A new worship space for Christ Cathedral is soon breaking ground, and it will pay tribute to a parish whose sacrifice helped make dreams of a new Orange County cathedral a reality.
The St. Callistus Chapel and Crypts, located in the cathedral undercroft, will be more intimate than the main sanctuary above, and contain new sacred artwork and burial spaces for bishops. With approximately 11,500 square feet, it will accommodate approximately 250 people and have an altar for Masses.
The chapel and crypts are named after the St. Callistus parish and school in Garden Grove, which closed in 2013 as part of a land swap deal when the Diocese completed its $57.5-million purchase of the Crystal Cathedral campus. Since then, the 34-acre property has been extensively refurbished and the cathedral rededicated as Christ Cathedral.
“I did not forget the sacrifice of the St. Callistus parishioners when they left their church, and I am pleased to name the chapel for the old parish,” said Bishop Kevin Vann. “We are excited and blessed to add another location on campus to worship our Lord and pay respect to the founding members of the St. Callistus parish. As the focal hub for our Orange County Catholic community, having this new chapel makes us an even stronger beacon.”
The St. Callistus Chapel and Crypts’ architectural style is being described as modern Byzantine, with gold colors akin to what one sees in a European church. The architectural firm is Los Angeles-based Johnson Fain, with sacred art from Granda of Madrid, Spain.
“Christ Cathedral’s design is very modern, so the chapel, with its classic Byzantine style, will be a nice addition architecturally to our campus,” said Elysabeth Nguyen, CEO of the St. Callistus Chapel Campaign, whose parent organization, the OLLV Foundation, is managing the project’s construction and fundraising.
Diocese of Orange officials plan to begin construction in March and complete the $13-million project as early as December. Notably, the crypts will include burial spaces for many generations of bishops. In that respect, Christ Cathedral will replicate what many cathedrals around the world already have.
“It’s a Catholic tradition that bishops are buried in the cathedral,” explained Fr. Angelos Sebastian, vicar general and moderator of the curia for the Diocese and an OLLV Foundation board member. “It’s certainly important for us, at our cathedral, to have crypts for our bishops who have labored for our Diocese and are very loved in our Diocese.”
Entrance to St. Callistus will first require taking stairs or an elevator down into the cathedral’s expansive undercroft level, which also has offices for the cathedral music ministry, meeting rooms, IT equipment, restrooms, a bride’s room and more.
The chapel entrance will have statues on both sides. Once inside, parishioners will see wooden pews for approximately 250 people.
For music, St. Callistus is being designed to accommodate a choir as well as instruments, such as a piano or electronic organ.
It will have a marble altar and enough room for 10 to 15 concelebrants, including the bishop.
On either side of the chapel will be devotional shrines. One, dubbed a “legacy chapel,” will detail the history of the Diocese of Orange and how it came to be. The second will focus on St. Callistus the person, who served as pope from approximately 218 to 223 A.D.
“It’s like a museum tour,” said Nguyen. “You can imagine coming to the shrine and immersing yourself in history.”
Behind the altar is the entrance to the crypts, which will have resting places for 40 bishops and 1,054 additional niches for all the faithful.
Fr. Angelos noted that given the sizable population the Christ Cathedral campus regularly serves — some 12,000 people are celebrating Mass in multiple languages on any given weekend — the chapel is needed as an additional worship space.
“We have such a huge community here,” Fr. Angelos added. “This will be able to meet the spiritual needs of people. We can have Mass celebrated at the same time in two different places in the cathedral.”
Much of the sacred artwork is still being finalized and will be completed and installed in phases, even after the chapel opens to the public. Many types of art are planned: statues, mosaics, paintings and tapestry.
“They are being considered systematically, in coordination with our priests and our bishops,” Nguyen said.
NAMING THE CHAPEL
St. Callistus parish and school families made significant sacrifices under the Crystal Cathedral land swap deal.
The agreement was that St. Callistus families would lose their church — which was founded in 1961 — but become the initial congregation of the cathedral. Crystal Cathedral Ministries would then use the St. Callistus property, located at the corner of Lewis Street and Garden Grove Boulevard, about a mile south of the cathedral.
ARTIST RENDERINGS OF WHAT THE ST. CALLISTUS CHAPEL AND CRYPTS WILL LOOK LIKE IN THE UNDERCROFT OF CHRIST CATHEDRAL. COURTESY OF JOHNSON FAIN
Crystal Cathedral Ministries, since renamed Shepherd’s Grove, used the site for years until moving again. The property has now become a housing tract.
“Though we gained a beautiful new campus in the end, losing St. Callistus was not easy,” said Fr. Tuyen Nguyen, who was the last pastor of St. Callistus.
CHRIST CATHEDRAL’S NEW CHAPEL IS BEING NAMED AFTER THE NOW-CLOSED ST. CALLISTUS CATHOLIC CHURCH, WHOSE PARISHIONERS WERE THE INITIAL CONGREGATION OF CHRIST CATHEDRAL. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE DIOCESE OF ORANGE
He is now the pastor of Blessed Sacrament parish in Westminster and an OLLV Foundation board member. “For generations, our St. Callistus families worshipped, learned and shared so many moments of great joy at the church. That’s why, to honor them, we named the chapel after St. Callistus, paying tribute to the memory of both the parish and its parishioners.”
FOR YEARS, THE UNDERCROFT AREA WHERE THE ST. CALLISTUS CHAPEL AND CRYPTS WAS USED AS A STORAGE SITE. THE SPACE IS ABOUT 11,500 SQUARE FEET. PHOTO BY BRADLEY ZINT
Fr. Juan Navarro, parochial vicar of Christ Cathedral, also served as parochial vicar of St. Callistus community under Fr. Tuyen during the parish’s final years.
“It took a while for all of us to journey here and adapt to the new facility,” Fr. Juan said of the transition. “There was a lot of opposition. At first, there was zero attachment to these buildings.”
Fr. Juan said he is excited for his community to see how St. Callistus Chapel and Crypts pays tribute to them and serves their spiritual needs. He still remembers the day with Bishop Vann and Bishop Tod Brown promised not to forget the St. Callistus community.
“The heart of the cathedral is going to be this chapel,” Fr. Juan said. “I love how it will contrast with the cathedral, which is very modern, to be something very classic. Many parishioners will love to come and pray there.”
AN ARTIST RENDERING OF THE FUTURE ST. CALLISTUS CHAPEL AND CRYPTS. COURTESY OF JOHNSON FAIN
Fr. Bao Thai, Christ Cathedral’s rector, said he hopes “that our parishioners will enjoy the chapel and make a prayer for the repose of all the faithful departed who will be soon buried under the cathedral.”
The entire Diocese is encouraged to visit www.stcallistuschapel.org to learn more and to donate.
“Your donations will help build not only a new chapel to connect ourselves with God,” added Fr. Bao, “but also a resting home for our bishops, family members, relatives, friends and ourselves.”