New Archbishop Fiorenza Plaza dedicated

April 23, 2024

Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, at center, sprinkles holy water during a dedication ceremony for the new Archbishop Joseph A. Fiorenza Plaza at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart on April 13 in Houston. The new plaza provides a new gathering space for parishioners and events at the Co-Cathedral. (Photos by James Ramos/Herald)

HOUSTON — Gathered under the spring sun and blue skies, some 280 close family, friends and longtime collaborators of the late Archbishop Joseph A. Fiorenza rejoiced during the April 13 dedication and blessing of the new Archbishop Fiorenza Plaza across from the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart.

Built as a sacred space in downtown Houston for Houstonians, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, the dedication and blessing officially opened the new plaza and brought to fruition a vision of the late Archbishop Fiorenza who died in 2022.

Father Jeff Bame, rector and pastor of the co-cathedral, recognized the efforts of many that continue to help complete Archbishop Fiorenza’s goals. Then, through a rite of blessing and sprinkling of holy water, Daniel Cardinal DiNardo blessed and dedicated the new space. Walking through the shaded plaza structure, Cardinal DiNardo also blessed the statue and memorial wall.

Archbishop Fiorenza’s family also gathered for a sunny reunion, with members traveling from as far as Florida to celebrate the occasion. Standing underneath the new pavilion dedicated to his uncle’s memory and legacy, Mark Fiorenza, Archbishop Fiorenza’s nephew, beamed.

“I know my Uncle Joe is smiling down from heaven. It’s just great seeing all these people in this beautiful space; he loved them very much,” he said. “I felt his spirit here with us; I know we all did. We know he was present. It was just the perfect day.”

Attending the event with his wife Lisa, Mark Fiorenza echoed his family members when he said that they were “so blessed to have Uncle Joe” in their lives, that “he was a wonderful man, a great visionary [who] just always wanted to help people.”

Before the plaza’s dedication, Cardinal DiNardo celebrated a Mass that also marked the Solemnity of the Anniversary of the Dedication of the Cathedrals, which in the Archdiocese includes the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, built in 2008, and St. Mary Cathedral Basilica in Galveston, which was dedicated in 1848.

A longtime friend of Archbishop Fiorenza, Bishop Emeritus Curtis J. Guillory, SVD, of Beaumont joined Galveston-Houston Auxiliary Bishop Italo Dell’Oro, CRS, in concelebrating the Mass. Bishop Guillory served as Archbishop Fiorenza’s auxiliary bishop for nearly 13 years before he was appointed to lead Archbishop Fiorenza’s hometown diocese.

Also in attendance were large groups of consecrated women religious, including many sisters who worked closely with Archbishop Fiorenza.

In his homily, Cardinal DiNardo recalled Archbishop Fiorenza as a priest who was dedicated to social justice, the end of racism and a “great friend to other amigos,” noting Archbishop Fiorenza’s longtime friendship and activism with Houston faith and civil rights leaders Rabbi Emeritus Samuel Karff and Reverend William Lawson. An effort that Cardinal DiNardo called a “triumph of diversity” in the city.

“As a priest, chaplain, bishop and Archbishop, he was a lover of the City of Houston and of [the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart],” Cardinal DiNardo said. Though Cardinal DiNardo dedicated the co-cathedral in 2008, Archbishop Fiorenza spearheaded the effort leading up to its construction, including presenting the design to then-pope St. John Paul II.

Archbishop Fiorenza “loved the people whom Jesus loved,” Cardinal DiNardo said, “and that was frequently not only those who were well-off but also the poor, the immigrant, the stranger and the person on the side of the road.”

“Uncle Joe was rooted here in Houston, and Houston became his family,” Lisa Fiorenza said. “Even though we as his family were seated in the front row, everybody in that church was his family, and if they had large enough front pew, everyone would have been sitting up there with us.”

As part of the $9.8 million “Completing the Walk” campaign, the new Archbishop Fiorenza Plaza commemorates the late Archbishop’s life and legacy and completes his vision for an open outdoor space to gather, Cardinal DiNardo said.

“We knew that moving forward with the vision, we wanted to stay connected with the history from which we come from,” said Father Bame. The towering statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus that once faced Pierce Street now watches over St. Joseph Parkway near green landscaping.

Originally installed in the 1930s, the statue is now the focal point of the park-like plaza and sits adjacent to the new landscaped parking area that includes safe access and space for 141 vehicles, accommodating an urgent need for the co-cathedral both during weekend and weekday Masses and events. The effort to restore the zinc-based statue included recovering its lost history, by tracing it back to its original artisan, 1929 catalog, and foundry origins to understand how it was made and looked before decades of weathering and subsequent upkeep and repair efforts.

The statue links “us to our past and ensures that all people who gather here in the future can remember and know who is the true foundation,” said Father Bame.

In the plaza, a tall limestone memorial wall often glimmers in the sunlight and features the history of Archbishop Fiorenza, the campaign and the co-cathedral on temporary banners. The permanent bronze plaques are expected to be completed and installed by Memorial Day. The wall also showcases four intricate crosses originally seen on the old co-cathedral.

Other parts of the campaign include major infrastructure upgrades and maintenance to the co-cathedral and the neighboring Cathedral Centre. The final part of the campaign is the establishment of a $5 million endowment to ensure the future of the co-cathedral and its ministries.

For more information on the “Completing the Walk” campaign and to donate online, visit †