Way of the Cross being built on cathedral site Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Written by Mary C. Uhler, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012 -- 12:00 AM
A composite photo shows the new Way of the Cross being built on the site of St. Raphael Cathedral in Madison. (Catholic Herald photo by Kat Wagner)

MADISON -- A Way of the Cross is being built on the St. Raphael Cathedral site in downtown Madison.

“This Way of the Cross will help us to recover the sacred character of the cathedral site,” said Msgr. Kevin Holmes, rector/pastor of St. Raphael Cathedral Parish.

“The new Way of the Cross will offer Catholics an opportunity to reconnect with the St. Raphael property as a place of devotion,” he explained.

“Spending time at the Way of the Cross will help us look forward to the day when the site will be made even more beautiful by the erection of a new cathedral.”

Plans for Way of the Cross

The Way of the Cross begins on the site of the old school building on West Washington Ave. and winds through the property to the corner of Main and Henry St. This high spot affords a beautiful view to the west, noted Monsignor Holmes.

The path then will go uphill, recalling the Lord’s ascent to Calvary, but with a gentle enough grade to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The path will be composed of crushed red granite (recalling the red of the Precious Blood). This path will include 14 crosses, which will be flush with the ground and paved with slate.

The stations will be numbered with polished granite disks at the center of each, bearing a Roman numeral surrounded by a crown of thorns.

“There will be no standing statuary or crosses to prevent graffiti and other vandalism,” said Monsignor Holmes.

All materials used in the Way of the Cross will be from Wisconsin.

Stone from cathedral

Stone from the old St. Raphael Cathedral will be used in benches at the beginning and the end of the Way of the Cross.

St. Raphael Cathedral was severely damaged by a fire on March 14, 2005. The cathedral was 150 years old at the time of the fire, which was determined to be caused by an arsonist, William Connell, who is currently serving a prison sentence.

The Way of the Cross as installed will occupy the site only until a new cathedral is built, said Monsignor Holmes.

However, the intention is to use the benches on the grounds of the new cathedral and to use he stations either as a whole (repositioned) or in part (the number markers) for a new interior or exterior  Way of the Cross that will be part of the new cathedral, said Monsignor Holmes.


Plantings with the Way of the Cross will recall the Passion of Christ, too.

A “garden” recalling the Garden of Gethsemane will introduce the First Station.

Another “garden,” with many flowering white plantings, will surround the Fourteenth Station (the Burial of Christ), recalling the garden in which the Lord was buried and his Resurrection.

Along the Way of the Cross, some plantings evocative of the Holy Land and others that flower in red will decorate the path.

Use of the Way of Cross

Besides being available for private devotion, the Way of the Cross will also be available for organized, public praying of the Stations of the Cross.

“When the weather cooperates, it will be the ideal setting for the Living Way of the Cross that the Hispanic members of the Cathedral Parish hold on Good Friday,” said Monsignor Holmes.

“It will also be a really beautiful green space in the heart of our city, which should be attractive (and an invitation!) to all people of good will,” he said.

Purchase of property

Erecting the Way of the Cross was made possible by the purchase of the former St. Raphael School building at the corner of Henry St. and W. Washington Ave. last year.

Until the fire in 2005, St. Raphael Cathedral had stood on W. Main St. in the second block west of the Capitol Square. The land where the cathedral had stood and its former parking lot were then planted with grass.

In 2007, Bishop Robert C. Morlino announced that the St. Raphael Cathedral church would be rebuilt on the site of the present church in downtown Madison. Plans to rebuild the cathedral have been put on hold.

Two other buildings associated with the old cathedral were still standing on that block. They appeared to be a single building running along Henry St. from W. Main St. to W. Washington Ave. In fact, Monsignor Holmes pointed out, they were two buildings constructed at different times, but they shared a common wall.

The building closer to Main St. was the cathedral rectory; the building closer to W. Washington Ave. was the parish school. The Cathedral School was closed in the early 1970s, and that building subsequently was sold.

Efforts to purchase the former school were underway for several years, said Monsignor Holmes. The original asking price was several times the market value. Developments last year made it possible for the parish to negotiate a reasonable price for the building and property.

Funds designated for the building of a new cathedral (principally the insurance settlement from the cathedral fire) were used to make the purchase.

The buildings were torn down this summer to make room for the new Way of the Cross, which is being funded with the help of donations.

Blessing of Way of the Cross

Bishop Morlino will bless the new Way of the Cross on Friday, Sept. 14, at 11 a.m. on the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross.

People who come to the blessing will be welcome to attend the 12:10 p.m. Mass at St. Patrick Church in downtown Madison.

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