Laura Keener, Editor.
For 28 years Berry Mang has been unlocking and locking the doors at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, Covington. Last month he officially hung up his keys. Bishop Roger Foys, Father Ryan Maher, rector, and the Cathedral community joyfully celebrated, Sunday, Feb. 23, the retirement of the beloved curator.
“For over 28 years Berry Mang has served St. Mary’s Cathedral Parish with selfless dedication,” said Father Maher. “Berry has given these years of his life to faithful and outstanding service not only to the clergy and parishioners of the Cathedral, but also to an untold number of guests and visitors over his years of ministry at the Cathedral Basilica. Berry faithfully carried out his ministry everyday and on weekends, doing so much behind the scenes to help ensure that the Cathedral is a welcoming place and that everything was prepared and in order for liturgical services. On behalf of the Cathedral clergy, staff and parishioners, and many guests and visitors, I wish Berry a very blessed, grace filled and healthy retirement.”
Mr. Mang’s daily presence and gentle care of the cathedral and the people who worship and visit there has earned him the moniker “Mr. Cathedral.” His official title was Facilities Manager and Director of Volunteers.
He began his ministry in 1992, not long after he and his wife, Carol, converted to Catholicism. The couple was married in 1965. They met at St. Elizabeth Hospital — she was in nursing school and he was working his way through college as an x-ray technician. The year after his graduation the couple married. This year they will celebrate their 55th anniversary together — a long time.
“It’s been longer for her,” he laughs. “I got the better end of that deal.”
Mrs. Mang volunteers at the Cathedral as an usher and greeter.
“We work well together,” Mr. Mang said, noting that his wife is the oldest of 7 children and “a great organizer. I’m an only child so I come up with crazy ideas. That’s a good team — one has ideas and the other has organization.”
During his time at the Cathedral he was also head of the Cathedral Foundation for three years and Parish Council president for five years. When talking with Mr. Mang you quickly realize that he prefers to talk about other people than himself. He has worked for three bishops — Bishop William Hughes, Bishop Robert Muench and Bishop Roger Foys — and five rectors, Father Raymond Hartman, Father John Cahill, Msgr. William Cleves, Msgr. William Neuhaus and Father Ryan Maher, respectively.
“It’s been a great experience, they are all good people,” he said.
Msgr. Stanley Fleming began Mr. Mang’s Christian initiation instructions when he was entering the Church; Father Hartman was the rector who, in 1992, administered the sacraments of initiation. Not long after that Father Hartman was assigned to Mother of God Parish, Covington.
“I would tease him that as soon as I joined he decided to go elsewhere,” he said.
Father Cahill, Mr. Mang said, was instrumental in positioning the Cathedral as a welcoming place for visitors to worship and visit.
“He started the greeter program and the docent program; he built off of suggestions from parish council,” he said.
Recently, the docent program has been reenergized and the number of docents has increased “thanks to Steve Enzweiler,” he said. Mr. Enzweiler was recently named Cathedral historian.
Mr. Mang said that the Cathedral receives “a tremendous amount visitors from around the country and the world.”
A conservative estimate, he said, is about 15,000 a year. He said that visitors increased exponentially after the building of “The Ark” exhibit in Williamstown. “You might say we’re spillover from The Ark,” he quipped.
And while the Cathedral may not have been first on the visitor’s list, Mr. Mang said that the Cathedral awes visitors.
“Usually, they come through the door and look up. Some even say ‘wow!’ Then, after they settle down a little bit, the next question is, ‘Can we take pictures?’” he said.
About the current rector, Mr. Mang said, “Father Maher is an outrageous human being, so gentle and so wonderful to people. He has been very good for this parish.”
In addition to booking tours, Mr. Mang’s duties at the Cathedral includes assigning ushers for each Mass. A typical weekend Mass will require six ushers, larger liturgical events require more. There are about 30 ushers on the roster at the Cathedral.
“We make sure the Communion line goes well so there is no confusion, help people get seated, especially if there is reserved seating,” he said.
One of the most important tasks is “Making sure the door is open so the Bishop can get in. I always try to meet him out at the gate.”
Mr. Mang said that the installation Mass of Bishop Muench and the ordination and installation Mass of Bishop Foys were among the highlights of his career.
At Bishop Muench’s installation heavy rain exposed a leaky roof and a section of the cathedral had to be closed. That unfortunate incident may have been a driving factor in Bishop Muench’s restoration of the Cathedral — another highlight.
The recent entombment of Bishop Camillus Maes at the Cathedral was another historic event for Mr. Mang. “That was a wonderful thing that took place and Bishop Foys was totally responsible for making that happen,” he said. “It’s hard to say anything except good things about Bishop Foys, he has just been wonderful. He has reestablished the Church and got programs going again that we had years ago.”
Bishop Hughes, Mr. Mang said, “was exceptionally warm and gracious.”
Mr. Mang and Bishop Hughes shared a love for college football. Mr. Mang was a high school referee for 35 years and Bishop Hughes was a big University of Notre Dame fan.
“I would see Bishop Hughes and ask how are the boys going to do and he would say, ‘I don’t know.’ Notre Dame had some tough years but he never gave up hope,” he said.
About the three bishops, Mr. Mang said, “I have experienced the kindest people I know in these three gentlemen.” Adding, “All the rectors have been outstanding individuals and the Bishops have been unbelievable — we have been so blessed.”
Above all, Mr. Mang has enjoyed serving the people of the Diocese of Covington. “It’s amazing the spiritual wealth that our diocese has (in its people),” he said.
Mr. Mang’s favorite place inside the Cathedral is the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. “It’s quiet and the Eucharist is in the tabernacle. You can slide in and pray and just be; stay for a little breather then go back to work,” he said.
Another favorite place is the Cathedral garden — another place of tranquility. Mr. Mang marvels at the development of the Cathedral square which includes not only the Cathedral and its garden but also renovations at Covington Latin School, the building of the Curia and establishing the Cathedral Parish Offices on the corner of 11th and Madison.
“This whole block has been developed beautifully,” he said. “One of the nicest things that happened when we moved the offices out of the rectory is the cooperation between the Curia and the Cathedral staffs is more intimate now.”
While Mr. Mang does not have any immediate plans for his retirement, he said that he and Carol will continue to volunteer at the Cathedral. “We have been so blessed,” he said.
“Berry Mang has given almost three decades of uninterrupted service to our beloved Cathedral Basilica in Covington,” said Bishop Foys. “His ministry was far reaching and all inclusive. To call him Mr. Cathedral would not be a stretch! He has an intimate working knowledge of every facet of life at our Cathedral Basilica and has given himself selflessly in every way imaginable.
“I offer him, on my own behalf and on behalf of every Cathedral parishioner and anyone and everyone who has ever visited our Cathedral, my profound gratitude for giving himself so fully over so many years. I know that his love of the Cathedral is sincere and that he will not be a stranger to us now that he is retiring from the day-to-day management of every detail of overseeing our Cathedral. I wish him well as he begins a well-deserved retirement!”