‘Mother Church’ of Texas reopened Easter Sunday

April 22, 2014

GALVESTON — It’s been a long journey, but at noon on April 20, Daniel Cardinal DiNardo celebrated Easter Sunday Mass at St. Mary Cathedral Basilica, marking the re-opening of the “Mother Church of Texas.” 

The historic church has been closed since September 2008 after sustaining significant damage during Hurricane Ike. 

The Cathedral Basilica, which is located on the corner of 21st and Church streets on Galveston Island, endured many storms since it was built in 1847. However, the damage from Hurricane Ike was so extensive that it took the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston almost six years to revitalize the church and make it operational again.

“The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston treasures the Cathedral Basilica, the first Cathedral built in Texas, and we wanted to ensure that it be restored to a place where all Catholics are drawn to for prayer and reflection,” Cardinal DiNardo said. “It is with great joy that we are able to re-open such a special church which also represents the beginnings of the Catholic Church in Texas.

Cardinal DiNardo said that celebrating the opening of the Basilica on Easter Sunday was of particular significance.

“Easter is a time of rebirth, and this is the rebirth of our first church,” he said.

On May 4, 1847, Pope Pius IX named St. Mary’s Cathedral as “The Mother Church” of the newly established Catholic Diocese of Galveston, then the only diocese in the state of Texas. The church was one of the Galveston landmarks to survive the Great Storm of 1900. In 1968, the Cathedral was named to the National Register of Historic Places. On Aug. 2, 1979, Pope John Paul II elevated the Cathedral to a “Minor Basilica,” which is an honor given to select churches because of their antiquity or historical importance.

Since November 2009, the Cathedral Basilica has undergone years of repair to offset the ravages of time and the damage resulting from Hurricane Ike. Father Joseph Limanni, Director of Special Projects for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, worked tirelessly overseeing the restorations to the beloved church.

Father Limanni emphasized that there are many people and donors who have contributed along the way and said, “It is through the work of so many dedicated craftspersons that the dream was able to become a reality. It is thanks to them that now we can present this wonderful gift to the people of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and the fine people of Galveston.”

As of Sunday, Father E.J. Stein, O.F.M., will take over as pastor of the Cathedral Basilica — the centerpiece of Holy Family parish community in Galveston. Father Stein said the reopening was a time of great joy and much festive celebration.

“More than 150 years ago, the founders of St. Mary Cathedral found in their new spiritual home a source of reinvigoration of faith and prayer, of growth in hope in the life of God among them, and of renewed commitment to their life of charity toward all,” Father Stein said. “My prayer is that all of the Catholic people of Galveston/Bolivar, of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, and of the entire State of Texas experience a similar reinvigoration as did the original founders so long ago. This is our ‘Mother Church’ and we ask our Blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary, for her intercession, inspiration and prayerful guidance of our future Catholic Christian life.

“This Cathedral, as a Minor Basilica, helps us to assimilate into our faith lives even more deeply that we, the living stones of the Church, are bigger than ourselves, that we are joined with our Holy Father, our Cardinal Archbishop, and brothers and sisters around the whole world as one Church offering continual praise and thanksgiving to God in communion with all the saints, and committed to reflect the life of Jesus in all of our daily lives,” Father Stein said.