New York City’s most famous cathedral is almost finished being renovated, the Wall Street Journal reported recently, and just in the nick of time — with Pope Francis’s U.S. visit inching closer, and with St. Patrick’s Cathedral serving as a focal point for his NYC visit, it simply wouldn’t do to have the church surrounded by scaffolding or to have marble stones from the exterior breaking off and crumbling.
Even for the average home or commercial building, exterior problems such as worn siding can cause the property’s value to decrease by as much as 10% — and for a cathedral that is, to many religious people, invaluable, it’s not surprising that the Catholic Church would put so much effort into a renovation project.
According to the WSJ, the project has taken about three years and has cost $177 million; when the exterior marble decorations began to discolor and break off as a result of environmental damage, church officials decided it was time to give the entire building a facelift.
“St. Patrick’s Cathedral was falling down,” said Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who took over managing the renovation project after New York Archbishop Cardinal Edward Egan passed away.
“Literally,” Cardinal Dolan said, “stones were falling.”
The project has been running “in fits and starts” since 2006, but because of the Pope’s impending visit this fall, church officials decided that no expense could be spared; the Cathedral’s renovation simply had to be ready for a papal procession.
The majority of the funding was given by private donors, the Church stated. Even non-Christian New Yorkers contributed to the project, which speaks to how much the community values St. Patrick’s.
Another surprising, albeit comical, way that the Cathedral has been saving money for the renovations is by “hiring” a few sheep to keep the graveyard grounds trimmed.
Communications Director Frank Alfieri told PIX 11 News that the sheep were suggested as a joke initially.
“Our groundskeeper retired,” Alfieri stated, “and the monsignor said, ‘Oh, what are we going to do? Get sheep?”
That’s just what they did. Not only will Pope Francis be able to see St. Patrick’s Cathedral in all its glory when he visits NYC on September 24 and 25 — but he might also get to meet the newest fuzzy helpers, Mulberry, Mott and Elizabeth, as well.
When it comes to building a church, it really does take a whole community to make it happen.