We know what it’s like to lose a cathedral Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler   
Thursday, Apr. 25, 2019 -- 12:00 AM

On the morning of March 14, 2005, I was awakened with news that smoke was billowing out of the roof, spire, and bell tower of St. Raphael Cathedral in downtown Madison.

Our reporter then, Julianne Nornberg, traveled quickly to the scene of the fire, which had started at 5:31 a.m. Firefighters were on the scene at 5:39 a.m., and they worked to control the fire caused — we found out later — by an arsonist.

Destruction of cathedral

Unfortunately, the fire destroyed the roof of St. Raphael Cathedral, which collapsed into the church. The 150-year-old church was destroyed. A new spire, which had been raised to the top of the cathedral’s spire in 2014, was saved.

st raphael fire
Above, Madison fire fighters carry the ciborium containing the Blessed Sacrament out of the smoldering ruins of St. Raphael Cathedral in Madison in 2005. Below, debris surrounds  the Pieta in Notre Dame Cathedral April 16, a day after a fire destroyed much of the church's wooden structure.  (Catholic Herald file photo, above; CNS photo/Christophe Petit Tesson, Reuters, below)
notre dame

Madison firefighters reverently retrieved the ciborium containing the Blessed Sacrament (see picture) so that Msgr. Paul Swain, then the cathedral rector (now Bishop of Sioux Falls, S.D.), might secure it in a neighboring parish.

The cathedral in the Diocese of Madison has yet to be rebuilt.

Sympathy with people of Paris

People in our diocese definitely can sympathize with the people of Paris in the destruction wrought by the fire at Notre Dame, which seems to be linked to renovation work being done at the cathedral built between 1163 and 1245.

Our Diocesan Administrator Msgr. James Bartylla commented, “Our sympathies go to the Archbishop of Paris and the faithful. We pray for the safety of everyone, including the firefighters, and empathize with their great loss, for we too in the Diocese of Madison know the spiritual pain over the loss of a Cathedral. We pray the Blessed Sacrament, Our Lord Jesus Christ, was able to be safely removed from the burning Cathedral.

“The faithful of Paris have lost a magnificent home, but the family of faith remains. In that faith, we join in prayer with our brothers and sisters in Paris over their loss, and entrust them to the heart of the Cathedral’s titular, Our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary.”

Many of Notre Dame’s holy objects and treasures survived the fire. I was happy to hear that, since I had visited Notre Dame and attended Mass at the cathedral many years ago.

Hopefully Notre Dame will be restored to its former glory, since many pledges are already coming in to rebuild it. Let us continue to pray for the people of France as we also pray for the building of our own cathedral in Madison in the years ahead.