"The diocesan cathedral will remain Holy Name Cathedral in the City of Steubenville. We will renew and restore our cathedral."
With those words spoken at a Mass on July 21, Bishop Jeffrey Monforton of the Catholic Diocese of Steubenville reaffirmed the connection of the diocesan see to the city that has been its home since the founding of the diocese in 1944.
In an interview after the Mass, Monforton called to mind the beloved first bishop of the diocese, John King Mussio, who led the building of many community institutions for the Catholic church. Monforton affirmed the special connection of the Holy Name Cathedral, at the corner of South and Fifth streets, to the downtown, with St. Peter Church in the North End as the other remaining downtown anchor for the Catholic Church.
He put the official end to a drive begun by former Bishop R. Daniel Conlon, who had hoped to raise enough money to build a new cathedral near Catholic Central High School.
The $2 million that was raised as part of that effort will go toward what Monforton hopes will be a complete and dramatic change to Holy Name, including, ultimately, the construction of new spires that recall the ones that had been removed in 1957 because of structural issues. Catholics of a certain age often speak of the elegance and reverence the church commanded when those spires towered over its front.
Monforton also sees moving Holy Name, which was built in 1890, from the 19th to the 21st century by asking for the redesign to include technology that will allow broadcasting on TV or via Internet streams to keep people in touch with Masses and celebrations from the 6,000 square-mile diocese's central church building.
Monforton will be asking those who donated for specific projects in the now-abandoned new cathedral project if they would like to continue with providing for similar kinds of projects in the renovation of Holy Name.
In addition, $3 million more will be needed to complete all that Monforton hopes to see area Catholics achieve in the church building.
He plans to see all churches that were closed in the diocese's history, including those closed as part of the project that would have seen a new structure built in Steubenville, be honored in the renovated Holy Name. Also, Monforton said an increased physical security presence and electronic monitoring should help contribute to an improvement of the neighborhood around the building.
He also plans to see all contractors for the project be from within the diocese unless a specialized service is not available in the diocese.
He noted that modest efforts will be taken at first.
We know there are still hard feelings over the closure of parishes as part of the now abandoned project, but to move forward will require a new attitude. Monforton has taken months since his installation, much study, input and prayer before making the decision that he said seemed to have Bishop Mussio whispering in his ear.
We hope the announcement and the possibility of restoring Holy Name to its prior architectural grandeur will help jump-start the fundraising campaign anew.