Catholics and their Utah friends have reason to celebrate: the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City is 100 years old.
Many people feel that is an accomplishment in and of itself, since Catholics comprise less than 4 percent of Utah's population.In 1891, Catholics numbered only 6,200 in an overall population of 211,000. Today they number approximately 67,000 in a state of about 1.7 million people.
Events for the centennial began with a special Mass at the Cathedral of the Madeleine Jan. 27, the 100th anniversary date of the establishment of the Diocese in Utah, and will continue with other activities this coming week and during April.
A "hard hat party" at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 11, will launch a construction project to restore the 82-year-old Cathedral of the Madeleine, located at 331 E. South Temple.
A brief program, including an architectural review by John Belle of Beyer, Blinder, Belle Architects, New York City, will be presented. A blessing on the construction will be given at 7 p.m. by the Most Rev. William K. Weigand, bishop of the Salt Lake Catholic Diocese. Soprano JoAnn Ottley and the Cathedral Choir will provide music.
The Rev. J. Terrence Fitzgerald, diocesan director of the centennial observance, said there are two highlights to the centennial. The first was a Jan. 28 banquet in the Red Lion Hotel, with the second major event being a public celebration beginning at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 14, in the Huntsman Center at the University of Utah.
"The celebration of our centennial is an opportunity for Catholics to look back with gratitude on the roots of our faith and the heritage that has been given to us by the sacrifice and devotion of those who went before us," said the Rev. Fitzgerald, who also is pastor of St. Mary of the Assumption in Park City.
"It is an opportunity for us to challenge ourselves to continue to be faithful to what we have received, what we have inherited - and like those who went before us - to make our mark on the present and the future," he said.
Further, the priest said centennial events provide an opportunity for Catholics to reflect on living in Utah "and the responsibility we have to continue contributing to the welfare of the state."
He said Catholics appreciate the opportunity to serve and are proud of their accomplishments in the areas of charity, education and service.
Preliminary activities at the public celebration on April 14 will begin with music from an array of choirs from various ethnic groups.
A Mass will be celebrated at 4 p.m. with a homily (sermon) being given by John Quinn, archbishop of San Francisco.
The Most Rev. William K. Weigand, bishop of the Salt Lake Diocese, will be the principal presider. About 150 Catholic bishops from around the West will join the celebration, to which Gov. Norm Bangerter and other public officials have been invited.
The Catholic diocese, which has been headed by Bishop Weigand since 1980, was established by Pope Leo XIII and originally included all of Utah and seven counties in eastern Nevada, said Bernice Mooney, archivist for the diocese.
In 1891, it was the largest diocese geographically in the United States, covering 150,000 square miles. When the Diocese of Reno was created in 1931, the boundaries of the Diocese of Salt Lake became contiguous with the state of Utah.
Irish-born Bishop Lawrence Scanlan, who came to Utah as a young priest and developed fledgling Catholic parishes, schools and hospitals throughout the territory, was appointed the first bishop of the diocese.
Utah's Catholic population has grown from a scant 800 people in 1873 to 67,000 in 62 parishes and missions. Traditional ministries in the areas of education, health care and social services have made a significant contribution to the quality of life in Utah.
In addition, Catholic art, music and architecture have enhanced the state's cultural heritage.
The $8.1 million campaign to restore the interior of the Cathedral of the Madeleine began in 1987. Recognized as a state and national landmark, the building has started to show deterioration as a result of age and environmental changes.
The restoration project will focus on the cathedral's stained-glass windows, murals, paintings and woodwork. The building also will undergo work to increase the stability of towers, the roof and windows in the event of an earthquake.