The Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge announced Wednesday, September 7, 2011, the planned construction of a new Cathedral Campus for the Diocese of Raleigh. In making the official announcement, Bishop Burbidge said the proposed 2,000-seat Cathedral will be dedicated under the title, Holy Name of Jesus. The theme of the capital campaign is “Our Cathedral: One Faith, One People." The estimated cost of the proposed Cathedral Campus is $75 to $90 million.
Calling it a “monumental and historic moment in the life of the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh and the state of North Carolina,” Bishop Burbidge noted that the conceptual design includes the Cathedral, a two-story Gathering Hall and a three-story ground level and below-ground parking facility. To date, the planned project has received $10 million in pledges from a small group of donors in a short period of time.
The proposed Cathedral Campus will be located on a 39-acre tract of land adjacent to Western Boulevard and Centennial Parkway that has historical significance for the Catholic Church in North Carolina. The property is what remains of 400 acres purchased in 1897 by Father Thomas F. Price, the “Tar Heel Apostle” and first native North Carolinian to be ordained a Catholic priest. In 1899, Father Price established an orphanage on the site known as the “Nazareth Community.” The site currently houses the Catholic Center administration building and a smaller office building.
In his announcement, Bishop Burbidge explained that the name of the new Cathedral also has historical roots for the property. “It commemorates the name of the chapel established by Father Price at Nazareth and which was known under this same dedication to the holy name of Our Lord.” Bishop Burbidge said. “It is fitting that the name of our new Cathedral is the Holy Name of Jesus.”
For Roman Catholics, the Cathedral stands as the visible unifying presence of the Church. It is the sign of the mission of Christ to be exercised there among the people. All parishes in the Diocese are extensions of the Cathedral, as it holds the chair, the cathedra, of the Diocesan Bishop, from which he gathers the faithful to guide and lead them, as teacher and shepherd.
The need for a new Cathedral is prompted, in large part, by the continuing vibrant growth of the Catholic population throughout the Diocese, which covers the 54 eastern counties of the state. In the 10-year period between 2000 and 2010, the Catholic population in the 54-county Diocese has increased approximately 42 percent from 152,493 to 217,125 registered Catholics, with an estimated 200,000 plus unregistered Catholics, mostly of Hispanic origin. With a seating capacity of 320, Sacred Heart Cathedral, as the “Mother Church” of the Diocese, is unable to accommodate most of the Diocesan liturgical celebrations.
When the current Cathedral, Sacred Heart, was constructed in the early 1920’s, it was built as a parish church to serve the small number of Catholics residing in the capital city. In 1924, when the Vatican established the Diocese of Raleigh, the Holy See designated the small church on Hillsborough Street, two blocks from the State Capitol, as the Cathedral.
The concept of building a new Cathedral to address the growing needs of the Diocese began in late 2009. Following consultation with the major Diocesan collegial bodies, composed of the clergy, Consecrated Religious and laity, Bishop Burbidge accepted their recommendation to commission a feasibility study to explore interest and support for the proposed project. The study, conducted by a professional consulting firm, was undertaken in early 2010.
In July 2010, results of the feasibility study indicated a high level of support for the project from clergy, religious and laity. After reviewing results of the study, the Diocesan collegial bodies, in separate votes, recommended to Bishop Burbidge that the Diocese proceed to the next step of the project. Bishop Burbidge accepted the recommendations of these bodies and established a Cathedral Campus Steering Committee.
In July 2011, after careful review of the work of the Steering Committee and following consultation with local civic and business leaders about possible sites in downtown Raleigh where the proposed Cathedral Campus could be located, Bishop Burbidge accepted the recommendation of the Steering Committee to proceed with the planned construction on the Nazareth site, already owned by the Diocese of Raleigh. The Diocese has contracted with Washington, D.C., architect Mr. James McCrery to develop the Cathedral design and to propose the most effective utilization of the land for the Gathering Hall, parking facilities and possible additional development of the site. Groundbreaking for the new Cathedral Campus is anticipated to take place in mid-2013.
Upon dedication of the new Cathedral, Sacred Heart Church will be retained and honored as the first church designated to be the Cathedral for the Diocese of Raleigh. Sacred Heart will continue to serve as a vibrant part of the sacramental life of the Diocese, with a regular Mass schedule, small weddings, funerals, and other liturgical and private prayer.
Initial renderings of the Cathedral Campus can be viewed on a website now under development for the project: www.holynamecathedralnc.org.
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Above: Bishop Michael F. Burbidge announcing plans for new Cathedral Campus at news conference September 7.