Visit restored St. Mary’s Cathedral during Founder’s Weekend celebrations Aug. 24-28

One section of the newly designed ceiling of the restored St. Mary's Cathedral, Peoria. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

St. Mary’s Cathedral has been the mother church of the Diocese of Peoria for more than 125 years, and yet extensive restoration inside and out has made it new again. People throughout central Illinois are invited to come and “Rediscover St. Mary’s” at a series of liturgical celebrations planned for Founder’s Weekend, Aug. 24-28.

“I wonder how it’s going to be to pray in it. It is such a new church. It’s a new space. It feels different,” said Msgr. Stanley Deptula, cathedral rector and director of the diocesan Office of Divine Worship. “It’s going to be amazing when our liturgical celebration returns to its full vigor.”

Bishop John Lancaster Spalding, the founding Bishop of Peoria, guided the newly established diocese from 1877 to 1908. He died on Aug. 25, 1916, at the age of 76.

Bishop John Lancaster Spalding, the founding Bishop of Peoria, guided the newly established diocese from 1877 to 1908. He died on Aug. 25, 1916, at the age of 76.

The priests and lay faithful will get to experience that for the first time on Wednesday, Aug. 24, during a Requiem Mass to mark the death of Bishop John Lancaster Spalding, the first bishop of Peoria who served from 1877 to 1908. Father Alex Millar, parochial vicar for the Heart of Peoria parishes, will preside and Msgr. Paul Showalter, vicar general, will be the homilist for 7:15 p.m. liturgy.

Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, will attend “in choro.”

“The Requiem Mass will not be an historical re-enactment, but a taste of being in the cathedral 100 years ago on the day that our first bishop died,” Msgr. Deptula told The Catholic Post.

“So the Mass will be said in that style, using antique vestments, and all the traditional chants of the Requiem Mass,” he explained. “It will be very similar to what would have been sung and prayed at Bishop Spalding’s funeral.”

The Mass will be celebrated in the extraordinary form, which is often called the traditional Latin Mass. Others use the term “Tridentine Mass.”

A Gregorian chant schola from Champaign-Urbana will provide the music.

“Special booklets will be available,” Msgr. Deptula said. “It may feel very different to people who aren’t used to it, but everyone is invited.”

He added that it is important to Bishop Jenky that people gather to pray for Bishop Spalding — in thanksgiving for his life, as well as the repose of his soul.

St. Mary’s Cathedral will be open for quiet prayer from 4 to 7 p.m. that day.

TIME TO CELEBRATE

If Wednesday will have the feel of a funeral or memorial, Thursday, Aug. 25, is about celebration, according to Msgr. Deptula.

The cathedral will be open from 9 a.m. to noon so people can take self-guided tours of the worship space. Not only have important repairs been made to the plaster, the floors and the stained glass windows, but several new religious features have been added to enhance prayer.

Among the many many new religious features added to enhance prayer at St. Mary's Cathedral is this mural of the death of St. Joseph. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

Among the many new religious features added to enhance prayer at St. Mary’s Cathedral is this mural of the death of St. Joseph. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

These include murals of the death of St. Joseph (look for the silver tearing running down Jesus’ cheek) and St. Juan Diego presenting the tilma that bears the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe to the bishop of Mexico. The angels in the sanctuary are depicted bringing forth everything necessary for a pontifical Mass at the cathedral, including Bishop Jenky’s golden chasuble and pectoral cross.

Bishop Jenky will travel to the Spalding Memorial Chapel at St. Mary’s Cemetery in West Peoria, where a rosary will be prayed by the pontifical deacons at 11 a.m.

A solemn Mass of Thanksgiving to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the death of Bishop Spalding and to celebrate the restoration of St. Mary’s Cathedral will take place at 1 p.m. Bishop Jenky will preside and Canon J.J. Flattery, a senior priest from Danville, will be the homilist.

While there is a new feel to the cathedral, it will not need to be consecrated again because the altar of sacrifice, which is the heart of the church, has not changed, Msgr. Deptula said. Nevertheless, certain elements found in the Mass for the Consecration of a Church will be used.

Among them is an extended sprinkling rite to bless the people and the walls and doors of the cathedral, Msgr. Deptula said. In addition, a Festival Choir of singers from around the diocese has been formed to provide the music.

Because this is the first time the new tabernacle will be used, there will be a short eucharistic procession through the cathedral before the Blessed Sacrament is reposed for the first time. The new sanctuary lamp will be lit and raised at that time.

St. Mary's Cathedral in Peoria will be open for quiet prayer and touring during Founder's Weekend.

St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria will be open for quiet prayer and touring during Founder’s Weekend.

St. Mary’s Cathedral will be open for quiet prayer from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 26, and from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Aug. 27. Weekend Masses will take place as usual, but offer an opportunity for cathedral parishioners to celebrate, Msgr. Deptula said.

“To be returned to the full use of the cathedral will be a great relief and something we have been looking forward to,” said Phil Lee, assistant director of the Office of Divine Worship. “It will be wonderful to get our church back, our cathedral back.”

MORE THAN PAINT

Daprato Rigali Studios, with John Rigali as director, was given the commission to restore the cathedral. Leo Goana was the project manager on site.

The lead architect was Jim Thiese of Daprato Rigali.

Msgr. Deptula said the work done at St. Mary’s Cathedral went beyond the cosmetic — a new coat of paint.

Repairs to the building’s roof, gutters and exterior stone were made before anything could be addressed inside. All of it was part of a “master plan” for the cathedral campus that was developed after extensive study, he said.

Msgr. Deptula added that the whole project was done through “careful and prudent” budgeting, so there would be no need for loans or a capital campaign.

“The nuts and bolts of this restoration have been a long time in coming and will last a long time from now,” he told The Post. “This restoration is for the ages.”

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