By Bob Zyskowski

Julie Majette said that when you came to St. Mary’s Cathedral every week for Mass, you didn’t give much thought to some of issues that needed attention.

“It was getting so rundown, but you really didn’t notice,” Majette said. “I don’t think any of us realized the beauty that was hidden.”

Ceiling restored, artistic stonework elements enhanced, new flooring and rep added kneelers -- along with a fresh coat of paint -- make for a bright new look for St. Mary's Cathedral in St. Cloud, Minn.

That beauty is hidden no more.

It was on display May 12 when Bishop John Kinney presided at Mass for the first time after St. Cloud’s downtown landmark was refurbished over the past several months

Before Mass, Majette stood at the back of the cathedral greeting people and handing out worship aids, then at Communion she served as an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist.

A parishioner at the mother church of the St. Cloud Diocese for 10 years, Majette looked around after Mass as did many of those who packed the cathedral for the festive liturgy. Gazing up at the new ceiling treatment, the freshly painted trim that brings out the artisan stonework all around, then down at the floor, newly laid with colorful granite tiles, she called it “amazing.”

“It’s a beautiful cathedral — as it should be for the house of the Lord,” Majette said.

“Beautiful” was the word of the day. A prelude of music from oboe, clarinet, guitar, piano and a 35-member choir sent beautiful sound up to the newly exposed, gilt-edged wooden beams above, and a carillon of bells led the entrance processional for the festive liturgy.

Cathedral rector Father Tony Oelrich expressed his gratitude to all who had a part in the refurbishing, from the vision of the planners to the execution by “real craftsmen who loved their work and respected the building.”

He offered special mention to the family members of the late Mary Kaye Herzing, who were in attendance. It was their Aunt Mary Kaye’s bequest of nearly $400,000 that allowed the work to begin, and Father Oelrich had a warm remembrance of her love and commitment to the cathedral parish.

“Mary Kaye was a greeter for many years,” Father Oelrich recalled, “and many of you will remember her, because if you offered your hand to her, you had to be prepared to give it up for some time.”

A $30,000 gift to the project was given by the diocese in thanksgiving for Bishop Kinney’s nearly 18 years ministry as ordinary, Father Oelrich said. When he turned to the presider’s chair and said, “Your affection, your intentionality and your care for this cathedral are noticeable and appreciated,” a burst of applause for Bishop Kinney followed from the packed pews.

Later in his homily for the Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord, Bishop Kinney said those at Mass are “filled with joy because Christ blesses us and brings us to the Father. Christ is leading us to the Father.

“Today we come with joy, grateful for the beauty of this cathedral building,” he added. “We’re grateful to all of those who come Sunday after Sunday to worship here, as well as to the artisans, the donors and all who made the beauty of this cathedral possible. It’s a beautiful place for the people of God to worship.”

Bishop Kinney spoke again after Communion, noting, “There aren’t many opportunities to build or to refurbish a cathedral.

“What a privilege it has been to be a part of this beautiful work for God — for all of this, we give thanks.”

Father Oelrich, after reading the announcements at the end of Mass, said, “We are compelled to do beautiful things for God,” then added, “The most beautiful things in this church Sunday after Sunday are you people.”

Bishop Kinney added his congratulations to the people of St. Mary Parish, and he jumped at the chance to praise the cathedral’s rector in leading the work of the refurbishing; Father Oelrich blushed as applause filled the newly decorated worship space again.

Julie Majette, who said she found a home when she started attending St. Mary’s Cathedral 10 years ago, had the joy in her heart that Bishop Kinney spoke of.

“I’m so glad we got to do this for the bishop,” she said. (Bishop Kinney submitted his resignation last June as all bishops are required to do upon reaching the age of 75.)

Looking around again as people gathered in groups after Mass to take in the work that’s been done, Majette said the artistry “reflects the priests and the people of St. Mary’s.”

And she couldn’t hold back: “I love my St. Mary’s.”