Holy Name reopens for weekend mass

August 1, 2009 (CHICAGO) Inside of the historic cathedral, there were no signs of the fire that damaged it heavily in February.

The 134-year-old Roman Catholic Church was closed for repairs for the last six months. Holy Name had only been reopened for a few months after repairs when a fire forced them to close again.

It has been a rough few years for the church and its flock. However, Saturday was a day to celebrate a new beginning.

At the evening service, Holy Name parishioners were home again, back in the wood pews, back underneath the stunning ceiling, and back inside one of the nation's most spectacular sanctuaries.

"It really made you proud to be a Catholic. I have to say it was just very touching. It really warmed the cockles of your heart," said Holy Name parishioner Marge Pecho.

"To see it once again looking as it did, is amazing," parishioner Christine Reder said.

"It was really a heart-warming experience. It's very beautiful now. It's always been beautiful, but it's even better than before," said Halima Jabulani, also a parishioner.

On a brutally cold February morning, fire raged through the roof of Chicago's most famous church. Water damaged the sanctuary and destroyed some of the ornamentation.

In returning to the pulpit Saturday night, Fr. Dan Mayall said he felt something he hadn't experienced since his early days in the priesthood 30 years ago: nervousness.

"We take things for granted, and we can't take this place for granted. We learned that. This could have been a pile of stones, easily," Mayall said.

The old church shook off the ashes and water damage. Artisans rebuilt pillars, reinforced the wood ceiling and repainted images. Their months of work restored Holy Name to what it was, and then some.

"Comparing the way the church looked last year to this year is just amazing, a tribute to all the artisans involved in bringing the church back," said Larry Cope, who designed the medallions painted into the church's wood ceiling.

"I never saw so many people looking up without a bird being overhead. It was terrific, exactly what we were hoping for. That makes us look beyond who we are, beyond the ordinary mind and the eternal," Mayall said.

Roof repairs are being made at Holy Name. So, for the time being, the cathedral will only be open for weekend masses.

Church services Monday through Friday will continue to be held in the parish center next door.

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