STEUBENVILLE - Bishop Jeffrey M. Monforton said Friday night he plans to renovate and maintain the Holy Name Cathedral as the spiritual center of the Catholic Diocese of Steubenville.
He also said Friday he plans to turn St. Mary's Catholic Church in Marietta, part of the diocese, into a minor basilica, a title of honor given to some Catholic churches. Basilica can also refer to a certain architectural style of church.
The bishop announced his decision about the Holy Name Cathedral Friday in the diocesan newspaper The Steubenville Register and Friday night at the second annual Fortnight for Freedom Mass at the cathedral.
Photo provided by the Catholic Diocese of Steubenville
Architectural renderings of the proposed exterior renovations of Holy Name Cathedral show the two bell towers that will be added to the church.
Monforton's decision effectively stops plans, originally announced by former Bishop R. Daniel Conlon in 2007, to build a new church near Catholic Central High School that would have served as the diocesan cathedral.
"I visited with consultative bodies within the diocese, bishops outside of our diocese, with my brother diocesan priests as well as with leaders of the civic and business communities. I brought the issue to prayer," Monforton said Friday night.
"This community and Holy Name Church is still the spark. My question was how can the cathedral bring hope to the region. It was like Bishop (John King) Mussio was whispering in my ear to keep the cathedral in Steubenville," Monforton said during an interview Friday night.
"The diocesan cathedral will remain Holy Name Cathedral in the city of Steubenville. We will renew and restore our cathedral. I have instructed our design engineers to prepare a plan in which Holy Name Cathedral will have state-of-the-art technology permitting everyone in the diocese to view the re-direction Mass by way of television or the Internet. The technology means we also will be able to broadcast Masses periodically from our Mother Church. I hope this electronic bridge will draw the people of our diocese closer together," continued Monforton.
The bishop was interrupted by applause four times during his closing remarks at the end of the Mass including his promise to make a weekly Mass available from the Cathedral to shut-ins through television.
"We will be installing 2014 and 2015 WiFi technology," said Monforton.
He also said the renovations will include a 24- hour, seven day a week security system, "that will include human beings and cameras. You will be able to visit the cathedral at any time of the day or night."
"We could complain and take the victim mentality and wait for someone else to do something or do it ourselves. I knew something had to be done and the answer was quite apparent and its an easy answer. A lot of good work was done by my predecessor to make sure our finances were in good shape," cited Monforton.
"I see a beautiful structure that is worn with age. But maybe this can be the springboard and create changes in the South End of the city. I have had conversations with a lot of people. This will happen. This is not a dream. This is real life. I hope to change the city's South End one building at a time and possibly work together with the library and the orthodox church," Monforton said.
"We will also memorialize the churches in the diocese that have closed since the diocese was created as well as the earlier churches that have closed over the years," commented Monforton.
"In the short term the cathedral will remain open. But there will come a time when we will have to close the cathedral in order to do the bell tower work. We also plan to remove the pews and send them out to be completely sanded down and restored to their original beauty," explained Monforton.
He also announced he plans to use businesses and workers from within the diocese.
"I know there may be some work when we don't have the contractors available in our diocese but maybe we can find those services in West Virginia," said Monforton.
Holy Name Catholic Church was built in 1890.
The church on South Fifth Street was designated the diocesan cathedral in 1945 after the eastern Ohio diocese was created.
According to Diocesan spokesperson Pat DeFrancis, the cathedral was rebuilt in 1957 when structural issues were found.
"That is when the two towers were removed. The architectural renderings call for two towers to be added to the cathedral returning the building to its original look," DeFrancis said.
Monforton said improved security at the cathedral should provide an even more positive influence on the neighborhood.
According to Monforton, $2 million was already raised from the fundraising campaign started seven years ago.
"As we move forward with the Holy Name Cathedral renovation project no additional goals will be asked of our diocesan parishes. But I do hope we will work together raising the additional $3 million necessary for the completion of the project," declared Monforton.
"The initial work will be modest at first. But I am confident our trajectory will become much greater in the coming months as we renovate from altar to front doors, from roof to basement hall," concluded Monforton.
Former Bishop R. Daniel Conlon announced plans in 2007 to explore merging six city parishes and building a new church near Catholic Central High School that would serve as the diocesan cathedral.
Conlon announced at the time the combined parishes would be called the Triumph of the Cross parish.
Plans for a new church on hold in 2011.
The diocese announced in November 2011 Conlon was considering a Plan B for a new church and he said the diocesan Finance Council voted, "that the assumption of such a large debt to construct a new parish church, which would also serve as the cathedral, is too risky."
"Plans for Triumph of the Cross Cathedral cannot move forward, despite a successful capital campaign that raised approximately $8.5 million - much of the money is being returned to parishes in the diocese for their use - and bids for the construction coming in as projected, " Conlon said in a statement issued in 2011.
At his final press conference in May 2011 Conlon still supported the idea of a new cathedral.
"I still believe there is an opportunity for the diocese to have a larger cathedral. But that decision will be up to the new bishop," Conlon told reporters.
Monforton said at his introductory press conference in 2012 he was familiar with Conlon's plans to build a new cathedral.
"There are pros and cons with any plan and that is something I will have to explore. I will not dismiss anything that has been discussed in the past," Monforton said in July 2012.