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.

Hour of Remembrance reflects on Holocaust

Bob Reddy – Florida Catholic
Many people in the United States observe Yom HaShoah, which is also known as Holocaust Remembrance Day. It commemorates the lives and heroism of the Jewish people who were slaughtered by the Nazis between 1933 and 1945.

Here in the Diocese of Venice, Bishop Frank J. Dewane hosts an annual interreligious gathering of Yom HaShoah: An Hour of Remembrance. This year the event was held on April 15 at Epiphany Cathedral, Venice, just a few days after April 11, the traditional Remembrance Day.

The powerful hour includes a symbolic reading the names of infamous concentration camps, a moment of silence, the lighting of 13 memorial candles, a guest speaker, presentations, music, and the commissioning of high school students to be a continuing voice for those lost in Holocaust.

Afterwards the guests went to a reception in the Parish Hall where there were also displays of research projects done by middle schoolers from Epiphany Cathedral and St. Martha Catholic schools. These covered topics of research on the stories of those whose lives were taken too soon, or of the incredible story of survivors.

Lisa Arnold said she had never been to a Holocaust Remembrance at a Catholic Church before and was impressed by the entire commemoration. “Millions were lost, but people forget. They forget the voices that were silenced. It is so good for us all to remember such a terrible time in the world. It can never happen again.”

Bishop Dewane spoke briefly about the need for such gatherings which bring together members of the Catholic and Jewish communities to recommit to the promotion of peace and solidarity among all peoples.

Using the example of a recent poll, the Bishop noted that two-thirds of American millennials (18-34), and 41 percent of adults as a whole, cannot identify what Auschwitz is. Another 22 percent of millennials said they haven’t heard of the Holocaust or are not sure whether they’ve heard of it. The numbers are discouraging, meaning the Holocaust is starting to fade for the collective memory.

“As generations inevitably die off, it is our responsibility to continue to raise awareness and that task has become ever greater,” Bishop Dewane continued. “Unless we do something and say something, those numbers will continue to rise and history will be repeated.”

One way to help avoid this is the ongoing effort of the Catholic Schools in the Diocese to have comprehensive program to educate middle and high school students on the Holocaust through various means, explained Dr. Kristy Swol, Diocese Director of Education. “It is hoped that by learning about the Holocaust, they learn about the past and also how to protect the future,” Swol concluded.

This year the featured guest speaker Auxiliary Bishop James Massa of Diocese of Brooklyn, and past-Executive Director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Dialogue and later Consultor to the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and a member of the Joint Working Group between the Holy See and the World Council of Churches.

Bishop Massa spoke about the need to properly develop one’s conscience to respond to injustices such as the Holocaust. Using the example of the White Rose Society, a group of university students who were publicly against the atrocities that the Nazi regime and did so by distributing leaflets at their school and throughout Munich, Germany in early 1943.

Bishop Massa noted that the courage of the group, of whom the most well-known being Sophie Scholl, is remembered for appealing to the conscience of their countryman. Sadly, for their actions, Sophie and others were executed by guillotine. Today they stand as martyrs who show that conscience really is essential in opposing evil and restoring justice in the world.

“Interfaith dialogue has among its great truths, the belief that we can share the richness of our respective traditions and strengthen our own identity within our own tradition,” Bishop Massa stressed. “Christians and Jews need one another. And together we need the followers of the world’s great religions to plant new seeds of interreligious understanding so that the soil of the 21st Century leaves no room for violence to sow. Heart must speak to heart. That is what we need today; to enter the conscience. Why do we do this? So that the world might be healed.”