030101Cathedral "Wreckovation" Critics Deliver Petitions To Bishop Clark
By PAUL LIKOUDIS
ROCHESTER, N.Y. -With six TV camera crews filming, approximately 100 Rochester-area Catholics unrolled 120 feet of paper bearing the names of more than 3,000 individuals and families opposed to Bishop Matthew Clark's plan to "wreckovate" Sacred Heart Cathedral as his way of celebrating the 25th anniversary of his installation as bishop of Rochester.
The demonstration on a snowy Saturday afternoon outside Sacred Heart Cathedral was part of a February 10 weekend package of programs organized by the Sacred
Heart Preservation Committee to show the community there is significant opposition to Clark's plan.
After the public display, parishioners Margaret Nolan and Michael Brennan carried the petitions to the cathedral rectory, and attempted to deliver them to Bishop Clark. According to the young man who answered the door, the bishop was not in; but he accepted the petition and said he would place it in the "bishop's in-box."
A press conference immediately followed. Timothy Ehlen from Petoskey, Mich., a leader in the St.
Francis Xavier Preservation Guild, and Trevor Fernandes, a magistrate and deacon from Toledo, delivered brief statements and answered extensive questions from the media for nearly an hour. Many of the questions centered on the controversies that Fr. Richard Vosko has engendered in parishes where he has been brought in to redesign churches.
Later that day, to a packed house at the Hampton Inn, Ehlen and Fernandes described the struggle and opposition opponents of Clark's $2.5-3 million plan will encounter as they battle the "wreckovation disease" with its "scorched earth7 campaign.
The Diocese of Rochester declined to make any comment to inquiring media except for a written text stating the renovation was in a preliminary stage and nothing has been decided.
"These continuous denials and nondenials are wearing thin with media people, who smell something fishy," said Michael Brennan, a leading opponent of Clark's plan.
"The news media have been interviewing us for months ' " Brennan told The Wanderer, "but the diocese never has a response, so reporters are really getting curious."
Clark has chosen Richard Vosko, the Alb!anj1priest who has left
a legacy of "wreckovated" churches across the United States and Canada, to overhaul the cathedral.
According to Brennan, once word circulated that Vosko was retained by Clark, "people from all over the country started contacting us to warn us how he would operate, "
At the evening talks at the Hampton Inn, Fernandes told an unexpectedly large audience how Vosko had ruined his beautiful parish church in Toledo.
Ehlen told members of the Preservation Committee they are doing an excellent job in getting media attention focused on the proposed renovation of Sacred Heart Cathedral, and assured them that "Vosko can be beaten.".
"There are at lease three other instances where Fr. Vosko read the writing on the wall and left the renovation project midstream," he said.
"Vosko understands that if there is no money there is no project. Focus on withholding weekly collections to get your message through."
He also encouraged the opponents to organize and prepare for "a long-term fight. Get' your 501(c)3 status, adopt bylaws, form a board, elect officers, meet twice a month, hold monthly parish meetings, publish a newsletter," he advised,
In the January 28 edition of the Sacred Heart Cathedral Bulletin, the pastor, Fr. John Mulligan, offered an update on the "renovation process." Brennan, a parishioner, provided the bulletin to The Wanderer, and the questions that appear in brackets are his.
"Our liturgical design consultant, Fr. Richard Vosko, met with us [who is us?] at Sacred Heart last Wednesday to initiate our Cathedral Renovation Project. The primary agenda item was reviewing the process and the time-line for the project.
"One clarification I want to share is the membership of the Core Committee. You will recall that this committee works closely with the design professionals. It receives the recommendations from the subcommittees which in turn makes recommendations to the pastor and Parish Council and ultimately the bishop. Its membership consists of two co-chairpersons (one from the parish and one from the diocese), the pastor, a diocesan representative, and the cochairs of the six subcommittees [there is a total of seven committees].
Bishop Clark will be sending out letters of invitation to the cochairs of the Core Committee and its subcommittees in the very near future. The organizational meeting of the Core Committee will take place late in February. I am grateful to the 10 parishioners who volunteered to serve on these committees and to those who recommended another 70 parishioners for consideration. [Does this mean there are seven committees with only 10 Sacred Heart parishioners? What is the total and where did the other committee members come from?)
"Here are three other significant dates in our process: Mid-March - architect interviews. [Is this committee number 8?].
"April 25 - Fr. Vosko will meet with the priests of the diocese to present an overview of the evolution of Christian worship space [What happened to Catholic worship space?] " and the cathedral tradition and overview our cathedral project.
"May 7-9 - Public meetings at which Fr. Vosko will present an overview of the Christian worship space (Why not Catholic Christian worship space?] along with an overview of our cathedral project. These meetings will take place at various sites in the diocese with the first one likely here at Sacred Heart. [Notice the emphasis on the diocesan project with a downplay of parishioners of Sacred Heart.]
"Throughout the process participants [Who are participants? It does not say parishioners] will be given the opportunity to write what they value most about the cathedral and what they feel are the greatest needs of our cathedral. We will share this participants' input with the architects and all those who are working on the design phase of the project. Specific proposals for the renovation of Sacred Heart Cathedral will not be available until late this year or early in the year 2002.
"I hope that you find this information helpful. If you have specific questions or concerns, please share them with me realizing that we are still in a very preliminary phase of the project.
"Till next week.... Peace and love, Fr. John Mulligan, pastor."
The same issue of the bulletin of Sacred Heart, which has not been a "wealthy parish for a long time' "Brennan, notes, indicates the parish is not meeting its minimum weekly income requirement by almost $1,500.
For More Information
Michael Brennan, a Sacred Heart parishioner, established a web site that covers renovations in the Rochester Diocese, with video photos of churches in various stages of renovation. The address is: community.webtv.net/crproc/.
The project to preserve the cathedral, he said, has been greatly assisted by Catholics from around the country that he has become involved with over the Church renovation e-mail group, moderated by Michael Rose, author of The Renovation Manipulation, email@example.com.