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March 24, 2005 Edition

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Cathedral fire:
We have lost our home, but not our faith

One of my deepest fears is that a fire will destroy our family home. We could lose many of our precious family photos, mementoes, and heirlooms in a fire.

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St. Raphael Cathedral

But when I've thought about the possibility of a fire, I also think, "If it happened, I hope everyone would be safe. Our memories will live on despite any fire."

The same, I believe, is true of the tragic fire at our mother church, St. Raphael Cathedral. Although we grieve over the destruction of much of this historic church, we can thank God that no lives were lost. And we realize that our memories of "St. Ray's" will live on in the minds and hearts of all those touched by the church.

As Msgr. Paul Swain, the cathedral rector, said, "Our faith comes from Jesus Christ, not from a church building. Our faith can never be lost or taken away."

Importance of church. In some ways a church building is even more important than a family home. Families can move from place to place, but a church is often a familiar anchor to its members. It is where they are baptized and receive their First Communion. It is where they are confirmed or married. It is the site of their Mass of Christian Burial.

The cathedral church is also the place where priests are ordained, where bishops are installed. It is the usual location of the Chrism Mass, Holy Week services, and many diocesan functions.

Thousands of people, therefore, have special memories of St. Raphael Cathedral. Some of us have photographs or videos of these experiences to keep. Perhaps the fire will even make these mementoes more important than ever.

Much is saved. Fortunately, thanks to the marvelous work of the Madison firefighters, many religious items in St. Raphael Cathedral were preserved, too. Firefighters were able to cut through the rubble and remove the ciborium containing the Blessed Sacrament. They found the crucifix and retrieved it.

The new cathedral spire erected last fall still stands. It suffered some damage, but it is still intact - a symbol of the faith that remains strong and steadfast in the midst of life's turbulence.

Teachable moment. A fire at the cathedral the week before Holy Week could not be worse timing. But it also could not be better timing, in one sense. As we prepare for Holy Week and Easter, the fire has united Catholics in the Diocese of Madison as people from various parishes have pitched in to help the parishioners and staff of St. Raphael's.

It has also provided an opportunity for a sense of solidarity with people of other faiths in the community. Reports in the secular media have provided a great deal of information about the Catholic Church and our faith. It has been a teachable moment for Bishop Morlino and others in the diocese.

Good can come. So, while we grieve the loss of our cathedral, we can begin to see some good come of this tragedy. We know the cathedral - in some shape or form - will rise again. Just as we know we will rise again with our Risen Lord on the last day.

I encourage all of our readers to pray for the people of St. Raphael Cathedral Parish, for Monsignor Swain and the staff, and for Bishop Morlino and the Diocese of Madison during Holy Week and the weeks beyond.

We have lost our home, but we have not lost our faith. We know God will be with us as we move ahead in faith and hope. A blessed Easter to all!

Mary C. Uhler

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We reserve the right to edit or reject letters. Limit letters to 200 words or less. All letters must be signed. Please include your city or town of residence.

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Madison, WI 53744-4985

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E-mail: info@madisoncatholicherald.org
Fire: God will provide the answers

To the editor:

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St. Raphael Cathedral

Bishop Morlino asked us to remember St. John the Baptist's words whenever we looked at the new steeple of St. Raphael Cathedral: "I must decrease, he must increase."

His words still have meaning and value, even though tragedy has struck the cathedral. Perhaps we should all "become like little children" and learn once again that "Father knows best."

Of course, like little children, we will be asking "why" and then "why," and we have a right to the answers to our endless "whys." I have absolutely no doubt that the answers will come.

God will provide the answers through Bishop Morlino; through him the meaning and value of this tragedy will be explained to us. And it will then be up to us to open our hearts to the answers.

Mark Kimble, Madison

Thank firefighters for valiant work

To the editor:

The fire at St. Raphael Cathedral was indeed most tragic. Many of us who have or had ties to St. Raphael are shocked and saddened.

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St. Raphael Cathedral

I am most touched by the fact that members of the Madison Fire Department entered the building and retrieved the Eucharist, as well as the processional cross, etc. These people are to be most lauded. The fire chief and all her people deserve great praise for the excellent job that they did.

While Bishop Morlino and Msgr. Swain have probably thanked them many times, I am sure that many of us would like to thank them all for their valiant work.

Edward J. Bartosch, Waterloo

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