The photo slideshow above captures the events of Dedication Week, the highlight of which was the dedication of Christ Cathedral on Wednesday, July 17, 2019. Beginning with the Dedication Celebration event, during which many donors and volunteers were honored for their commitment and service to the diocese, to the veneration of the relics, which were interred in the altar in Christ Cathedral, to the four-hour Dedication Mass, it was an important week in the history of Christ Cathedral and the Diocese of Orange.
Some 800 diocesan leaders and donors gathered to celebrate the results of years of planning, generous philanthropy and hard work as the transformation of Christ Cathedral unfolded. The celebration took place four days before Christ Cathedral’s July 17 dedication. The event raised $1,748,500 to help support campus operations and its numerous programs, outreach and ministries. And it served to reaffirm the generosity that helps keep the diocese one of the most vibrant in the country.
“I believe this will become the most important Catholic cathedral in the United States, other than St. Patrick’s,” said Tim Strader, who, with his wife, Susan, led the fundraising campaign to finance the sanctuary. “We have thirty-five acres, and we have the notoriety from the [Dr. Robert] Schuller years – he had an international following – and we have so many people who come here now.” Christ Cathedral currently serves more than 11,000 Mass attendees every weekend.
“And we’re ecumenical,” Strader continued. “We welcome all faiths. So tonight we can finally see that our new cathedral has become a reality.”
Following a reception on the campus’ South Plaza, attendees filed into the cathedral where many got a first look at the completely renovated cathedral.
Following opening remarks by The Very Rev. Christopher Smith, Christ Cathedral’s rector and episcopal vicar, a 15-minute video, displayed on three huge high-definition screens, featured heartfelt thoughts from, among others, Mr. Strader and Fr. Chris; Dr. John Romeri, director of Music Ministries; Sr. Kit Gray, director of Mission Integration and Ongoing Formation; and Tony Jennison, the Orange Catholic Foundation’s vice president of Philanthropy. Stunning images of the cathedral and campus were showcased throughout.
No less stunning were the performances by world-renowned singers Jackie Evancho and Chris Mann, both backed by the Pacific Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Albert-George Schram. Evancho opened with “Some Enchanted Evening,” followed by “Think of Me.” She later performed “How Great Thou Art,” and “Ave Maria,” among other songs. Mann’s selections included “You Raise Me Up” and “Music of the Night,” which he performed during “The Phantom of the Opera’s 25th Anniversary Tour.” Evancho’s and Mann’s spectacular voices combined in several duets, including “The Prayer.” The audience gave the performers a prolonged – and well-deserved – standing ovation, before the singers and orchestra left the stage.
During his closing remarks, Bishop Kevin Vann thanked the work of his predecessor, Bishop Tod Brown, who was in attendance. And he honored Susan and Tim Strader, recognized by Pope Francis for all they’ve done for the diocese; Gabriel Ferrucci, a lifelong church donor who earned the highest honor a layperson can receive from the Pope; and Richard Heim, who oversaw Christ Cathedral’s planning and reconstruction, on a volunteer basis.
The Straders, Jacque DuPont and Marc Carlson were also recognized for co-chairing the Dedication Celebration evening.
Following the concert and program, a grand reception took place in the North Plaza.
While the event honored the new Christ Cathedral and all those who were behind the huge project, Fr. Al Baca, director of the diocese’s Office for Evangelization and Faith Formation, reflected on a conversation he’d had in the ’90s. “I knew Dr. Schuller,” he said. “One day, while I walked him out as he was leaving an event at Holy Family Cathedral, he told me, ‘You know, I can foresee my cathedral becoming a Catholic cathedral some day.’”
The Diocese of Orange took Dr. Schuller’s vision and made it shine on this wonderful evening … a vision that will last long into the future.
Solemn Evening of Prayer and Vigil with the Relics
On Tuesday evening, July 16, ten relics of saints and martyrs were venerated at the Solemn Evening of Prayer and Vigil with the Relics.
According to Lesa Truxaw, director of the Office for Worship at the Diocese of Orange, it was the last time for people to have veneration time with the relics – up close and personal.
The service was celebrated in the context of evening prayer. Bishop Timothy Freyer delivered the homily and spoke of Dr. Schuller’s commitment to building a “Place for Christ forever.” Bishop Freyer recounted the acquisition of the cathedral campus and how Dr. Schuller urged the bankruptcy judge to allow the Diocese of Orange, who was not the highest bidder, to acquire the property.
Many different clergy attended including Cardinal William Levada and Cardinal Roger Mahony, as well as about 44 bishops from all over the country and world, including Archbishop Jose Gomez of the ArchDiocese of L.A.
After the prayer service, four different cultural groups led attendees in prayer in their native language. They started with a song and then sang the Litany of Saints. During this time the relics were brought in procession by the various cultural communities.
Solemn Mass of Dedication of Christ Cathedral
Christ Cathedral became the new seat of the Bishop of the Diocese of Orange at the Solemn Mass of Dedication July 17, attended by 2,100 including cardinals, bishops, deacons and priests from all over the world.
The four-hour Mass included the sprinkling of the cathedral with holy water, the anointing of the altar and church walls with holy oil, the interring of the 10 holy relics in the reliquary beneath the altar, a first-ever joint homily delivered by Bishop Vann and Father Christopher Smith, and finally the first celebration of the first Eucharist in the cathedral.
Solemn Mass of Thanksgiving
On Thursday, July 18, at 7 p.m., a Mass of Thanksgiving was celebrated in Christ Cathedral, again attended by more than 2,000. The Mass featured a homily by Bishop Thanh Thai Nguyen and the Diocesan Choir.