Holy Name Cathedral Closed Until At Least August

Parishioners at Holy Name Cathedral got more bad news over the weekend.  Their beloved church will be closed, “until August at the earliest” according to pastor Dan Mayall.

The archdiocese’s flagship place of worship was damaged by fire in February, almost exactly a year after it was closed for months when a chunk of woodwork fell from the ceiling.

In the weekend bulletin, Mayall explains that it has not yet been determined if insurance will cover this year’s fire damage.  He explains that the parish is already struggling to come up with $4 to $8 million to pay for the 2008 roof repairs.  An exact total is still being determined as the repairs were ongoing at the time of the 2009 fire.

The incidents at Holy Name give outsiders an interesting glimpse into some of the inner workings of a Catholic parish.  Many cynics assume that a church like Holy Name merely has to ask the Vatican to write a check to fix up the building.  But those involved in parish communities know the truth is far different.

In the case of Holy Name, the parish had to take out a loan from the Archdiocese to pay for the pre-fire roof repairs.  Holy Name pays more than $20,000 a month in interest alone to the Archdiocese.  This is a huge burden for a church that only brings in about $120,000 a month from the collection plate (based on $30,000 brought in last week multiplied by four weeks in a month).  Imagine paying almost 20% of your income in credit card interest.

The church is holding a series of fundraisers under the wordy banner “All Join Hands to Raise the Roof.”  One will happen at the Palmer House Hilton on March 30th.  The Palmer House is picking up the tab for the event so that all of the money raised will go to Holy Name, not just an after-expenses portion.  Also, Devon Grill is donating 10% of the money it brings in on Easter Sunday to the cathedral.

Other groups are also chipping in.  A few churches around the archdiocese have forwarded money donated by their members to the cathedral.  And even the Cathedral of Saint Paul in Minnesota took up a collection for Holy Name.  If you’ve never been to the cathedral in Saint Paul, it’s worth going.  It’s an architecturally magnificent structure inside and out and recently underwent its own lengthy and costly renovation.  The University of Saint Mary of the Lake and a couple of private individuals are lending Holy Name small organs for use in the makeshift sanctuaries.

Our take: Holy Name parish and its cathedral have been the victims of some unfortunate luck.  Through no fault of its own the church has been hit repeatedly by very costly repair bills while continuing to meet its laundry list of charitable works in the community.  The Vatican has repeatedly pressured Western governments, including the United States, into a series of debt forgiveness packages for impoverished nations.  Holy Name should also get a forgiveness package from the archdiocese.  To be fair to the archdiocese, which is having its own financial problems, it doesn’t have to forgive Holy Name’s debt; merely drop the interest charges.  It’s a small measure that would likely be an immense relief to the parish and the people who wonder if Holy Name will remain standing for another generation.

Editor

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at chicagoarchitectureinfo@gmail.com.

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