Changes for Dunedin Cathedral

1 Dunedin steps


St Joseph’s Cathedral, Dunedin, attracted a full congregation to its much heralded 10.30am Solemn Mass, on November 19, which witnessed some significant changes in the sanctuary area – which was to the satisfaction of many.

The special occasion was to welcome and acknowledge the return of two restored angel statues on either side of the high altar, as well as the return of the Blessed Sacrament from the side chapel to the refurbished tabernacle in the high altar, thereby establishing a clear central focus.

Not that the lead up to the occasion had been plain sailing. A major blow was the unavailability of the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Novatus Rugambwa, when he suffered a severe stroke in Wellington recently. It had been intended that he would celebrate the Mass.

Bishop Michael Dooley was also unavailable, as he had a commitment to celebrate Mass down at the historic Broad Bay church for the Polish community, who were celebrating special milestones over the weekend.

Then there were doubts about whether the two statues would be available in time. The compounding issues saw the main driver of the changes, Fr Vaughan Leslie, darkly mutter a comment about watching out for a plague of locusts.

An angel (unveiled) on the left of the high altar and leading to the tabernacle.

However, despite the issues which seemed to be intent on raining on the parade, the angel statues did manage to arrive from the Studio of St Philomena in Rangiora with the artist, Damian Walker, and his brother Chris, late on the Saturday afternoon. A small team then set things up ready for the Solemn Mass on Sunday.

The opening procession was accompanied by the cathedral choir singing Edward Elgar’s Ecce Sacerdos Magnus, as a tribute and acknowledgement for the recovering Archbishop. Besides the organ, there was also a trumpet adding its fanfare to the music. Fr Leslie was the main celebrant, assisted by Msgr Vincent Walker, Fr Mervyn McGettigan and Fr David Hercus.

The three concelebrants wore new, identical vestments donated to the cathedral by a well-wisher. Following the opening prayers and readings, it came time to undertake the unveiling and blessing of the repaired angels, and blessing of the restored tabernacle. Fr Leslie noted that, at this stage, the angels were “wingless”, since the newly-formed wings were still curing and drying. They should be added in early December.

(From left) Fr Mervyn McGettigan, Fr Vaughan Leslie, Msgr Vincent Walker, and artist Damian Walker

Then to the sounds of a trumpet fanfare, the two statues on either side of the high altar were unveiled. This was followed by a prayer and blessing by Fr Leslie. Next a prayer of blessing was read by Msgr Walker, with Fr Leslie incensing and blessing the high altar and restored tabernacle. It is worthy of note that Bishop Dooley and Fr Leslie combined their skills in producing important aspects in the restoration. Bishop Dooley had used his previous metal-working skills to produce the metal rods and fittings for the front of the tabernacle, while Fr Leslie had shown his fine sewing skills in producing frontals for the normal altar and lectern and the tabernacle veils, as well as fitting out the interior of the tabernacle.

Later, following Communion, the ciborium containing the consecrated hosts was carried by Fr Leslie in procession, beneath a canopy carried by four laity down the side aisle, then around and down the main aisle to the sanctuary, and up to the high altar to be placed into the tabernacle there for the first time since its restoration. During this formal procession an organ voluntary (Processional  by William Mathias) was played.

At the conclusion of Mass, the congregation assembled down the front steps to have a group photo taken on this historic occasion. After that, there was a cup of tea available up in the pastoral centre. There were even some passengers from a visiting cruise ship that enjoyed taking part in the special occasion and the hospitality.


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