PHOENIX — She has hosted living saints, embraced the faithful as they said goodbye to dear Church leaders, listened reverently to the bishop’s sermons, witnessed couples wed, and families bury loved ones.
But six months ago, after years of serving the Diocese of Phoenix’s faithful, it was time for her to be served — brightened, beautified and improved. While she has had lots of attention from dozens of workers, all busily laboring over the improvements, the one group of guests that she knows best have had to remain away.
This weekend, they will finally come home.
Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral, the mother church of the Diocese of Phoenix, the worship centerpiece for the 1.1 million diocesan Catholics, reopens her doors to the faithful Sunday, Oct. 24 following a major renovation that addressed several of the grand structure’s key needs.
“This is the first time the cathedral has been closed for major renovations. This is a big deal,” the Very Rev. Fernando Camou said. “I’m very excited.”
The grand reopening Mass is at 9 a.m. that day and is followed by the cathedral parish’s fall festival. For those unable to attend, the Mass will be televised live on AZTV-7 and on the Diocese of Phoenix’s YouTube channel.
Sunday also is the Solemnity of Ss. Simon and Jude.
Adoration will also resume that day. The schedule will be from 6 a.m.-10 p.m. daily. No decision has been announced on when 24-hour adoration will resume.
While parishioners are no doubt anticipating the event, Fr. Camou is extending the invitation well beyond the boundaries of Ss. Simon and Jude to everyone.
“This may not be your parish, but it’s your cathedral,” the cathedral rector said.
The word cathedral derives from the Greek word kathedra, meaning “chair.” Inside that church is the chair of the bishop. The seat from which the bishop guides the life of the Church throughout the diocese, the chair is the symbol of the bishop’s authority to teach, sanctify and govern the people of Christ.
Renovations not only noticeably altered the cathedral’s interior look and feel, they reflect the holiness due a building of this significance.
Visitors will notice several updates, both in function and appearance, including new pews with a dark wood finish, and new floors.
“Where a dark colored carpet had surrounded the altar — the focal point and heart of the sacred liturgy — there is now brilliant floor of white and golden natural stone,” Fr. Camou stated in an email.
“The center aisle leading to the altar is now about two feet wider and shines brilliantly with a herringbone pattern of white and honey gold that reflects the sanctuary. Light grey tiles have replaced dark green and black ones on the walkways as well as the orange concrete flooring beneath the pews,” he added.
The diocese also has installed a hydraulic system for the kneelers that prevents the loud banging noise when the kneelers are raised or dropped, he noted.
Other changes include a repainted interior, upgrades to the confessionals and new shrines.
The renovations are being funded in part through the “Together Let Us Go Forth ~ Juntos Sigamos Adelante” campaign for discipleship and evangelization.
“We have also had numerous donors step up, from small to major donations,” Fr. Camou stated.
“Thank you to all who contributed, We’re deeply grateful.”
Built in 1965 as the church for what was then Ss. Simon and Jude Parish in the Diocese of Tucson, the 1,200-seat structure’s status was raised in 1969 by Pope Paul VI after the Diocese of Phoenix was established and its first bishop, Edward A. McCarthy, named Ss. Simon and Jude Parish the cathedral.
The cathedral is named for two of Jesus’ 12 Apostles, Simon, often referred to as Simon the Zealot, and Jude, also known as Thaddeus. He was the Apostle who asked the Lord at the Passover Supper the night before His death why He had manifested Himself only to His disciples and not to the whole world (John 14:22).
Ss. Simon and Jude has welcomed visiting dignitaries, including governors of Arizona, celebrated solemn funerals, among them Bishop James S. Rausch, and has been graced by Pope John Paul II on Sept. 14, 1987, and Mother Teresa, who visited in May 1989, as her community of sisters began their service to the poor and homeless in Phoenix’s inner city.
Since the cathedral was closed April 25, Masses have been celebrated in the nearby parish hall, which seats 250 – approximately 1,000 less than the cathedral. Though intimate, the hall is jammed as worshippers have returned with cooling of temperatures since mid-September.
Dcn. Tony Smith, director of liturgical apostolates for the cathedral, said the entire community of worshippers, especially those in the deep-rooted Ss. Simon and Jude community that includes a growing number of Latinos, are eager for Sunday.
“I think people are looking to get back here. A lot of our parishioners are going to other parishes because they don’t feel comfortable in the hall.”
“I cannot wait,” Dcn. Smith continued. “It will be so glorious to look out at a full church and see brothers and sisters in Christ, worshipping in a space that is honoring to our Lord.”