By Margaret M. Russell
It begins in prayer and, through the grace of God, ends in success. An $800,000 capital campaign for St. Paul Cathedral was announced to parishioners Saturday evening and will be taken diocesan-wide in the coming weeks.
Msgr. Robert K. Johnson, cathedral rector, announced the “Legacy of Faith, Hope & Love” campaign as people from the Anglo, Hispanic and African communities of St. Paul Cathedral shared a meal in the Cenacle. Father Angel R. Matos, associate pastor, reiterated Msgr. Johnson’s message in Spanish.
The campaign name is taken from St. Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians, where St. Paul says, “… So faith, hope and love abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
“As in any endeavor, we build on the shoulders of others,” Msgr. Johnson said. He shared with the parishioners the improvements made to the cathedral 20 years ago under Bishop Reilly. He cited the shrines to Our Lady of Guadalupe and Divine Mercy and the hall in which they were sharing dinner.
“We will build on his shoulders and what the Diocese has done so we have something to pass on to the next generation,” Msgr. Johnson said.
After thanking the parishioners for their time and money to keep up with emergency repairs in the cathedral, he noted that “this campaign began in crisis” with the retaining wall on the west side of the building in danger of collapse, possibly making the cathedral unusable.
The two-year campaign will pay for the new retaining wall, eliminate accumulated parish debt, be used to refurbish the pews, and set up a fund for future emergencies. The overall goal of $800,000 was determined in consultation with parish and diocesan groups, Bishop McManus and the Office of Stewardship and Development.
Throughout the year the cathedral hosts all the Bishop’s events, including the Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, and 38 other diocesan ceremonies, as well as the parish functions.
Msgr. Johnson explained that since the cathedral church is the seat of the diocesan bishop and a “very important church for the entire diocese,” it receives a subsidy from the Diocese to “make sure we can take care of the all needs of the people that come.”
Because of a lack of cash flow for the past two years, the cathedral needed to increase its subsidy so, “starting this September first we are operating with a balanced budget,” Msgr. Johnson said, eliciting applause from members of the parish finance committee. The inability to pay its bills, however, left it owing $65,000 to the Diocese. And prior to 2011 the parish had accumulated a debt of $206,000. Those debts will be taken care of with a successful campaign, he said.
When deciding what to include in the capital campaign, Msgr. Johnson said, they listened to the parishioners and the people from throughout the Diocese who use the cathedral. Many complained about the condition of the pews and kneelers which are from the 1960s, he said.
Pews, kneelers and the floor beneath them will be refinished, he said, and new end pieces, that are similar to those in place prior to 1967, will be added.
Because the campaign will run for two years, Msgr. Johnson said that the parish’s annual Partners in Charity goal is also included in the amount.
“Through 2016, as people make pledges that can be paid over two years to this campaign, it will include your yearly donation to Partners in Charity,” Msgr. Johnson explained.
“If we are able to meet our goal, our cathedral will be in very good shape for a long time to come,” he said.
Michael Gillespie, diocesan director of stewardship and development, who is helping to coordinate the campaign, reminded the people that prayer is very important for the success of the campaign.
He said they were invited to the gathering so that they could be informed about the campaign and be included in the process. Those are three tenants of stewardship, he said: being invited, informed and included.
“It starts with prayer, it starts with invitation,” he said.
“We are all called to include everybody to be a part of what’s going on here in this wonderful church,” he said.
Bishop Reilly, honorary chairman of the capital campaign, said to the people, “We have a sense of pride in carrying on the great gift that was left to us; this gorgeous, gorgeous edifice to the glory of God.”
A letter of appeal from Bishop McManus is included in a campaign brochure printed in English and Spanish that was distributed Saturday. Bishop McManus writes: “Just as the cathedral is home to all, may each of us respond with generosity to our Faith, Hope, and Love campaign so as to build on the legacy we have received.”
“We have our task before us…. This begins in prayer. We place ourselves before God. Through the intercession of our patron St. Paul, may this Legacy of Faith, Hope and Love that is before us, trusting that God will care for us, give us the strength to do what we need to do,” Msgr. Johnson concluded.