The associate professor of architecture at the University of Notre Dame spoke at the Bishop O'Connor Catholic Pastoral Center as part of the St. Thérèse of Lisieux Lecture Series.
Stroik described great cathedrals around the world and in the United States. He called them "transcendent and beautiful." From Chartes in France to St. Peter's in Rome to St. Patrick's in New York, cathedrals are "symbols of their cities," he said. "The identity of cities is derived from cathedrals."
In small cities, too
He said great cathedrals aren't limited to big cities. Many small cities have outstanding cathedrals. He pointed to Chartres. "In 12th Century France, Chartres - about one 50th the size of Madison - undertook the construction of a great cathedral," he said. "It is one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture. In a little town, they built a magnificent temple out of stone."
The Chartres cathedral spires are 25 stories high. The cathedral is 427 feet long - for you "cheeseheads," Stroik said that's one and a half football fields. After two major fires, each time the faithful of Chartres built a larger cathedral. More than 1,000 penitents dragged carts filled with stone to erect the structure.
Cathedrals in U.S.
Stroik pointed to great American cathedrals in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York City, which are located in the heart of these cities. In Baltimore, a bishop in the 1950s built another cathedral away from the downtown. But the church realized it needed a presence in the city and recently completed the restoration of the cathedral downtown.
He also pointed to great cathedrals in smaller cities, including those in Helena, Mont. (Bishop Robert C. Morlino's former diocese), Omaha, Neb., Notre Dame, Ind., and Covington, Ken.
Scourge of fire
Fires have scourged other cathedrals besides St. Raphael in Madison, he said. For example, St. Paul Outside the Wall in Rome burned down in the 1800s. It was rebuilt "bigger and better," with some elements reminiscent of the previous church but also an "evolution in design."
Likewise St. Peter's Basilica in Rome was rebuilt after a fire. It was recognized that the "site was sacred," so a new church was totally rebuilt centered on the tomb of the apostle Peter.
Stroik said the "sacredness of the site" must be taken into account in the location of a cathedral. St. Raphael Cathedral in Madison, destroyed by fire in March of 2005, was a sacred site. The cornerstone was laid in 1854. It became the cathedral church of the newly established Diocese of Madison in 1946.
He noted that St. Raphael was the tallest building in Madison until 1917, when the current state Capitol was built. A beautiful metal spire replaced the cathedral spire - erected in the 1880s - in 2004, just a year before the fire.
"St. Raphael can rise again," said Stroik. "There's a strong argument for rebuilding on the same site."
Temples stand out
He emphasized that temples are usually the greatest work of architecture in a city. "Historically it's been the temple, not the office building, apartments, or condos. Temples are bigger and grander than other buildings."
Stroik pointed out that according to St. Augustine, there are two cities: the City of God and the City of Man. The two must "talk" with each other, he said.
"The cathedral in the city should be salt and light. We look for architecture that can preach, be seen from the streets. Its placement and size has a conversation with the city architecture. The goal is to bring us all to the City of God."
Stroik prefers cathedrals to be in the city, rather than in the suburbs. Then the cathedral can be in "dialogue" with the buildings of state and academia, providing a "living room" in the public square.
That's why Stroik is a great advocate of providing a piazza, a garden or atrium with the cathedral open to the public, a place for people to gather.
Elements in cathedral
Other elements of a great cathedral he mentioned include a dome, towers or spires, a more private cloister garden, a baptistery (which used to be a separate building in earlier times), a prominent tabernacle, and smaller chapels.
Stroik explained that the cathedral is the home of the "cathedra," the bishop's chair. This represents the teaching authority of the bishop.
He said the cathedral needs a generous sized sanctuary for large liturgical events, including the Rite of Election, Chrism Mass, and ordinations.
It also needs space for offices, meeting rooms, and a rectory, as well as for the mission of charity. Stroik admitted that people may question spending money on "bricks and mortar" when the church needs to serve the needy. But he said it is important to have a cathedral with the mission of charity to the poor. "Among the poorest must be counted those without faith or hope," he said.
Stroik's PowerPoint presentation included photos and architectural sketches of many churches he has designed. These ranged from a simple church built in a farming community in Kentucky to the $30 million Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wis.
Stroik's designs reflect his commitment to the principles of classical architecture. His involvement in the new renaissance of sacred architecture has led to the formation of the Society for Catholic Liturgy and the Sacred Architecture Journal, of which he is editor.
Master's students: Find program worth its challenges
MADISON -- Last fall, Ave Maria University's Institute for Pastoral Theology (IPT) began offering a Master of Theological Studies degree program in Janesville.
And so far, the program has been successful, with nearly 20 students currently pursuing the degree.
But although the program has been called "challenging," several students interviewed said it is well worth the commitment.
Chris Schmelzer, a student in the program and a parishioner at St. Maria Goretti Parish in Madison, is involved with religious education at his parish, as well as Confirmation retreats, and has thought about the permanent diaconate. But a lot of his desire to take the program is for his own personal growth.
When the IPT program was announced here, he said, "I thought, that's something I'd really like to do. I really do enjoy studying and researching out faith."
He was expecting the courses to be very orthodox, very centered on what the church teaches, and he said the program has met his expectations.
But first semester was a "challenge, right off the bat," he said. But now that he's settled into the routine this semester, it's gotten a bit easier.
Student Kit O'Brien, who works for the Institute of Religious Life in Chicago but is taking the course mostly to learn more about her faith, said that the challenge also depends on the course. "Some subjects areas are tougher than others," she said. "But honestly, the program is so fantastic and the material is so rich, that once I sit down with the books, it's easy to get immersed in studying for a few hours at a time."
Another challenge for some is the distance to come to class. Janesville can be a far drive from the other end of the diocese - or further. Two students have even come from Indonesia specifically to take the program.
O'Brien travels every month the distance from where she lives near Chicago to get to class. She had heard about the course from an IPT graduate who is a Catholic high school teacher, who had thought it was going to be offered in Kenosha.
"But God works in funny ways," she said. "If I'd known it was that much farther than Kenosha, I might not have applied! What a huge mistake that would have been."
In addition to the drive some of those students have to make, though, the program can be time-consuming. One weekend per month is taken up with hours of lectures, and, in addition, the course work can mean several hours more studying and writing papers for each hour in class.
But O'Brien pointed out that it's only one weekend per month, so that time commitment gets spread out.
"It definitely takes a commitment, but it's manageable," said O'Brien. She said she admires the students who can balance school as well as working full-time and having young families. "For me, it's just a matter of resetting priorities."
With only one weekend per month in class, the classes seem more intense. And the material is demanding.
"This is truly a master's program," said Schmelzer. "You're really challenged with in-depth things. They really give us a depth of the history of our church and how we got to our faith today."
But the professors - whom Schmelzer and O'Brien said were "terrific," "inspiring" and well prepared - are very accessible and receptive to questions from their students.
The program is an ideal one for anyone working in a formal way for the church, O'Brien said. But it can also be a great tool for anyone who has a desire to know more about the Catholic faith.
"Doesn't it speak volumes that students will drive such distances to be in the IPT program?" O'Brien said. "That tells you that they see the value of it. In the Diocese of Madison you have a great opportunity."
Diocese of Madison, The Catholic Herald
Offices: Bishop O'Connor Catholic Pastoral Center, 702 S. High Point Road, Madison
Mailing address: P.O. Box 44985, Madison, WI 53744-4985
Phone: 608-821-3070 Fax: 608-821-3071 E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org