An official statement released today by the Diocese of Raleigh announced that a feasibility study commissioned by the Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge, Bishop of Raleigh, is underway to aid in identifying and planning for current and future needs in the Diocese, including the possibility of building a new Cathedral:
The Catholic Diocese of Raleigh is conducting a feasibility study to explore the possibility of building a new Cathedral for the Diocese. The study was approved by the Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge, following consultation with the Diocesan collegial bodies, including the Priests Council, the Finance Council, the Council for Religious, and Diocesan Administrative staff. The decision to conduct a study at this time is prompted by the increase in Catholic population that has been taking place in the Diocese over the last twenty years, most significantly since 1999.
In the ten-year period between 1999 and 2009, the Catholic population in the 54-county diocese increased approximately 42 percent, from 152,493 to 217,125 registered Catholics. That is in addition to an estimated 200,000-plus unregistered Catholics, which includes an ever-increasing Hispanic population. Diocesan census information indicates that approximately half of the registered Catholics in the Diocese live in a five-county area surrounding Raleigh: Wake, Durham, Orange, Johnston and Franklin.
Parishes throughout the Diocese are reporting sizable increases in the number of parishioners, with Sacred Heart Cathedral Parish experiencing one of the largest, an 86 percent increase in the last ten years. In 1999, the Cathedral had 3,149 registered parishioners. In 2009, the number increased to 5,871,which is placing a tremendous strain on a church structure that seats only 320 people, has no bathroom facilities in the building, very limited parking and very limited handicap access. Because of its historic location and limited surrounding space, adding on to the current structure would be prohibitive.
Sacred Heart Church was constructed prior to the Diocese of Raleigh being established in 1924. It was built to serve the needs of the small Catholic community residing in the state capital at the time. It was never intended or designed to serve as a Cathedral, which should be the center of Diocesan activity and the location for major Diocesan liturgies and celebrations. Because of the possible impact upon Sacred Heart Cathedral parish, the staff, pastoral council, and finance council of the parish have been advised about the study.
The feasibility study is being conducted by Graham-Pelton Consulting. The study will include personal interviews with over 200 people, including priests, deacons, religious, and laity; as well a mail survey to thousands of parishioners throughout the eight Deaneries of the Diocese.
At this point, no specific decisions or plans have been made regarding a potential new Cathedral. The feasibility study is scheduled to be completed by June. Results will be reviewed by the Priests Council and the Diocesan Finance Council, which will make a recommendation to Bishop Burbidge, based on the findings of the study. If these recommendations and the results of the feasibility study support continuing this process, consultation and collaboration throughout the Diocese will be extensive.