Christ Cathedral


The dedication of Christ Cathedral is one year away

By Greg Mellen     7/9/2018

Although the Christ Cathedral campus regularly hums with activity, expect that to kick up several notches as the Diocese of Orange launches into the home stretch for the Wednesday, July 17, 2019 dedication and opening of the cathedral for worship services. 

At that time, with the blessing of the altar, anointings, special prayers and the first Mass, the cathedral in name will become a cathedral in fact. 

During the run-up there will be a million details to go through to make the dedication process appear seamless. 

“It’s going to be an extremely crowded year,” said Fr. Christopher Smith, rector at Christ Cathedral. 

Bishop Kevin Vann announced at the June 28 Feast of Saints Peter and Paul that the Diocese will hold a year-long celebration to prepare, reflect upon and enjoy the big day. 

In reality, the work on the extensive transformation is well underway. 

Smith said work on the cathedral recently surpassed 100,000 hours of construction – and, with no accidents. 

At the forefront at Christ Cathedral since it was purchased by the Diocese from the late Robert Schuller’s Reformed Church in America in 2012, Fr. Smith was recently appointed by Bishop Vann to head up the dedication committee and its eight subcommittees. 

Throughout the year to come, Smith said there will be myriad events to prepare for the opening. These will include museum-style exhibits, concerts and cultural education for young adults and youth. There will also be tours and special days for the parishes that make up the Diocese. There will also be a gala and other fundraising activities. 

Because the dedication committee was only recently formed, many of the celebrations and events have yet to be scheduled into the timeline, according to Fr. Smith. 

Although the campus and church are commonly referred to as Christ Cathedral, it’s a misnomer because a cathedral is the seat of the bishop. Until the dedication, Holy Family Church in Orange will continue as the “mother church” for the Diocese. The Diocese of Orange, which now has more than 1 million congregants, has long since outgrown the cozy confines of Holy Family. 

While Christ Cathedral with its 34 acres, Pastoral Center, Arboretum, Christ Cathedral Academy, Memorial Gardens cemetery and executive suites, has become the hub of the Diocese, it isn’t really official and sacred until the church is formally dedicated. 

While work has continued on the cathedral-to-be to allow it to accommodate Roman Catholic liturgy, the adjacent Arboretum has served as the main worship hall, concert site and fulfilled many roles. 

In the cathedral construction, several milestones loom, according to Fr. Smith. Most notable in late summer will be the final installation of the church’s unique quatrefoils, or large panels with x-shaped patterns that will help with climate control and enhance the acoustics in the cathedral interior. 

Once the panels are installed, Fr. Smith says crews will take down the scaffolding in the 78,000-square foot building. Then “you’ll be able to see what it looks like (inside),” he said. 

The quatrefoils are key additions that solve a number of previous problems that plagued the cathedral. The panels help to filter the sunlight that pours through the 11,000 glass panes that at times turned the church into a hotbox. The panels also allow for the installation of air conditioning, which would be otherwise ineffective. Finally, the panels help improve the sound quality inside the space. 

Smith said the way the light filters through the quatrefoils, which have differing apertures, changes through the day and gives an airy feeling to the interior of the church. 

Early in 2019, the famed Hazel Wright organ, the largest organ in Southern California and fifth largest in the world, will be installed. The organ, with its more than 16,000 pipes, was sent to Italy for a complete restoration and repair from damage by heat, sunlight and water. The quatrefoils will also help to shelter the organ from exposure. 

Other preparations include installing statuary and sacred art, the altar, crucifix, stations of the cross, baptismal font, a shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe inside and Our Lady of La Vang outdoors. 

Another part of the year of celebrations will be a series of monthly articles that will be included in the Orange County Catholic newspaper. 

These articles will add liturgical, historic, and spiritual depth and understanding to the year. These articles will begin with larger issues and gradually telescope to specific stories about the new cathedral. 

“The idea of this series is to discuss key aspects of the cathedral design and the planning and inspiration behind them,” said Ryan Lilyengren, director of communications for the Diocese. “The features will also build understanding within our communities to the importance and relevance of our new Cathedral to our faith journey as part of the local and global catholic communities.” 

Fr. Smith, who recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of his ordination, said while a year may seem like plenty of time, he has learned it is also just a blink. 

However, it is worth the wait. 

“With the dedication we will have a parish church,” he said, “but it goes way beyond to the Diocese and the world as a symbol of unity.” 

With that the Diocese will have a new cathedral in every sense.