Newly dedicated Christ Cathedral opened its doors in welcome to thousands of visitors in the weekend following its dedication, eliciting praise and prompting hundreds of photographs inside and outside the building.
“The opening weekend for Christ Cathedral was a powerful and inspiring experience,” says the Very Reverend Christopher Smith, rector and episcopal vicar. “The cathedral was completely full for eight out of our 10 Masses, and very full for the others. It was so wonderful to see the people’s participation, feel their excitement and hear their many comments about the beauty of cathedral and how grateful they are to be able to celebrate Mass at this holy place.”
Weekend worship kicked off with a tri-lingual Mass in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese held at 4:45 p.m. Saturday, where Fr. Smith led six other concelebrants of the Mass in welcoming worshippers to “our new house.”
“More than the physical characteristics have been changed,” he explains. “In a unique way we serve not only each other but also become the seat of the Church, serving all the other parishes in Orange County.”
Gifts and flowers, including leis for each of the celebrants, were presented at the altar by members of the cathedral’s Samoan community. The procession featured Tonya Parker-Talavou, 19, of Huntington Beach, who wore a new taupou, a ceremonial costume reserved for special occasions, with an elaborate tuiga headdress of feathers and seashells.
“We are honored to be here,” says Jacinta Autaglavaia of Garden Grove, one of the community’s leaders. “We are blessed to be part of this historic day.”
“It was wonderful to be here to be part of the Mass in three languages,” says Claudia Montano of Newport Beach, a member of Our Lady Queen of Angels parish. “The cathedral is magnificent. It is an example of how there is unity between faith traditions.”
The cathedral’s Chinese community presented a traditional lion dance following the Mass.
Curiosity prompted Burbank residents Sev and Noemi de Jesus to commute into Orange County for the very first 9:45 a.m. Sunday Mass to be offered in the transformed cathedral. They were watching news of the dedication events earlier in the week and were fascinated by the cathedral’s history as the center for the late Rev. Robert Schuller’s “Hour of Power” TV show and Crystal Cathedral Ministries.
“We didn’t even think about how far the commute was,” Sev says. “We just wanted to visit.” Noemi adds that she loved the cathedral’s ambiance. “The building itself is so impressive. We anticipate visiting here more often.”
Scottsdale residents Tom and Dianne Kennedy have made pilgrimages to the great cathedrals of Europe and were excited to see how the interior of Christ Cathedral was transformed from a place of Protestant worship into the seat of Bishop Kevin Vann and the county’s center of Catholicism.
However, Dianne notes, the building’s purpose remains constant. “Worship is worship,” she says. “We all have our own paths to the divine.”
Davin Alcordo, who recently graduated from high school in the Philippines, joined his father Dexter and grandmother Maria Theresa for the Mass and was struck by the openness of the cathedral campus. “It’s a very beautiful and very different place,” Maria Theresa says.
“It’s a joyful experience to be here for the first morning Mass,” says Yanira Ilmer Alvarado of Orange, a member of Christ Cathedral parish, as she exited following the 8:15 a.m. Mass. “I want the word to get out to let people know how beautiful our campus is so that they are attracted to our religion.”
Two events sponsored by the cathedral’s Youth and Young Adult Ministry opened the weekend’s series of celebrations, entertainment, open houses, and receptions.
“The Kingdom is Here” welcomed hundreds of Catholics ages 13 to 18 years old from parishes throughout the Diocese of Orange to enjoy an afternoon of reflection, including Eucharistic Adoration, followed by food and games in the cathedral courtyard.
“You are part of a historic event,” Auxiliary Bishop Timothy Freyer told the teens. “It’s the first time we have adored Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament in this building. This is something you can tell your kids and grandkids, or if you are blessed to become a priest, to your parishioners: That you were here the first time Jesus was adored in the Sacrament.”
After the service, Bishop Freyer complimented the teens’ enthusiastic participation. “They are the future and the present of our Church, and for them to understand the presence of the Church and grow closer to Jesus is a vital part of the work of our diocese.”
Later Friday evening, throngs of young adults ages 18 to 39 participated in “Now & Forever,” an event that featured prayer, testimony and worship, as well as refreshments and entertainment.
Jeena Rudy of Placentia, a member of St. Joseph Parish, wanted to attend because she had witnessed the cathedral construction and was curious to see its transformation. “As young adults, we will benefit from having the cathedral as a central gathering place for events like this,” she says.