Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A Letter to Bishop Howard J. Hubbard

This is a letter from a parishioner of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany, NY, concerning the planned re-ordering of the church’s interior. Anyone familiar with the work of Father Richard Vosko will not need graphics to picture the changes referred to in the letter, which appears here with the permission of its author.

. . . State Street
Albany, New York 12210
January 22, 2007

Most Reverend Howard J. Hubbard
Bishop of Albany
40 North Main Avenue
Albany, New York 12203

Dear Bishop Hubbard,

This is a letter of respectful dissent to some of the interior plans for the cathedral, my parish for about 40 years.

I approved the exterior repair of the brownstone and contributed some appreciated stock to help in that effort. It seems that work still needs to be done on the exterior, surely the front steps.

My first concern deals with what will happen to the congregation if the church closes for two years. People will be disenchanted in worshipping in the school building and many will bond with a church near their homes.

Father Pape often refers to the fact of our coming from so many zip codes. There is no natural parish boundary after the mall and the cathedral family, like other urban groups, is fragile.

Secondly, some of Father Vosko’s ideas seem hostile to the integrity of a Victorian Gothic building. The architect’s vision should be mostly respected; it is a historical reading of its time.

With the encouragement of our pastor, we have been worshipping in a post-Vatican II atmosphere. We can pray and relate to each other no matter the antiquity of the setting. Rather, its historicity adds a rich dimension to current worship.

What if the great French cathedrals were modernized with every liturgical surge?

I have visited Irish churches which were ‘remuddled’ and they are sad physical testaments to unwise architectural reform. I rather feel John Mesick, whom I respect as a preservationist, would agree with me on the substance of the above.

To take out some of the pews, move the altar and install an elaborate new baptismal are not just aesthetically uncertain ideas; when work starts the contractors may find that these changes cannot be satisfactorily accomplished.

If more minor work was scheduled, might it be possible for the church to stay open?

One last idea, monies beyond those needed for essential repairs might be spent on the ‘social gospel’. The years ahead could be quite difficult for some of our parish family in the light of looming national problems: international debt and the short-changing of the poor, which aren’t going to magically turn around.

In summary, the electrical, floor, front steps, essential repairs should be budgeted and carried out, but a long, hard look should be taken of the architectural changes about which there is universal grave concern among the parishioners.

Most of the cathedral family is of the same mind as I.


Mrs. W— S—

See also Cathedral Pastoral Advisory Council Letter to the Diocese of Albany.


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