Two years ago, in November 2011, I told the story of the iconic Crystal Cathedral, facing bankruptcy and forced dissolution, and the last-minute decision to accept the bid of the Diocese of Orange, rather than from competing bidder Chapman University.
At the time, I interviewed Tim Busch, corporate counsel for the Diocese of Orange who had helped to broker the deal. Tim told me that as the deal drew to a close, one member of the Crystal Cathedral’s board told him as the court proceedings drew to an end, “I like the way you guys have handled this, and I’m going to convert to Catholicism.” A few days later in the courtroom, she walked up to the bishop and repeated that.
I asked Tim whether he had any personal thoughts about the sale, or about the long road that had brought the Diocese of Orange to this point. He answered easily: “Highlight that the Holy Spirit was involved, and that He changed hearts.”
It’s really such a good story, with an unlikely ending. Go back and check it out!
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One year later—on November 3, 2012—the Diocese opened the doors of the worship space, now renamed Christ Cathedral, for the Magnificat Day of Faith. It was the first major Catholic prayer service to be held in the building, and it was broadcast nationally.
The day-long get-together of the faithful included liturgical prayer, outstanding presentations by leading Catholic thinkers, magnificent renderings of sacred music, and much more.
* * * * *Now, finally, the Diocese is closing the building for the extensive remodeling which is needed if the space is to be used for Catholic liturgies.
In my original article, I talked about what renovations would be necessary.
Well, of course, Catholic worship requires an altar on which to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. In addition, Bishop Brown will be outfitting the church—built in the tradition of the Reformed Church of America—with an ambo, a presidential chair, a tabernacle, candles, and a baptismal font. The current seating will be replaced with more typical pews (and kneelers).
Only the organ—with 273 rank, five manual pipes—will remain and will be used in worship. The grand organ incorporates both the Aeolian-Skinner organ built in 1962 for New York’s Avery Fisher Hall, and the Ruffatti organ which had been installed in the church’s earlier sanctuary.
And now the time has come. The California Catholic Daily reported on November 28 that the edifice would close on December 1:
Beginning Sunday, the newly named Christ Cathedral will be closed for construction as crews launch a $29-million effort to restore the more than 75,000-square-foot space.
The diocese has been working with liturgical consultants and architects to modify the cathedral built in the vision of the Rev. Robert Schuller into one that meets the requirements to serve as the headquarters for Orange County’s Catholic community of more than 1.2 million people.
“The beauty and inspiration evoked by the cathedral grounds and its architecture are only surpassed by the extraordinary communities of faith that now call this campus home,” Bishop Kevin Vann said in a statement.
“The cathedral will be an international center of faith and evangelization, a vessel for the love of God, a beacon of faith, a home for neighbor and traveler, and a sanctuary for the human spirit.”
The bishop announced in September that two architectural firms, Johnson Fain and Rios Clementi Hale Studios, were selected to lead the design process.
One of the first steps in the renovation will be to remove the pipe organ — said to be one of the largest in the world — so it can be shipped to Italy and refurbished in time for the cathedral’s reopening, set for 2016.