As a child, I grew up in a parish with a lot of Irish Americans, with a pastor whose folks came from Co. Tipperary, and wonderful Sisters of Mercy from Drogheda, Co. Louth, who taught us.
March 17 was a grand day, a holiday, with a “Corned Beef and Cabbage Dinner” the Sunday before, the grade school girls trained by the sisters to dance the reels and sing the lyrics from Ireland.
But I noticed that the only ones actually from Ireland, the nuns, approached St. Patrick’s Day in a more reflective, somber, spiritual way. It was clear to me that they looked at the feast as a holy day.
And, indeed, so should we! For us in the Archdiocese of New York, St. Patrick’s Day is not just about beer, music, and marching in parades, but about celebrating the feast of a saint who is particularly close to us as patron of our diocese and cathedral.
For me, the heart of the day is our 8:30am Mass in the cathedral. I have no say over the parade that follows, nor do I expect one. (From the press, you’d think I was running it. I don’t.) But, I have a lot to say about the Mass. It’s SRO, spirited, reverent, prayerful. It’s what March 17 is really all about.
That it takes place in the Cathedral that bears his name, built with the pennies of immigrants who survived with nothing but their religion, the genius of an archbishop from Co. Tyrone who wanted a “cathedral of suitable magnificence” as an icon thanking God for faith and freedom, and proclaiming to the city and the world that the Catholic Church was at home in America and here to stay in the nation’s major metropolis, makes this Mass all the more moving.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral belongs to us all – – Catholic or not, Irish or not – – and has been since 1878 the real “soul of the city.”
But, she now needs our help. Her bricks are crumbling and falling; her roof is leaking; her stained-glass windows shaky; her walls tarnished with soot; her pews splintered; her heat and air no longer reliable; her organ cranky; her wiring frayed. Get the picture? We’re not talking luxury here, folks…we’re talking basic, raw repair. Simply put, we have no choice: if we don’t do the repair, we’ll have to shut down, and it’s all costing us $180 million!
It’s costing me sleepless nights as I worry about raising money. However, a lot of generous people, some of them not Catholics, have come forward, and we’re at about $65 million from philanthropic donations, not including what we have invested.
So, St. Patrick’s needs your help, and his feast day is a good time to ask.
We’re still consulting about the best way to approach our people for help. As I’ve mentioned, our advance gifts are already close to$65 million, and the archdiocese itself has invested some of its funds in the project. However, we do envision an eventual archdiocesan capital campaign to raise funds for our parishes, pastoral initiatives, and our beloved St. Patrick’s.
You’ve seen her: the Cathedral is under dramatic repair and renewal. Then again, so are each of us; so is The Church!
Jesus spoke to St. Francis from the cross, “Rebuild my Church.” Pope Francis is doing that, isn’t he? Here in the archdiocese, we want to rebuild our church, (St. Patrick’s Cathedral), so we can rebuild The Church!
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!