By Laura Keener.
While the interior of St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, Covington, has seen many additions and renovations, the exterior has remained relatively unchanged since the completion of the façade in 1910. That’s about to change.
In a letter to pastors and parish life collaborators, April 4, Bishop Roger Foys announced the “Speaking for Centuries Campaign.” The campaign will complete Bishop Camilllus Maes’ vision of the Cathedral’s lower facade by adding 24 statues and completing the two side tympana. Bishop Maes was Covington’s third bishop whose zeal and vision saw the construction of the Cathedral.
“This campaign will serve as our witness of faith and community to future generations,” Bishop Foys wrote.
Under the direction of Bishop Foys, Father Joseph Shelton, administrative assistant to the bishop, is leading the project with assistance from Deacon Jordan Hainsey, an artist and seminarian for the diocese. They are working with artisans at Liturgical Arts Studio, Philadelphia, Penn.
A cathedral, just like the Church herself, is “not just something that is supposed to be stagnant but is constantly being added to. It’s the living embodiment of the life of the diocese,” said Father Shelton in an interview about the project.
Following the plans developed by Bishop Maes, the two side tympana — both six feet in length — will be relief depictions of the Blessed Mother’s annunciation and coronation. The Cathedral’s portal tympanum, completed by 1915, depicts the Blessed Mother’s assumption into heaven, the namesake of the Cathedral.
The 24 saint statues — four buttress statues and 20 jamb statues — will be patron saints of the parishes and organizations of the diocese.
“This is a great way to show our unity — to represent every parish on the façade of the Cathedral,” Father Shelton said. “The project is meant to bind the parishes closer to the Cathedral,” said Father Shelton. Once the statues have been installed, “People can walk by the Cathedral and say, ‘That’s my parish.’”
The statues are relatively the same size, about 4-and-half feet tall. The names “buttress” and “jamb” identify the statues’ location on the Cathedral. The jamb statues will sit in the existing niches that surround each of the three doorjambs. The buttress statues will be fixed to the Cathedral’s front buttresses. A buttress is an architectural support emblematic of Gothic architecture.
Each statue will cost about $10.5 thousand, which includes installation. The saints that will be featured on the four buttresses have already been determined and funded — St. Peter, patron of the Church; St. Paul, patron of the Diocese of Covington; St. Elizabeth, patron of the diocesan sponsored healthcare system and St. Thomas More, patron of the diocesan university. Parishes are being asked to sponsor a jamb statue — either in whole or in part — depicting the patron saint of their parish. Parishes without a particular patron saint — for example, Blessed Sacrament, Divine Mercy or All Saints parishes — can still be part of the project and their generosity will not go unnoticed. Once the project is complete, a bronze plaque depicting the names of all the parishes that supported the project will be hung in the Cathedral.
“Generations to come people can come and see who came together to finish the dream,” said Michael Murray, director, Office of Stewardship and Mission Services.
Mr. Murray is working with pastors and parishioners to raise the needed funds for the campaign.
“What is exciting is everyone in our diocese can help support this project and be a part of it,” said Mr. Murray. “We want our Cathedral to be in good shape for future generations and be able to help and realize Bishop Maes’ dream: ‘to give the public a token of my love for the city by erecting in it a monument which will speak for centuries to come of the love of Christ for souls.’”
A separate project, but one that also completes Bishop Maes’ vision for the Cathedral, involves renovating the former baptistery — now a prayer space located under the choir loft — into a mausoleum. Father Shelton said that Bishop Maes had planned that a crypt be located in the Cathedral for Bishop George Carrell and Bishop Augustus Toebbe — the first and second bishops of Covington. Bishop Maes — along with the plan for the crypt — died before the project was complete. Bishop Maes, himself, will be brought home to the Cathedral he loved and placed in a sarcophagus in the mausoleum. A generous lead gift will fund this project.
Bishop Maes will be exhumed from his current resting place at St. Mary Cemetery, Ft. Mitchell, and reinterred at the Cathedral. A public funeral for the re-interment of Bishop Maes will be held June 15. Everyone is welcome to attend.
“It will be a funeral for a bishop and we’re going to try and re-create some of the details of the funeral that Bishop Maes had here,” Father Shelton said.
Bishop Maes will be vested as a bishop — alb, dalmatic, chasuble and miter — some accouterments will be from his brother bishops: he will have his own crosier but will wear Bishop Richard Ackerman’s shoes and Bishop Foys’ ring.
“Bishop Maes focused on making sure that the diocese had a proper and beautiful Mother Church. For us to be able to reinter him at the Cathedral that he helped create is a very powerful thing. In a very real way, Bishop Maes will be brought home,” said Mr. Murray.
For information on façade sponsorships and giving opportunities contact Michael Murray, director, Stewardship and Mission Services: e-mail, [email protected] or call, (859) 392-1500.