Two architecture firms chosen to transform Crystal Cathedral

Bishop Kevin W Vann blesses the newly announced architects of the Christ Cathedral renovation project on Sept 18 2013 Credit Diocese of Orange CNA 9 18 13 Bishop Kevin W. Vann blesses the newly announced architects of the Christ Cathedral renovation project on Sept. 18, 2013. | Diocese of Orange.

Bishop Kevin W. Vann of Orange, Calif., announced the selection of two firms to collaborate in renovating the "Crystal Cathedral" into a Catholic cathedral at the diocese's annual prayer breakfast yesterday morning.

"The Crystal Cathedral is an established international landmark and is much lauded for its architectural inspiration and iconic stature…Johnson Fain and Rios Clementi Hale Studios have the experience and ability to respect the building's original design inspiration while creating a fitting and functional spiritual home for Orange County's 1.3 million Catholics," Bishop Vann stated Sept. 18 at the eighth annual Orange County Catholic Prayer Breakfast, held in the structure's glass facade.

"These two firms see this important work as more than a renovation project, but as a reflection of God and his people on earth."

The Diocese of Orange purchased the 3,000-seat Crystal Cathedral in February of 2012 from the Protestant church which founded it. The purchase was made after Crystal Cathedral had filed for bankruptcy in October 2010 when some of its creditors sued for payment. The diocese purchased it for $57.5 million under Bishop Vann's predecessor, Bishop Tod Brown.

The architectural landmark is made from over 10,000 panes of glass, and its interior must be renovated to make it suitable for Catholic worship.

From the 24 firms which responded to the diocese's request for proposals, Johnson Fain and Rios Clementi Hale Studios were chosen to work on the renovation of the 34 acre, seven-building campus which is home to what has now been renamed 'Christ Cathedral.'

According to a statement from the Orange diocese, "the architects were asked to reimagine the Christ Cathedral to support the celebration of Catholic liturgy and the Eucharist, while maintaining the architectural splendor of the reflective glass façade of the building."

The prayer breakfast was also an opportunity for leaders among Orange's Catholic community to be informed of the encouraging process that has already been made in a capital campaign that will fund the renovation as well as other apostolates in the diocese.

Cindy Bobruk, executive director of the Orange Catholic Foundation, which is managing the capital campaign, told CNA Sept. 17 that the campaign has been successful because it is an opportunity for parishioners in the diocese "to be part of the living history of our diocese – to be able to watch this transformation take place, and actually invest in the transformation."

The campaign, which was launched one year ago at the last Orange County Catholic Prayer Breakfast, has raised $60 million of its $100 million goal.

"We thought this was a wonderful opportunity to circle back to that same group it was announced to, and give them an update on where we are."

Just over half of the campaign goal, $53 million, is earmarked for the renovation of the Christ Cathedral campus. The rest of the money will go to various diocese initiatives.

Sixteen million will go to Catholic education, and another $16 million will be returned to parishes; $6 million is for the annual Pastoral Services Appeal, which supports diocesan ministries, tuition, Catholic Charities, and clergy formation; and $2 million will be used to build an endowment fund for retired priests.

Bobruk said this capital campaign is "the very first time we've done a diocesan-wide fund raising appeal to every parishioner," and it has been "very broad-based."

Around 14,000 households in Orange County have contributed to the campaign, and Bobruk remarked that it is "really is the peoples' campaign. We're reaching out to as many people as possible, and we have a motto that every gift counts."

"It's not an equal size gift, but it's an equal sacrifice, so that's a message we've woven through this campaign."

The campaign is being conducted in two phases: 36 of the diocese's 62 parishes have already completed their portion, which lasted from January to July. The remaining 26 parishes are "in campaign mode right now," which will last for them until December.

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Bobruk drew particular attention to the emblematic role of the diocese's priests as participants in the capital campaign.

"So far 116 of our priests, including our bishop, have really led by example and have made sacrificial gifts totaling over $707,000."

She explained that the firm assisting the Orange Catholic Foundation in the campaign has said "they've never experienced this type of support from the presbyterate in the past," and added that when it is dedicated, likely in 2015 or 2016, Christ Cathedral's altar "will be given and named in honor of all our priests in our diocese."

Bobruk attributed the campaign's success to the special opportunity to "really invest" in the diocese and to "walk in this historic and transformational time."

Ryan Lilyengren, communications director for the Diocese of Orange, added that the enthusiastic participation in the capital campaign "speaks to Catholics in Orange County really wrapping their arms around the idea of having a central spiritual location for worship, and they have really gotten behind transforming this used-to-be evangelical center into something that's really Catholic and is a cathedral of their own."

Concluding his comments at this morning's prayer breakfast, Bishop Vann reflected that "Orange County is a bustling place, with lots of noise and traffic and endless activity, a place where we can often feel isolated. The day when the Cathedral in Garden Grove becomes our center of gravity, we as Catholics will make believers and non-believers our welcome guests."

"We and they will find it a place of refuge. Our Cathedral will be a place for involvement in the sacraments, a place to hear the Word of God proclaimed and a place for personal prayer and devotion. It will be a holy place where God dwells among us."

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