By William T. Clew
St. Paul Cathedral is in the midst of a capital campaign with a goal of $800,000 with the aim of benefitting both the cathedral parish and the Worcester Diocese.
The fund drive began in February, Msgr. Robert K. Johnson, rector, said.
The parish component includes repairing the retaining wall on High Street, which has already been completed; contributing to the annual Partners in Charity appeal; and pay ing off the parish debt to the diocese, he said.
The retaining wall was bowing out toward the west wall of the cathedral. It was feared part of High Street could fall into the building, so the 153-year-old granite wall was replaced with concrete blocks.
Msgr. Johnson said the parish debt to the diocese is not large. He said the parish now is operating on a balanced budget.
The cathedral also is the church for all the diocese. It is where the bishop presides at diocesan functions. Last year, he said, the cathedral welcomed more than 80,000 visiters. He said he came up with that number because that is how many Communion hosts were distributed last year. He said it was more that that number because some didn’t receive Communion.
The second component of the capital campaign is to make the cathedral a welcoming place. Bishop Reilly and Father Richard F. Reidy did “a wonderful job” in renovating the cathedral in recent years, he said.
What remains is refurbishing the 127 pews and kneelers. They were installed in 1967 and have not received much attention over the years, he said.
He said he has contacted Lloyd Woodworking of Hudson, the company that installed the pews, to design and install six refurbished, sample pews and place them in the sanctuary so people can see what they look like.
If the fund drive is successful the renovation work can continue. The rest of the pews will be removed, sanded and given a mahogany stain in keeping with the Victorian design of the cathedral, Msgr. Johnson said.
In the early days of St. Paul’s there were end pieces on each pew, Msgr. Johnson said. Those will be replicated, with one change. The original end pieces were 40 inches high. The new one will be much lower so they will not interfere with sight lines.
The kneelers also will be replaced, he said. The padding has been worn down, in some cases to bare wood. Flooring under the pews and kneelers will be repaired and refinished. All that work will cost about $250,000, he said.
He said the cathedral cannot be closed, so the pews will be removed in small sections to be worked on. Chairs will fill the space until the pews are finished.
“I want them to be comfortable,” Msgr. Johnson said of the parishioners and visitors to the cathedral. “It is the mother church, the bishop’s church, a place of welcome to everybody.”
He said the refurbishing job is too big for the parish alone to handle the cost. So he is asking the people of the diocese to help. According to figures published in a brochure about the capital campaign, donors can sponsor and memorialize a pew. If they donate $5,000, for example, $138 a month over three years, they can have a plaque with up to three names on it placed in the pew.
People also can pledge any amount that fits their budget. The brochure lists $50 a month over 36 months, which equals $1,800 as an example. Also, a one-time gift or a gift of stock are suggested.
Those who want more information may visit the Cathedralofsaintpaul.com website.