Renovations at Fargo’s Cathedral of St. Mary are giving more prominence to a central part of the Catholic faith.
One of the major components of the work is to move the tabernacle, a box which holds the Eucharist, from a side altar to the center of the sanctuary.
“In my mind, we’re putting the blessed sacrament back where it should have been in the first place,” said John Herlick, vice chairman of the St. Mary’s parish council.
Where the tabernacle should be placed has been a contentious issue among some faithful. Many churches moved their tabernacles to a side location or a separate chapel after the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s. Now some are moving it back.
Church law says the tabernacle should be highly visible and elevated, and that the bishop has the final judgment on its placement.Catholics believe the bread and wine used in the sacrament has been completely changed into the body and blood of Christ.
“It’s the center of our faith,” said the Rev. Chad Wilhelm, rector of St. Mary’s. “I’ve had nothing but people very, very overjoyed about (moving it to the center).”
The bishop’s chair has moved from behind the altar to the left-hand side, closer to the congregation.
The renovation also includes electrical work, a new microphone system, expanding the altar floor, adding a pulpit and railings to make the altar more accessible for elderly priests.
Total costs will be about $200,000, Wilhelm said. It’s paid for out of a renovation fund started from the estate of Cardinal Aloisius Muench, who was bishop of the diocese from 1935 to 1946.
The construction completes an extensive refurbishing done in 1996. It also is a prelude to further renovations on the south side of the 108-year-old cathedral in the next five years.
Wilhelm said this project will create a more accessible entrance, with an improved elevator and bathrooms on the main floor. The project may also include adding a chapel for perpetual adoration of the Eucharist.
“It brings pride to the people when things are kept up and clean and cared for,” Wilhelm said. “It’s God’s temple, but it’s their church home.” Fargo In-Forum