Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Bishop and the Cathedra

Deacon John Johnson, chancellor of the diocese, delivered the new cathedra to Holy Family this morning. The Catholic Encyclopedia says that the cathedra is the "chair or throne of a bishop in his cathedral church, on which he presides at solemn functions." It is the presence of this chair that gives Holy Family Cathedral its name.

The new cathedra joins a long history of bishops' thrones in Holy Family. In 1931, the pope designated Holy Family a co-cathedral with Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Oklahoma City. The bishops of Oklahoma between Tulsa and Oklahoma City to preside in their co-cathedral churches.

In 1973, the pope split Oklahoma into two dioceses and chose Bernard J. Ganter to be the first bishop of Tulsa. Bishop Ganter was the former Vicar-General of the Diocese of Galveston-Houston. He served Tulsa until 1977, when the pope moved him to be the first bishop of the Diocese of Beaumont, Texas.

In the photo to the left, Bishop Ganter sits on his cathedra, a tufted leather chair that looked a bit out of place in a Gothic church.

An upholstered green chair soon replaced the leather cathedra. The green upholstery was a reminder of the episcopal green color associated with diocesan bishops. [The current green carpet under the cathedra is similar to episcopal green.]

By Christmas of 1983, the most recent cathedra was in place in the apse of the Cathedral. That chair and its twin had been retired during an earlier renovation. During Bishop Eucebius Beltran's time, both chairs were refinished. One was shortened and has become the current celebrant's chair - the chair where the Rector or any other presiding priest might sit. The cathedra was left tall and finished in gold paint to match the sanctuary tables.

The new cathedra is wide and quite tall. It complements a Gothic church nicely. The chair is in need of some work. Fabric and padding will fit in between the upright wooden slats.

Future blog posts will cover the refinishing of the new cathedra.

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