Archive for October 4th, 2013

And a good day to pray for the Pope


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Rose window, Sacred Heart Cathedral

I heard on a Catholic newscast that the bishop of Gaylord, Michigan, is to be transferred to Newark, New Jersey, where is to be adjunct bishop.

Someone in the Vatican apparently has a cruel sense of humor. I can think of no two places more different in every way: physically, culturally, racially, aesthetically.

I am familiar with both places. My mom grew up thirty miles or so north of Gaylord, and when I was a kid we camped nearby. Later, in high school, we owned a cabin ten miles or so west of the town. And though my sister lives in the sticks (literally) she works in Gaylord and that is her mailing address.

And I visited Newark once, in the late 80s, with a fellow CFR postulant, Francisco, when we dropped in on a Puerto Rican friend of his in a rough neighborhood and then went on to Sacred Heart Cathedral, which took my breath away.


The “Alpine” village

Gaylord Michigan lies in the northern part of the lower peninsula. While, like most places, it was nicer thirty or forty years ago than it is today, compared to some of the lovelier places in northern Michigan, it never really was very attractive. Somewhere along the line, in the early 60s or so, the town fathers decided that they needed a gimmick, so Gaylord became the “Alpine Village”, and soon most of the businesses were adorned with phony Swiss chalet fronts.

There is no history of Swiss or Tyrollean settlement in the town; the Tyrollean theme was pure show business.

The town has a year round population of a few thousands, swelling with tourists in the summer.  That population is around 96% white, with a smattering of Native Americans and blacks. The locals are not all affluent by any means, but the poverty here is rural.


Near Gaylord

For all its phony Swiss tackiness, Gaylord is surrounded by woodlands, with lots of lakes and swift streams, all of which attract tourists, as do the ski areas and abundant snowmobile trails in the winter. And the forests and lakes attract hunters and fishermen.


Welcome to Newark

Newark on the other hand, is a poster child for “urban wasteland”. Non-Hispanic whites comprise around 11% of the population. Crime and poverty are endemic, the streets rough, economic opportunities few.

But the good bishop’s changes are not all so jarring, though I wonder at how he will make the transition.

The cathedral in Gaylord is pretty soulless, the kind of church building that dates from the dark ages of church architecture, the sort of thing that could be described as something from the “What were they thinking?” school of church architecture. Nondescript is not even an adequate term for what looks like a bank building, with an incongruous  bell tower out front:


St Mary’s Cathedral, Gaylord


Interior, St Mary’s

Newark’s cathedral, on the other hand, is a very jewel  of the Catholic church in the United States. Though not as well known as its neighbor eight miles away in Manhattan, the celebrated St Patrick’s, Sacred Heart Cathedral is every bit as beautiful:


Sacred Heart Cathedral


Interior, Sacred Heart

I posted, some time ago, a photo essay  featuring the cathedral on this blog (as I cannot figure out how to make links with MacBook, you can search “newark” on the blog and it will turn up)

So, this bishop, whose name is Bernard Hebda, is about to embark on quite a transition.

Let us pray for him, that he make the adjustment well, and that he be attuned to the beauty of the urban poor in his diocese just as much as he is bound to be impressed by the beauty of his new cathedral.

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