SALT LAKE CITY — As the Salt Lake Catholic Diocese marked the 25th anniversary of the Cathedral of the Madeleine's rededication Wednesday, Monsignor M. Francis Mannion remembered the effort it took to restore the cathedral as well as the people who helped.
"During Mass, I was very much aware of their presence in spirit," Monsignor Mannion said.
The event was "bittersweet," he said: Sweet because of the success of the project 25 years ago, and bitter or "sad" because of the passing of many who helped with the renovation — including, most recently, Jon M. Huntsman Sr. and Ian M. Cumming.
Today, the cathedral is a grand place of worship, with colorful murals and stained-glass windows. However, 30 years ago, the cathedral, built in 1909, was "truly dilapidated and failing," said Matt Kitterer, the Madeleine Choir School's director of advancement.
It was then that Monsignor Mannion was given the task of planning and fundraising to ensure the cathedral was repaired, Kitterer said.
"The restoration was very intensive, because so many things had fallen apart. The interior was really dark and ugly, and the systems … also fallen apart," he remembered.
Monsignor Mannion garnered the help of local leaders including Huntsman, Cumming and Jack Gallivan to aid in the project and raised $12 million.
The restoration took five years to plan and two years to execute because of the "complexity of the project," Monsignor Mannion said.
During the renovation, he remembers using the motto "a cathedral for all people."
"We were very much aware that this cathedral serves an important place in the neighborhood, but also in the community at large," he said.
Since the renovation, the cathedral has become home to the Madeleine Choir School, the Madeleine Festival of the Arts and Humanities, the Eccles Organ Festival and the Good Samaritan Program, which provides aid to those in need.
As the children of the Madeleine Choir School raised their voices in song to mark the anniversary of the rededication as well as to recognize the contributions of Monsignor Mannion, there was a sense of reverence and celebration in the building.1 comment on this story
Eight-year-old Savvy Williams explained why she enjoys singing in the cathedral: "Because it makes God happy."
Twelve candles burned around the cathedral, in the same places where candles were annointed by holy oil at the building's rededication 25 years ago.
After the Mass, Savvy said she likes being in the cathedral because it reminds her that "we have a relationship with God."
Monsignor Mannion added that hearing the children sing was "wonderful."
"The Madeleine Choir School is truly a treasure, not just locally, but internationally," he said.