Cathedral moves the tabernacle back to the sanctuary altar

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Bishop J. Mark Spalding celebrated Mass at on the Solemnity of the Annunciation at the Cathedral of the Incarnation March 25, 2021. It was the first Mass at the cathedral after the tabernacle was moved from a side chapel to the main altar. Photos by Rick Musacchio

The tabernacle of the Cathedral of the Incarnation, which has been moved to several locations within the church during its long history, has been returned to its original location on the high altar in the sanctuary.

Moving the tabernacle was part of the Cathedral’s ongoing restoration efforts, Pastor Father Eric Fowlkes said. In past restorations, the tabernacle had been relocated from the altar to chapels on either side of the altar, most recently the chapel on the right side of the altar as seen from the pews.

The Church’s guidance on the location of the tabernacle in churches allows for different options and different perspectives, Father Fowlkes noted. “The perspectives have changed and developed over the years,” he added.

All the locations of the tabernacle throughout the history of the Cathedral, which was completed in 1914, have been legitimate, he said.

But as the Cathedral has been planning its current restoration, “consideration has been given to the sanctuary, the side chapels, and the architectural integrity of the building,” Father Fowlkes said. 

Church guidance calls on parishes to consider and respect the architecture and history of the church when considering where to place the tabernacle, Father Fowlkes said. 

Altar servers process to the altar at the start of the 12:10 p.m. Mass on Thursday, March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation, which was the first Mass after the tabernacle at the Cathedral of the Incarnation was moved from a side chapel to the main altar. During the Mass, Bishop J. Mark Spalding reposed the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle in its new location.

“After prayerful reflection, consultation with the bishop, discussion with the parish, especially parish leaders, the decision was made to return the Blessed Sacrament to the high altar.”

By giving the tabernacle more visibility on the altar, it gives the parish the opportunity to show its love and respect for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, Father Fowlkes said. “The Cathedral was constructed in such a way that the tabernacle had a special place of honor” on the altar, he said.

The Cathedral hired experts to move the tabernacle from the side chapel to the altar.

“It was complicated to move,” Father Fowlkes said. “It’s very heavy and quite valuable and delicate.

“The planning took some time. The actual move took a couple of extra days,” he said. “It required building a platform, a lift and very special handling of the tabernacle.”

The move was completed on Wednesday, March 24, one day before the Feast of the Anunciation, the patronal feast of the Cathedral, Father Fowlkes said.

On the Feast of the Anunciation, Bishop J. Mark Spalding celebrated the 12:10 p.m. Mass at the Cathedral and reposed the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle in its new location.

Parishioners have been excited about the move, Father Fowlkes said. “People have been taking pictures and videos.”

With the move of the tabernacle complete, Phase II of the renovation, which has included restoration of the ceilings over the side aisles, lighting improvements, and restoration of the Stations of the Cross, will continue with renovation of the side chapels.

The chapel on the left side of the altar will be renovated as the Chapel of the Annunciation, honoring the Incarnation of the Lord, Father Fowlkes said. 

“It will have a beautiful new look with beautiful artwork,” including a bas-relief of the Annunciation and symbols of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the ceiling, Father Fowlkes said. 

The chapel on the right side will be renovated as the Chapel of the Passion of the Lord, with artwork depicting the crucifixion and symbols of the Lord’s Passion on the ceiling, he added.

Work on both chapels will begin soon and should be complete by June, Father Fowlkes said.

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