Msgr. Arthur Holquin Serves as Theologian, Art Expert and Historian – Among Many Other Roles

By Cathi Douglas     1/23/2018

After 45 years as a Catholic priest, Monsignor Arthur Holquin believes his present service as one of the primary liturgical consultants to the transformation of Christ Cathedral is a highlight of his priestly career.  

It should be noted that Msgr. Holquin – the diocese’s unofficial historian, theologian and art expert – already has countless leadership, educational and pastoral achievements under his belt.  

He earned a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and a master’s degree in Divinity from St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo. He attended the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium and was awarded a licentiate degree in Sacred Theology (S.T.L.) with a concentration in Sacramental Theology as well as a master’s degree in Religious Studies. He has served as rector of Holy Family Cathedral and the Mission San Juan Capistrano Basilica.  

Msgr. Holquin has served as a visiting professor of Liturgical Studies at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo, Loyola-Marymount University, Los Angeles and Mount St. Mary’s College, Doheny Campus and at the Pastoral Ministry Institute.  

He served as Chair of the Council of Priests, on the National Board and the Executive Committee of the National Federation of Priest’s Councils, and is an appointed member of the College of Consultors for the Diocese and the Diocesan Council of Priests.  

As if that weren’t enough, Msgr. Holquin also is a member of the Historic Mission Preservation Foundation and a member of the International Society for Catholic Liturgy. He was appointed as consultant to the Architecture and Renovation Committee for Christ Cathedral and serves as a member of the Sacred Arts Commission.  

Still, he says his top priority these days is to persuade Catholics to grasp the importance of Christ Cathedral as the central location of the Diocese of Orange and the principal place for community worship. 

“It’s important for people to understand that, yes, you belong to your parish, but we are also connected to the broader church and the Bishop is the chief shepherd,” Msgr. Holquin says. “The cathedral’s 35-acre campus provides a gathering place for all God’s people.” 

A lifelong lover and student of the arts, Msgr. Holquin, who serves as episcopal vicar of Divine Worship for the Diocese of Orange and pastor emeritus of the Mission San Juan Capistrano Basilica, is particularly thrilled to know that sacred art will be a part of the new cathedral. 

Interestingly, he was instrumental in locating the new Cathedral’s tabernacle in a German museum operated by the widow of the late modern artist Egino Weinert. Weinert counted among his admirers and patrons Blessed Paul VI and Pope Saint John Paul II. 

All Weinert’s other tabernacles had already found their way into churches. Weinert’s widow was initially reluctant to part with the treasured piece, but “when she heard it was destined for a cathedral, she agreed,” says Msgr. Holquin. The tabernacle is “an example of the artwork of one of the most renowned 20th century liturgical artists,” says Msgr. Holquin. “And it’s utterly unique; there’s no other like it. The fact that the very first artistic item that we acquired for the cathedral is the tabernacle is very providential. It’s really quite exciting.” 

Msgr. Holquin’s great love for music prompted his interest in leading the preservation and restoration of the cathedral’s historic Hazel Wright organ. Altogether, he declares, “The repurposing of a historic Protestant church designed by one of the iconic architects of the 20th century and reshaping it into the principal church of our diocese challenges us to maintain the integrity of the Philip Johnson structure while accommodating it to our uses. 

“The polarity of continuity and change is what is so creatively challenging,” he adds. “The end result will be just about prefect – not absolutely perfect, we must leave that to heaven.” 

Observers may call Msgr. Holquin a Renaissance man. Indeed, going back to elementary school he has been mesmerized by church structures, altars and stained-glass windows, as well as music. He credits a mentor Frank Diaz, his high school biology teacher, for developing his discerning eye for beauty through many field trips to various museum and churches. 

What makes Msgr. Holquin’s energy, dedication and thoughtfulness even more significant is that in 2010, he was diagnosed with an extremely rare motor neuron disease (Primary Lateral Sclerosis) that has gradually impacted his once-normal mobility and speech. 

Yet, assisted by loyal volunteers and his trusty electric scooter, he comes to work each morning at the Mission Basilica. And as he faces increasing disabilities, he has taken to social media to express his pointed opinions about politics (he is not a fan of President Donald Trump), issues of human interest (he has great respect and love for Pope Francis) and the church (he offers insight into Catholicism’s relevance in the world today). He regularly posts thought-provoking dispatches on Facebook and writes an insightful blog at rectoremeritus.org. 

In his leisure time, he enjoys listening to classical music and reading historical non-fiction.