HARTFORD – Immediately after the Father’s Day Mass on June 19, Archbishop Leonard P. Blair blessed and dedicated a new addition to the Cathedral of St. Joseph that is intended to make the Archdiocese of Hartford’s mother church of worship more accessible and enjoyable for parishioners and visitors from throughout Connecticut and beyond.
The new 3,000-square-foot, three-level addition includes an elevator, drinking fountains and 16 lavatories to meet the capacity of the cathedral, which seats up to 2,000 people.
Located on the west side of the cathedral, the addition is best accessed from the Asylum Avenue parking lot immediately behind the cathedral. A new circular driveway also allows people to be dropped off directly in front of the west entrance.
“We should be very grateful that God has blessed this diocese with such a magnificent cathedral to his honor and glory,” Archbishop Leonard P. Blair said in his welcome address during the Mass, “one that also lifts us up in spirit and in prayer.”
Following the Mass, donors, cathedral staff, parishioners and visitors gathered on the top floor of the addition along with Archbishop Emeritus Henry J. Mansell and Father James A. Shanley, rector of the cathedral, for the blessing and dedication ceremony.
Father Shanley recalled the history of the cathedral, saying that one of his parishioners told him about a day more than 30 years ago when disabled people protested outside the cathedral over restricted access.
“We’ve come a long way here at the cathedral through much, much work, much generosity,” he said, “and we know that in our world today we try to include all people at all events and try to make our buildings, especially our churches, accessible to all.”
Father Shanley also thanked the executive committee of the “Our Gift for Tomorrow” campaign and the many donors for their support.
Peter Kelly, chair of the executive committee during the first few years of its fundraising drive, also recalled the tragic fire in 1956 that demolished the original brownstone and wood cathedral and the subsequent rebuilding of the current cathedral in reinforced cast concrete and limestone, which was completed in 1962.
Archbishop Blair thanked the donors of the current campaign and “all who had a hand in making the project a reality.”
“I do want to single out Archbishop Mansell,” he said, “because the initiative to do this and the leadership to do it, and also to do it in a way that is truly beautiful and worthy of the cathedral, is thanks to him.”
Archbishop Blair then asked for God’s blessing: “With praise and thanksgiving, let us now ask God through whom all things are accomplished to bless this new entrance and elevator.”
After group prayers, Archbishop Blair sprinkled holy water throughout the interior.
Father Shanley invited the attendees to explore the three levels of the structure and its outdoor areas. “Please, on this glorious day, make yourselves at home. It’s your cathedral, the mother church of the archdiocese,” Father Shanley said.
The construction project, which began in October 2014, was financed by donations from more than 100 leadership and major donors. In-kind gifts were donated by Manafort Brothers Inc., O&G Industries Inc. and the Otis Elevator Co.
The new addition is part of a series of renovations to the cathedral. Future improvements will include the restoration of its steeple and main plaza as well as renovation of the lower cathedral.
To complement the new addition, the Cathedral Council Knights of Columbus is currently funding a multiyear landscaping initiative, which will include a lawn and gardens on the west side of the cathedral. According to Mike McGarry of the Knights of Columbus, the council hired a landscape architect and collaborated on the plan.
Just in time for the dedication, Manafort Brothers put in a lawn and the Knights planted annual flowers in front of the cathedral with plans to add perennials over time. Future plans call for a rose garden, shade garden, sun garden and sitting areas, Mr. McGarry said.
“Eventually,” he said, “we hope to make it nice enough for people to take wedding pictures there.”