Prayer service and groundbreaking kicks off major Cathedral reconstruction project

A special prayer service and groundbreaking ceremony for the renovation of Epiphany Cathedral in Venice took place on May 30, 2024, led by Bishop Frank J. Dewane.

Bishop Dewane was joined by Msgr. Patrick Dubois, Cathedral Rector, the Cathedral Parish priests and Deacons, members of the Parish Advisory Council, and the mayor of Venice, Nick Pachota, as well as parishioners.

“We gather in prayer to call down the Lord’s blessing upon the work that will be done and that all doing the work will be safe,” Bishop Dewane said. “We pray that this House of God will become ever more a witness to the Lord of All, a place of worship for us, and a fitting and glorious temple for the Lord of Hosts. May almighty God bless this endeavor and all who gather here.”

Joined by other dignitaries for the turning of the dirt, Bishop Dewane said, “With faith in Jesus Christ, this work is begun, and this ground is broken in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” And all responded, “Amen!”

Afterward Bishop Dewane blessed the building site and the people gathered who cheered in approval for the start of this long-awaited project.

Among those in the crowd, one man exclaimed that the renovation project is an “important journey” for the Parish and Cathedral and when the work is completed, it will be something that will last for generations to come.

Epiphany Cathedral was dedicated in 1980, and not built as a formal Cathedral, but as a regular Parish church. The Diocese of Venice was erected in 1984, four years later.

In a public message to parishioners, Cathedral Rector Dubois stated that cosmetic renovations made in 1984 were always intended to be temporary, and that “sometime in the future a more major, permanent renovation/rebuild would take place, transforming the normal Parish church into a proper Diocesan Cathedral.”

Msgr. Dubois stated that several factors have contributed to the idea that now is the time to transform Epiphany, through reconstruction and renovation, into a proper Diocesan Cathedral.

These factors include the continued growth of the Parish and Diocese, the changing needs of the faithful of the Diocese for a proper space and liturgical décor to hold celebrations, some unique to a cathedral, which were never considered when the church was constructed. Additionally, in recent years, the building has shown its age, with structural, electrical, plumbing and other issues requiring more and more upkeep generating ever-growing maintenance costs which were projected to increase dramatically. Therefore, in 2021, discussions began regarding a renovation and reconstruction of the Cathedral.

“The condition of our current church building calls for immediate attention to address issues of safety, of sustainability, of functionality, of creating an enhanced liturgical and spiritual environment capable of serving the needs of the faithful, of our Parish community, and of the Diocese at large, for today and for future generations to come,” Msgr. Dubois stated. Adding that it is “far more economical and sustainable if we proceed with a more thorough renovation of the present aging structure rather than continuing to “patch” things as we go.”

The destruction that came to the Diocese of Venice in the wake of Hurricane Ian in 2022 delayed the project to 2024, with a construction time estimated to take approximately two years.

Brain T. Baker, President, Baker Liturgical Arts, LLC, a liturgical restoration and renovation company, said this renovation will include a new front entrance and gathering space, a new barreled vault ceiling, from the narthex (entrance) to the nave (sanctuary).

“It’s a full restoration from top to bottom,” Baker said. “It will transform the Cathedral tremendously.”

Among the major new aspects of the Cathedral will be the energy-efficient HVAC system, a fire protection system with sprinklers, new pews, a marble reredos (altarpiece) with a large-scale mosaic of the Epiphany, and new liturgical appointments including altar, ambo, throne, cathedra, baptismal font, and more. In addition, a statue of the pieta will be added adjacent to the Memorial Garden, which will remain undisturbed.

Before the renovation began, the Parish Hall, the original Parish church, was renovated to accommodate all worship services during the construction. To lessen the inconvenience during the construction, additional weekend Mass times have been added. Please check the Parish website, for times. While some Diocesan liturgical celebrations will continue to take place at Epiphany during the renovation, necessarily some will be relocated to larger churches in the region.

Demolition of the Cathedral began on June 3.