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St. Thomas More Cathedral marks milestone in year-long renovation project

A custom stone cross was lifted into place on the Cathedral of St. Thomas More along Arlington Blvd this week.

To celebrate the placement of this feature, the highest point of the structure, the Diocese of Arlington held a “capping ceremony.”

Bishop [Michael] Burbidge blessed the cross and construction personnel, asking God to continue protecting them throughout their work, and invited them to a luncheon as a gesture of his gratitude for their devoted work,” said Billy Atwell, the chief communications officer for the diocese.

The new cross is one of many changes coming to the structure at 3901 Cathedral Lane, also home to a school. A suburban parish church retrofitted to serve as a cathedral, the house of worship is undergoing a year-long renovation project to better signal its status as the “mother church” for a half-million Northern Virginia Catholics and the seat of their bishop.

Atwell says the project started on time and will be completed before the altar is dedicated on Sept. 5.

Workers first repaired and replaced infrastructure systems such as heating and air conditioning. Since then, all interior walls have been repainted and a new marble floor for the sanctuary was installed.

“The exterior stonework is nearing completion, which already gives the cathedral a completely new appeal for those visiting or driving by the church,” Atwell said. “New stained-glass windows are being installed, and new liturgical furnishings, including an altar and a tabernacle, will be set into place.”

Meantime, craftsmen have been carving some dozen statues that will celebrate the multicultural communities within the diocese. The project, including the custom cross, was designed by Arlington-based sacred architecture firm O’Brien and Keane Architecture.

Atwell confirmed the project remains within budget, which includes the $15.3 million estimated for materials, construction, engineering and architectural costs.

“Bishop Burbidge has kept his commitments to ensure all donor gifts received were beyond their normal contributions to their parish, the diocese and Catholic Charities, that no debt would be incurred, and that no funds are being drawn from parish or diocesan accounts, including offertory and the Bishop’s Lenten Appeal.”

The cathedral renovations were timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Diocese of Arlington, established in 1974. The diocese will undertake charitable works, still being discussed, and host three events to honor the project’s completion and the milestone anniversary.

First up is a Diocesan Jubilee Fest on June 8 at the Warren County Fairgrounds, boasting a Marian procession, Mass, games, music, rides and a fireworks show. Next, the renovated cathedral will be dedicated during a Mass on Sept. 5 unveiling the changes and celebrating the Golden Jubilee. Lastly, there will be a pilgrimage to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in D.C. on Oct. 5, presided over by Pope Francis’ emissary to U.S. bishops.

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