Why does the Diocese of Orange need a large new cathedral?

The Diocese of Orange has grown from 44 parishes and 300,000 Catholics in 1976 to 62 parishes and more than 1.5 million faithful today. As the nation’s 10th-largest diocese, the Diocese of Orange needs a cathedral large enough to accommodate major liturgies and grounds with enough seating for major celebrations.

Because Holy Family Cathedral has a capacity of just 800, its worship space is inadequate for Diocesan celebrations. The renovated Christ Cathedral will provide seating for approximately 2,100, a suitable space for celebrating large Masses. Outdoor liturgical venues on the campus will be capable of seating as many 20,000 for even larger celebrations.

Why was the Crystal Cathedral the best choice for a Catholic cathedral site?

While plans were underway to build a new cathedral in Santa Ana, the Diocese was offered the providential opportunity in late 2012 to purchase the Crystal Cathedral campus. This acquisition provides more than a cathedral – it provides space that can support the many ministries of the Church. As extensive as the Crystal Cathedral renovations are, the price tag is far less than construction of new facilities.

What do the renovation plans for Christ Cathedral include?

Renovation has been broken into distinct phases. Phase One will address the worship level of the cathedral and major infrastructure elements. Also included in Phase One is the one acre-plus expansion of the Cathedral Memorial Gardens cemetery, which will offer needed interment space and serve as an important revenue-generating channel.

Later phases of work will include the cathedral courtyard; a reflection garden to house the existing campus statuary and most of the 1,900 Walk Of Faith stones; the undercroft, or lower level of the cathedral; and portions of the remainder of the Master Plan for the campus grounds. These future phases will span multiple years and will be completed as financial resources become available through fundraising efforts.

When will this project begin?

We have completed our initial design phase and created a concrete timetable. In February 2015 we began “soft demolition” in preparation for construction phase. Work on the worship level began in winter 2015 with reconditioning and replacement of the glass panels that comprise the ‘envelope’ of the cathedral. This phase will end with the formal dedication of Christ Cathedral.

When will the first Mass be celebrated at the new Cathedral?

Design and construction teams are focused on completing the renovation of the worship level of the cathedral in time to dedicate the structure in 2019.

Will parish and school resources and/or endowment funds be used to support the Christ Cathedral renovations?

No parish, school or other funds designated for specific purposes outside of the Christ Cathedral project will be used. The Orange Catholic Foundation, the entity leading this development initiative, has a strict policy to ensure that donor intentions are followed scrupulously. The foundation ensures transparency and provides detailed reports to donors and the public.

What will the Diocese do with the Marywood facility?

The Marywood Center served the Diocese well in its first 34 years. The center, founded in 1963 by the Sisters of Providence, was a Catholic girls’ school until 1976 when the Diocese acquired the property upon separation from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. With its move to the Christ Cathedral campus, the Diocese contracted to sell Marywood to a prominent regional home builder, the New Home Company, which plans to build a gated community of luxury homes.

What events will be held on the Christ Cathedral property, and what other ministries will be located there?

In addition to the Diocesan Pastoral Center that was relocated in September 2013, the property is home to Christ Cathedral Academy, a growing school with more than 300 preK-8 students; Cathedral Memorial Gardens, a large cemetery; and an active parish with more than 10,000 parishioners celebrating 12 masses every weekend. In addition, the campus hosts:

  • Major liturgical celebrations, including Ordinations, the Chrism Mass and episcopal installations
  • The annual Orange County Prayer Breakfast
  • Catholic High School graduations and confirmation ceremonies
  • Religious concerts
  • Organ recitals showcasing the fourth-largest church organ in the world
  • Faith formation events
  • Conferences and other special events.

What will happen to the Walk of Faith stones and existing statues?

While we have tried to preserve the Walk of Faith stones in their current locations, many have been damaged through normal wear and will need to be removed. However, Rios Clementi Hale Studios, the architecture firm charged with the campus master plan, has developed a design plan for a beautiful reflection garden that will display bronze depictions of each of the Walk of Faith stones, timelessly capturing the name of the donor and their chosen Bible verse.

Additionally, much of the statuary that adorns the campus will reside within the reflection garden, which is included in the next phase of the Christ Cathedral development.

How has the Diocese of Orange endeavored to retain the Crystal Cathedral’s history?

Restoration of the buildings will ensure that they remain architectural icons and beacons of faith. The renovation committee has drawn on historical records, noted preservation experts, the original architectural drawings and even Dr. Robert Schuller’s and his late wife Arvella’s knowledge and expertise to ensure that renovations respect the designers’ original intent and inspiration.