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Bishop rededicates Winona cathedral

By John Weiss

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

WINONA — Amid ancient symbols and rituals, the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart was rededicated Tuesday in Winona to bring it into the 21st century.

An invitation-only crowd filled the cathedral — the mother church of the 115 parishes of the Catholic Diocese of Winona — to see about 100 clergy including a cardinal, two archbishops and 18 bishops in a two-hour ceremony of hymns, incense and pageantry to rededicate the cathedral and to dedicate its new altar.

In the past 1 1/2 years, the cathedral near downtown Winona had the altar moved to the other side of the main worship space. The renovation added better lighting and acoustics, and a new altar. The gathering space and some other parts of the $5.5 million project are expected to be done within a year.

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While the renovation is new, the ceremony used symbols such as holy oil and incense derived from the Old Testament. The altar contains relics of about 40 saints.

To dedicate the altar and rededicate the church, Bishop Bernard Harrington of the Winona Diocese smeared holy oil on the altar and used it to bless the walls. Incense was used to bless the altar and people.

For the ceremony, fourth-degree Knights of Columbus in feathered hats and silk capes led the way into the cathedral followed by deacons, priests, bishops, archbishops and Cardinal Adam Maida of the Archdiocese of Detroit.

"This is a day of great rejoicing," the bishop said at the beginning of the Mass.

In a sense, the ceremony was like Baptism, said the cardinal. The ritual used holy oil and other symbols just like that sacrament. "Everything in the Christian life begins with baptism; it flows from there," he said.

Judith O’Fallon of Rochester was among the laity, and she sang with joy. "I love to sing, I just love to sing," she said. "(It’s) a way to give honor to God."

It was her first time in the renovated space. "I think it’s a big improvement over what it was before," she said.

Switching the altar to the other side allows people to fully see a large stained-glass window. And better acoustics let them hear the priest and the songs, she said.

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Harrington was also impressed with what he saw and heard. He thanked many people and companies for the work they did in designing and renovating the cathedral.

"This church rocked today," he said. "It rocked with prayer, and it rocked with song."

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