five neighboring diocese - including Bishop William S. Skylstad of Yakima, the current Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Baker - as well as the archbishop of the Archdiocese of Portland. 

So, up until just a few years ago, one would always find April 28 listed as the date of the dedication of St. Francis de Sales Cathedral in the Diocese of Baker. A few years ago, however, it began to be listed as April 9.

Why the change? The reason was probably because someone realized that the original dedication anniversary was on April 9. But you might be surprised to find that the 2012 ordo listed the anniversary of the dedication of St. Francis de Sales Cathedral as April 16! That’s because April 9 fell in the Octave of Easter; the Octave days take precedence, so a celebration of the dedication of any cathedral would not be permitted.

Bishop Robert F. Vasa, prior to his transfer to the Diocese of Santa Rosa, had noted that April 9 almost always falls during Lent or in the Octave of Easter; therefore, the date for the celebration of the dedication would be different each year. On the other hand, the April 28 date submitted by Bishop Connolly would almost always be after Easter and the Octave (the latest possible date for Easter is April 25); therefore, keeping that date for the celebration of the dedication would lend it much more stability.  

April 28 is in fact related to a significant historical event for the Cathedral – a re-dedication – and so is an appropriate date that is at least in the same month as the original date, and which would be much more predictable than the April 9 date. Bishop Vasa had intended to mention something about this in the Diocesan newsletter the following year, but since he was transferred to the Diocese of Santa Rosa, the clarification fell by the wayside.

At any rate, in at least the last 10 years, the bishop of the Diocese of Baker has not been at the Cathedral for the celebration of the anniversary of the dedication of the Cathedral on either April 9 or April 28 (actually, I am not sure whether Bishop Cary has been there for the anniversary of the dedication in the last couple of years). Even in 2008, for the centennial anniversary of the Cathedral, there was no bishop present: just the rector and two former pastors.

Prior to that, in October of 2007, Bishop-emeritus Thomas Connolly celebrated the 60th anniversary of his priesthood, and at that time, in the presence of a couple of archbishops, several bishops, and numerous priests, the newly renovated Cathedral sanctuary was "blessed and re -dedicated", according to the now-defunct Cathedral parish website, which may have been the best parish website in our diocese - well worth perusing even now, though it is not the official parish website any longer and is not updated. If you follow that link, you will come to the old website which contains many wonderful photos on various pages of the site.).

The anniversary of a Cathedral's dedication is to be celebrated as a solemnity in the Cathedral parish; it is celebrated as a feast elsewhere in the diocese. The cathedral is the "mother church" of the diocese and should be a liturgical example of excellence to the rest of the parishes, according to the Ceremonial of Bishops.

It could be so in the Diocese of Baker, but it is not so at present.

A current photo of the altar at St. Francis de Sales Cathedral.

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