Artist’s conceptual rendering of the Crypt Chapel of St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica. Photo courtesy of St. Michael's Cathedral

Sacred renewal for St. Michael's chapels

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  • November 5, 2017

The restored, glorious, award-winning sanctuary of St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica distracts a little from the unfin-ished business underneath and tucked in back. Though the construction scaffold-ing is gone and the earth movers are no longer parked outside, there’s still work to do on Toronto’s Catholic cathedral, said St. Michael’s Rector Fr. Michael Busch.

“It’s about the whole life of the cathedral,” he said.

The fuller life of the downtown’s oldest and most meticulously restored church has to include its two chapels — St. John’s Chapel on the Church Street side of the building and the Crypt Chapel in the newly excavated basement, adjacent to the remains of Toronto’s founding Catholic bishop Michael Power.

It’s going to take another $10 million to get them both fully built, decorated and operating.

“St. John’s Chapel is the small chapel we use for university chaplaincy,” said Busch. “Our seniors groups meet there. Our young adult Masses are there. We have small funerals and small weddings there — things that are too small to fit into the cathedral (main sanctuary). They look kind of lost.”

Weddings, baptisms and funerals in St. John’s Chapel have been memorable over the years for an atmosphere that suggests the light of the resurrection and holy silence. A few donors who treasure these memories have stepped up with bequests and donations that will help restore the miniature sacred space to its true self.

Structural work on the outside has been done and the somewhat hazardous front steps to the chapel are being restored. But the interior, where worshippers really notice it, still needs work.
“The crypt chapel we’re hoping to get to a state where we can use it. It will be bare bones (at first),” said Busch.

As the restored cathedral has begun to attract pilgrims and tour groups, a need has arisen for a separate space for Masses that cater to the visitors.

“If you’re a small group from outside the parish community, from within the diocese, it’s the mother church and we want those other parishes to come to the cathedral and have a place where they can worship when they do come,” said Busch.

The main sanctuary of the church already bears a huge burden of Masses — four a day Monday to Friday, three on Saturdays and five more on Sundays, not counting special occasions. Busch worries that if he schedules one more thing in the main sanctuary he will lose the quiet time for adoration and private prayer.

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