STEUBENVILLE - Bishop Jeffrey M. Monforton officially declared Holy Name Church closed for between 18-24 months Monday as the Catholic Diocese of Steubenville prepares to "renovate, restore and renew" its cathedral that dates back to 1890.
"Our first step will be to inventory everything in the cathedral. My hope is to recycle and reuse much of what is in the cathedral. There are several high-quality pieces of art that we can use and the pews just need to be refinished," Monforton announced during a Monday morning press conference at the diocesan chancery offices.
"We are still preparing a plan to submit to the city. We have had preliminary discussions with city officials regarding our plans for the church, and the city administration has been very helpful. I am very grateful to the administration and the city staff for their suggestions. We still have a number of steps to take to prepare our final plans to give to the city. But the collaboration with the city has been perfect. I want to make sure everything remains transparent. And we will respect the city's zoning rules," Monforton said.
The bishop said,"four churches will remain in Steubenville, including Holy Name Church, St. Peter Church, Holy Rosary Church and Holy Family Church. We can sustain those churches in the city."
"But, right now, my focus is on the South End and the cathedral. We have been blessed with a number of significant financial gifts for the restoration of Holy Name. And we have received a seven-figure gift for this campaign. We also have the approximately $1.5 million from the campaign to build a new church near Catholic Central High School that will be used for this project, estimated to cost approximately $5 million," Monforton continued.
An architectural drawing of what the cathedral will look like in two years shows a larger church building that includes more windows, a gathering space where the front steps now exist and a bell tower with real bells and an electronic system to play music.
"The enthusiasm I have experienced when I am shopping at the grocery store or hardware store has been remarkable. People have told me how excited they are by the renovations at the cathedral because they may have attended Mass at the cathedral or attended Holy Name School," remarked Monforton.
"This church is the seat of the diocese. It is the flagship of the diocese. So now I have asked myself how we can better prepare and improve our cathedral. The initial work will take place inside the church. The exterior work will include a pitched roof that will replace the flat roof and the construction of a bell tower and extending the front of the church closer to Fifth Street," explained Monforton.
"The renovation project is happening. When I arrived as bishop of the diocese there was a suspended plan for a new cathedral. We faced the decision of renovation or take the church down. But as I talked to my brother priests and the people in the parishes, I found an overwhelming response from the people who supported renovating the cathedral. The property near Catholic Central High School that was the proposed site for a new church is still in the possession of the diocese. Who knows what that property will be used for," said Monforton.
Monforton also said parishioners may see modifications along the way.
"Our original plans called for two bell towers. But that wasn't viable. We hope to beautify the area and expand our parking area. And we hope to work in conjunction with the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County and the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church to beautify the city's South End," noted Monforton.
The bishop also has plans to "consolidate our diocese through the use of Internet media. We want to live stream the rededication of our cathedral and offer Mass for shut-ins. We have six more years before we celebrate our 75th anniversary as a diocese. And we will be ready for that anniversary with a restored, renovated and renewed cathedral.
"We also want to increase our human and electronic surveillance and make the South End a safer neighborhood. How can we cooperate with the city and how do we respect the traffic infrastructure in the South End? And how can we respect the people who live in the South End? All options are on the table. We also want to talk to local law enforcement to get their input on security for the neighborhood. And, we definitely want to partner with the city. We are a team player with the city on this project," stated Monforton.
"Every church and parish is my home. My first year here I visited all 58 parishes in the diocese. This will provide me an opportunity to visit with the parishes again," said Monforton.
Holy Name Catholic Church was built in 1890 and was designated the diocesan cathedral in 1945 after the Eastern Ohio diocese was created.
According to Diocesan Spokesperson Pat DeFrancis, the cathedral was rebuilt in 1957 when structural issues were found.