By Barb Arland-Fye
One month after writing about the drab, outdated school that serves as Sacred Heart Cathedral’s Parish Center Dining Hall, I witnessed an amazing, if temporary, transformation on Valentine’s Day.
Dedicated parish volunteers of the Davenport cathedral had created an elegant dining room for a fundraising dinner event. White linen tablecloths draped the tables, black covers fastened with bright red bows dressed the chairs, candles floated atop water and rose-filled centerpieces. Glittering white lights hung from the ceiling. Red and yellow lights and red-boxed “presents” accented the walls.
Sacred Heart Cathedral, our diocese’s mother church, has undertaken a fundraising campaign to construct a Diocesan Center/Parish Hall. Bishop Martin Amos noted in last week’s Catholic Messenger that a “thoughtful plan has been developed for the construction of space that would accommodate both diocesan gatherings and those of the cathedral parish.” Of the projected $5.5 million price tag, more than $3.2 million has been gifted or pledged by parishioners and priests and deacons of the diocese, the bishop said.
In-kind donations were evident at the Valentine’s Day Dinner –— not only in the décor but the serving of the meal and the musical entertainment. Confirmation students — boys dressed in white dress shirts with red bow ties and black slacks and girls in white blouses and black slacks — circulated the room with trays of hors d’oeuvres to serve to guests. Men and women, also dressed in white and black and wearing red aprons, assisted with other serving duties. In the kitchen, two men grilled steaks while several women prepared plates for the students to carry out to the diners.
Seeing the students in the kitchen, I asked if I could take their photograph for The Catholic Messenger. The boys looked at me and said, “Hey, you’re our JA teacher!” I felt like a rock star; these seventh-and eighth-graders remembered that I had taught their JA (Junior Achievement class) when they were fourth-graders.
The steak grillers, totally focused on their duties, looked up and smiled for the camera. One gave a thumb’s up. Back in the dining room I learned that Karen Collins and Ann Earley had ironed all 21 of the 108-inch table cloths and the black chair covers. “How long did that take?” I asked. “Four days,” Karen responded. She also came up with the centerpieces, inspired by something she’d seen on a social media site called Pinterest. Her husband Jim and Jim Carter put up all the lights. No one was looking for accolades or sympathy. I didn’t hear a complaint from anyone about the enormous amount of work that went into this fundraising dinner.
The lead volunteers were Karen and Jim Collins, Brent and Ann Earley and Jim and Pam Carter, said Father Rich Adam, the cathedral’s pastor who also devoted time and energy organizing the dinner. “Everything was donated — the wine, the steaks, all the food,” he added. “Part of the emphasis was Cathedral Sunday and celebrating the whole cathedral.”
The festive setting and decorations remained in place for the Vietnamese Catholic community, which celebrated the Lunar New Year on Sunday. Bishop Amos and Fr. Adam participated in both celebrations. The bishop has noted that the “addition of a Diocesan Center would add greatly to the liturgies of our faith life and make diocesan-wide retreats and other programs designed to nurture and celebrate our faith possible.”
The transformation I witnessed on Valentine’s Day in the former Sacred Heart School helped me to recognize that celebrating the faith requires ample amounts of love and sacrifice. Thank you, Sacred Heart Cathedral, for setting the example.