Sunday, February 10, 2008

Please Stop Before Wrecking the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

Jospeh McCarthy was renowned for his American Style Catholic buildings very favored by Cardinal Mundelein such as at Mundelein Seminary. However, he did step into the derivative European Sytle in Springfield Illinois at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, and he stepped decisively. This is his greatest work, in my opinion (to be copied by the The Lincoln Library by the way 70 years later).

I get asked all the time "how can we rennovate our Church". In most cases (Post WW2) , the whole thing needs torn down and rebuilt. In this Cathedral, the answer is "with a vacuum cleaner". This is as near perfect as an Illinois Cathedral gets. Vacuum, dust, sweep, but do not make any changes to the masterpiece as McCarthy designed.

So when I get one of those anonymous emails telling me

"They want to remove the old high altar entirely as well as the communion rails and add some sort of semi-circular steps to the sanctuary"

I think it is time to do one of two things.

1) Shout "STOP" at the top of the Capital Building before this interior is ruined (Seriously call Bishop Lucas and politely suggest he consider the Liturgical Intent of the original architect)

2) Start raising funds now so that 20 years from today we can put this Church back into order after it is wrecked.

It may be just the case that the Diocese of Springfield has too much money searching for a home right now. In which case, I can list 10 structurally damaged Churches in dire need of foundation work where the Springfield Diocese can park their money.

Bishop Lucas, please keep this Cathedral in tact. It is a beautiful, liturgically significant structure, sacred to Central Illinois and the Catholic Church. Please let it remain this way.

Photo Courtesy Mark Scott Alben, Rome of the West


Anonymous said...

I always loved going to Mass at the Cathedral in Springfield. Why in the world would they want to change it?

A. Friend said...

You pretty much nailed it. From an article in yesterday's Springfield SJ-R:

"The second factor in the fiscal 2007 increase was a sale of property at Iles Avenue and Koke Mill Road. The site was sold for development of a Walgreens store at a gain of $2 million. That money has been set aside by the Diocesan Finance Council for future renovation of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception complex at Sixth Street and Lawrence Avenue."

The entire article can be found at:

Jeffrey Smith said...

You may want to find out EXACTLY what the plans are before calling for people to make fools of themselves. In case you haven't noticed, Vosko is yesterday's news, and most of the recent renovations have been sensitive. Scaremongering, without evidence, is always a bad move.

JB Powers said...

Hi Jeffrey,

I am not quite sure how one could find out EXACTLY what the plans are until the are already completed. It is not like the wreckers put out flags claiming they are going to ruin a church when soliciting donations.

I have yet to see a high altar or communion rail removed in a "sensitive" manner. The removal always degrades the Liturgy, rather than improving it..(OK the Communion rail removal at Visitation in Garfield Park was done nicely, forming a new baptismal font, but was still a slight degradation of the previous formation).

If you have more details on the planned changes, I will be glad to publish them. Until that time, I'll stick to my suggestion of only using a vacuum to renovate this Church, rather than a jackhammer, and am glad to mention this to Bishop Lucas.


Robert Kumpel said...

Could this be the bishop taking advantage of Stephen Brady's convalescence?

Elaine said...

I actually belong to this parish and was at Mass the day the Bishop explained what was going to be done.
Unless I'm missing something or have gone deaf, I neither saw nor heard any indication that the interior was going to be "wreck-ovated" in any fad, fashion or form. In fact the Bishop went out of his way to state that the Cathedral was in very good shape for a building its age.
The only change to be made in the sanctuary (that he mentioned) was the removal of the "temporary" altar, which I presume was added after Vatican II, to be replaced with something much more dignified and suitable to the interior.
As for handicapped accessibility and mainstreaming being some kind of liberal plot...(this was brought up on another blog) well, all I can say is this: I have a 12-year-old daughter with autism and until I came to Cathedral I had always been told Catholic schooling was out of the question for her. I was very surprised to discover that there are TWO Catholic schools in Springfield (Cathedral and Little Flower) that take special ed students! My husband and I have made no firm decisions yet, but we're glad to know this is an option.
By the way, I consider myself a very orthodox Catholic and understand completely your desire to preserve this wonderful landmark. I just don't see any indication that the Cathedral is going to be in any way "ruined" by this project.

Jeffrey Smith said...

I had no inside information, but neither do you. You just assume that a renovation will be something you don't like. Grow up and realize you need to have valid information, not just rumors and assumptions, before calling for a fuss and fluster.

Anonymous said...

Any further word on this renovation project? And with all due respect, Mr. Smith, using phrases like "grow up" only suggest that the writer needs to heed them more than the one to whom they are addressed. The notion of the removal of the high altar and the communion rail was made because the diocese released plans showing their removal. I suspect that one not need information more valid than that.

Anonymous said...

Please see "Springfield Cathedral Restoration Update" (November 2009) for the final results of this project... IMHO this was not a "wreckovation" in any sense of the word, it was BEAUTIFULLY done, and preserved all the most important aspects of this magnificent church.