SCROLL THE ARROWS to see a gallery of photos from this event.
A light shone in the darkness, and it was wonderful to behold.
The May 4 CathedralGLOW event drew hundreds of high school- and college-age teens, families with children, and curious adults of all ages for a lively prayer vigil the night before the rededication of the renewed Cathedral of St. Joseph in Jefferson City.
Following a meal in a nearby park, participants walked to the Cathedral, learned about its significance and function, explored the stained glass, shrine and sanctuary, sang hymns and reflected on their own role in leading others to Christ.
“I’m happy that I’ll have the privilege of consecrating this new altar, this renewed church,” Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, told the assembly.
“I think it’s one of the most meaningful liturgies of the Catholic Church,” he said of the following day’s Rededication Mass. “It’s full of symbolism and helps us rediscover what the Church is all about. ... Because the Church is our home.”
A steady line of penitents led up to one of the confessionals, where the Sacrament of Reconciliation was available throughout the evening.
Emma Crippen, a Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) missionary at the University of Missouri in Columbia, said God is calling all to be missionary disciples.
She encouraged everyone to turn to the Blessed Mother for inspiration.
“She is the greatest missionary and the most steadfast intercessor, a perfect and blessed mother,” Ms. Crippen stated.
Erick Chinchilla, an intern in the diocesan Office of Faith Formation, reflected on the Cathedral’s newly created mosaic of Mary under her title, Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The mosaic is a replica of the miraculous image that appeared on the cloak of St. Juan Diego near present-day Mexico City after the Blessed Mother appeared to him in 1531.
“She is the star that leads us to Christ,” Mr. Chinchilla stated.
Millions of conversions have been attributed to her message and prayerful intercession, to which an indigenous man named St. Juan Diego was the first witness.
“Just like him, we are all called to share Christ with others,” said Mr. Chinchilla.
“Not done yet”
Father Daniel Merz — pastor of St. Thomas More Newman Center Parish in Columbia, chairman of the Diocesan Liturgical Commission, and a member of the steering committee for the Cathedral renovation — explained how each of the stained glass windows helps illustrate the Scripture verse emblazoned around the Cathedral’s inside perimeter.
That verse, Verse 2:42 of the Book of Acts, states: “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the Apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.”
Fr. Merz noted how 3,000 people in that same chapter of Acts heard St. Peter preach, were filled with the Holy Spirit and were baptized.
“The Holy Spirit’s not done with the Church yet,” the priest asserted. “The Holy Spirit is still being poured out today.”
Those early Christians continued to be formed by the teaching of the Apostles and the celebration of the Eucharist.
“And every day, the Lord added to their number, those who were being saved,” said Fr. Merz, quoting Verse 47.
“There’s no reason why the people here today can’t be doing those real things every day,” he stated. “And if we did, the Lord would add to our numbers every day of those being saved.”
Deacon William Seibert, who assists the pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Jefferson City, spoke of Venerable Father Augustus Tolton, whose life and ministry are depicted in stained glass above the Cathedral’s new baptistery.
Fr. Tolton, born into a family of enslaved people in part of what is now the Jefferson City diocese in 1854, was baptized where St. Peter Church in Brush Creek now stands.
He escaped as a child with his family during the Civil War to Illinois, a free state, where several priests and religious sisters and brothers and his family helped him discover and answer his priestly calling.
Ordained in Rome because no U.S. seminary at that time would accept a Black man, he was sent back to serve as a missionary in Quincy and Chicago, making him the Catholic Church’s first recognizably Black priest in the United States.
He continued to suffer from the effects of racism until his death at age 43.
“It would have been easy for Fr. Tolton to become bitter and hateful,” Deacon Seibert noted. “But instead, the true essence of our Catholic faith prevailed.”
“As we observe the stained glass window of Venerable Father Augustus Tolton watching over us, please remember his faith journey and his strong belief in our Savior,” the deacon stated.
“Also remember his words: ‘As I looked back on my life, I realize that I thought that every time I was being rejected from something good, I was actually being re-directed to something better,’” he said.
“The great gift”
Father Paul Clark — diocesan vocation director; director of seminarians; chaplain at Helias Catholic High School; and moderator of youth and young adult ministry — explained the significance of the bishop’s chair, ambo, tabernacle and altar.
The chair, known as the cathedra, is a symbol of the bishop’s teaching authority.
“Every bishop is a successor of the Apostles,” said Fr. Clark. “The continuity of our faith is passed on to each bishop and people gathered here from various parishes and places around the diocese.”
The tabernacle, where the Blessed Sacrament is reposed after Mass, is reminiscent of the ornate sanctuary tent in which God made his dwelling with the Israelites during their sojourn in the desert.
“Now, with the fulfillment that Christ has brought about, we recognize the tabernacle as where the Blessed Sacrament, Christ himself, dwells,” Fr. Clark stated.
The ambo is an elevated place from which the Word of God is preached — reminiscent of the mountaintops from which God’s decrees were proclaimed in Biblical times.
The altar, upon which the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is offered, harkens back to the altars on which the Israelites offered animal sacrifices to God in keeping with the laws he gave them.
Jesus, by suffering, dying and rising, made himself into the one eternal sacrifice.
“We see with the altar the fulfilment, the image and actualization of the Paschal Mystery, the great gift of Christ Himself, the gift of his life, through which we are promised eternal life,” Fr. Clark said.
Saints at rest
Fr. Clark pointed out that in the days of the early Church, especially in times of persecution, Masses were celebrated over the burial places of saints who had sacrificed their lives for the sake of living out the call to holiness they received at Baptism.
“We continue this tradition by placing relics of saints in the altars of our churches,” he said.
Together, the people then invoked the heavenly intercession of each of the saints whose relics were to be placed under the altar the following day.
They include: St. Aurelius, St. Benedict, St. Clement, St. Francis de Sales, St. Irenaeus, St. Isidore, St. John Vianney, St. Martin de Porres, St. Rose Philippine Duchesne and St. Vincent de Paul.
“Each of us are also called to be saints,” said Fr. Clark, “called to a vocation of holiness, to give our hearts to God, our lives completely in service to others, following the example of these wonderful saints.”
Bishop W. Shawn McKnight and Archbishop Pierre, who is Pope Francis’s official delegate to the Church in the United States and the Holy See’s diplomatic ambassador to the U.S. government — made a surprise visit to the gathering.
Archbishop Pierre was to rededicate the Cathedral and consecrate its altar the following day.
Bishop McKnight assured the young people present that they’re not just the future of the Church, they’re an essential part of the Church’s present.
Archbishop Pierre described the Cathedral as a place for people to encounter God, day after day, Sunday after Sunday, in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
He commented on the unity of the Catholic Church, spread throughout the world.
“In the United States, you have 196 dioceses, like this one,” he said. “My job, my mission, is to represent the Holy Father to all these bishops, all these dioceses. My job is to help all the bishops be united with the Holy Father.”
Archbishop Pierre and Bishop McKnight invited each person to come forward and receive a specially-cast medallion commemorating the Cathedral rededication, and a sticker depicting the new St. Joseph mosaic on the sanctuary wall.
Bishop McKnight invited everyone to stand behind the altar “and see what we see as priests when we look out and celebrate Mass.”
Archbishop Pierre asked God to bless everyone present.
“We need blessings!” he stated. “The only one who can give a blessing is God himself. But, God has given us the possibility to share this blessing with your children, with our brothers and sisters. And this is what the Church is all about.”
Seminarian Gregory Clever gave one more reminder to the people as they prepared to process out of the Cathedral by candlelight.
“The image we will all see as we exit the church reminds each of us that Christ is still in charge, even after we leave this holy place,” he stated.
“He invites each of us to entrust every area of our lives to him,” the seminarian continued. “But in trusting him fully with our lives, we receive this beautiful light in a world filled with darkness.”