Cathedral rededication a moment of hope, recollection


The program from the 1974 Dedication Mass for the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Jefferson City called the altar servers “boys representing the various areas of the diocese.”

Not quite.

“We were all at St. Joseph School over here,” said Kevin Stiles.

He, John Weber and Joe Meystrik — three who served at the Mass 49 years ago — sat together and reminisced at the Rededication Mass on May 5.

“This brings back wonderful memories,” said Mr. Stiles.

All three were accustomed to serving at Mass with the bishop.

“We were kind of frequent-fliers back in the day,” Mr. Stiles recalled. “They’d always come over and recruit us because we were close-by.”

“And we didn’t mess up!” said Mr. Weber.

Those were good times. Are these?

“I think so,” said Mr. Meystrik. “I think the renovation is a great chance to bring some rebirth and revitalization to the parish community.”

Mr. Weber said the Cathedral renovations brought a lot of changes, “but there’s still some familiarity as far as what’s still here.”

“It’s refreshing to see what they’ve done,” said Mr. Meystrik. “There’s more light. It looks more open and inviting. And I hope that’s the feeling that it conveys to people.”

Glorious strains

Deacon Robert Rackers, a charter member and longtime choir director for Cathedral of St. Joseph Parish, attended the Rededication Mass on the 44th anniversary of his diaconal ordination.

His wife, the late Mary Rackers, was the parish organist for many years. They both served in their respective roles for the first Mass in the Cathedral on Dec. 24, 1968, and Mrs. Rackers sang in the choir directed by her husband for the Dedication Mass in 1974.

“It was amazing,” Deacon Rackers recalled. “The sound difference was tremendous compared to that little area of the old church.”

Even so, there was almost no reverberation.

“The building was strictly designed for the P.A. system and not for singing,” he said.

The choir originally occupied the first few rows of pews on the organ side of the Cathedral.

“Our directive was for the choir to be seen as an integral part of the congregation,” he recalled. “So for those first few Masses, we sang from there, and we saw that it wasn’t working acoustically or logically.”

That’s when Deacon Rackers decided to place chairs for the choir directly in front of the organ pipes.

“That arrangement stuck,” he said.

Cutting edge

An important part of the honor guard regalia for Fourth Degree Knights of Columbus is the sword.

Steve Meystrik, director of stewardship for Cathedral of St. Joseph Parish, pointed out that the Knights serving in the honor guard at the Rededication Mass were seated next to the sword that belonged to the late Fred Vogel.

Mr. Vogel served in the honor guard at the Cathedral dedication 49 years ago.

“His sword is back here with them as as a way to honor Fred and his family, some of the original members of the parish, and all that he did for our church and diocese,” Mr. Meystrik stated.

He also spoke of Pat Gladbach, who sang in the choir at the 1974 dedication.

“She’s still a dedicated music minister and member of our parish choir,” Mr. Meystrik noted.

“Right at home”

Cathedral of St. Joseph parishioner Mary Rodeman remembers Christmas caroling as a fifth-grader to help raise seed money for Jefferson City’s newest parish and school.

The following year, she was a student at what was then St. Joseph School and attending Sunday Masses in the temporary parish church.

She and her husband stayed in the parish after the Cathedral was built and sent their own children to the school.

Having grown used to the Cathedral as it was for many years, Mrs. Rodeman thought of how her parents adapted to the way Mass was celebrated after the Second Vatican Council.

“Kind of like that, this will take some getting used to,” she said. “But I think once we’re all back in there, we’ll feel right at home again.”

She hopes people who scattered to other parishes while Masses were in the school gym are ready to return.

“Come back home!” she said. “It’s time to come home and be a part of our community.”

“My church”

Brayden Holt and Keyton McKinzie, second-graders at St. Joseph Cathedral School, were days away from being among the first to receive First Holy Communion in the renovated Cathedral.

Brayden said he didn’t mind sitting on the gym bleachers for Mass, but he was ready for work on the Cathedral to be finished.

“It’s amazing,” he said.

“They did a good job,” said Keyton.

Cathedral School seventh-grader Clarah Odneal said she’s looking forward to being confirmed in the Cathedral this June.

“It looks different now,” she said, “but this is my church, this is where I go.”

Through children’s eyes

Parishioners Emily Harvey and Rachael Barfield both have daughters in second grade who were getting ready for First Holy Communion.

“It’s beautiful, and we’re really excited to be back in there,” said Mrs. Barfield. “It’s like whoever made all of this has the hands of angels.”

She was delighted at her daughter’s reaction to seeing the renovated Cathedral for the first time the previous weekend.

“Her jaw kind of dropped,” Mrs. Barfield recalled. “Looking at it through her eyes makes me even more excited about it. It’s a good feeling as a parent.”

Mrs. Harvey said it’s a relief to be back in the Cathedral for Mass after all these months.

“But honestly, I think after COVID, we were happy just being able to worship together, in the gym or anywhere else,” she said.

She’s grateful to the construction workers who plied their trades graciously around the everyday operations of the parish and school.

She wants visitors from other parishes throughout the diocese to feel welcome in the cathedral, “because it’s as much theirs as it is ours.”

“We’re proud to call it our parish, but it’s for everyone,” said Mrs. Harvey.

“Alive and well”

Seminarian Christopher Hoffmann sat in the front pew during the CathedralGLOW event the night before the rededication, taking it all in.

“It’s very beautiful,” he stated. “There’s a lot more color, a lot more imagery, a lot more reminders of how God has worked in the past and continues to work in our lives in various ways, through the saints and their example, and imagery we see every day in nature and in all of Creation.”

Emma Bruegenhemke, a sophomore at the University of Missouri in Columbia, was at the CathedalGLOW with a delegation of St. Thomas More Newman Center parishioners.

“The Catholic Church is alive and well,” she said, “and we’re still converting souls.”

A St. Louis native, Ms. Bruegenhemke came to Jefferson City for the event “because the Church is universal — a celebration for one of our brothers and sisters is a celebration for all.”

She said the minute attention to detail throughout the renovated Cathedral is a reminder of “how much tradition the Catholic Church holds and how we should take part fully in its liturgies and celebrations and never take little things for granted.”

Something new

Andrew Timbrook of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Columbia and his young daughter were visiting Jefferson City and decided to attend the CathedralGLOW.

“It was a rare opportunity to do something different, go someplace we usually don’t go, see things from a different point of view and be part of something that brings a lot of different people together,” he said.

He found his eyes being emphatically drawn to the new tabernacle and stained glass.

“There’s a lot going on in those windows!” he said.

He believes learning about the various parts of the Cathedral will help him appreciate his own parish church more.

“For God and for souls”

After the solemnity and revelry of the rededication subsided, Monsignor Robert A. Kurwicki, vicar general of the diocese and a lifelong student of history, reflected on a prescient exhortation from the past.

As archbishop of St. Louis from 1903-46, Cardinal John J. Glennon oversaw the construction of that city’s magnificent Cathedral Basilica — a challenge he received the day of his installation.

In the homily for Mass that day, Archbishop John Ireland of St. Paul, Minnesota, urged the future cardinal to “build your cathedral, but remember that when your career is over, the cathedral must draw its highest and sweetest honor from the fact that it is the monument of the glorious deeds done by you in the spiritual work of your episcopate — deeds done for God and for souls, for Church and for country.”