The church of St. Mary of Mt. Carmel was built in 1900-01, and served as
the first cathedral from 1971, when the diocese was formed, until 1976
when the current cathedral was dedicated.
The current St. Mary Cathedral was built in 1975 by the first bishop of
Gaylord, Edmund C. Szoka, and is dedicated to St. Mary, Our Lady of Mt.
The cornerstone was laid on July 25, 1975. Among the items sealed
inside are two Holy Year medals, one bearing the likeness of Pope Paul
VI, and two medals of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. The bell tower was
consecrated in July 1977. The inscription on the largest bell reads,
"Bell of the Cathedral Church, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Diocese of
Gaylord, Consecrated 1977 by The Most Reverend Edmund C. Szoka, First
Bishop of Gaylord." The statue of Mary at the south entrance was
designed by Jim Hopfensperger of Midland. It is cast in bronze and is
one of a kind. It was added to the cathedral grounds in 1991.
The gathering space leads to the body of the cathedral. The etchings
above the entrance depict Mary bestowing the Scapular upon St. Simon
Stock and Elijah confronting the prophets of Baal. These symbols were
etched and guilded with gold leaf. Below the etchings are the ambri
containing the oil of the catechumens and the sacred chrism, both
connected with initiation and placed proximal to the baptismal
The baptismal font is at the entrance to the body of the cathedral,
where our lives as disciples of Christ begin. The shape of the font is
the same as the church building itself, an octagon. The immersion pool
is entered from the side and exited toward the altar. The font, altar
and cathedra are aligned.
The altar is a cube made of Vermont granite. Inside the altar are the
relics of Matthew, Mark and Luke, a piece of John's house, as well as
pieces of bone from other saints. The idea of housing relics inside the
altar harkens back to the days when early Christians gathered in the
catacombs, praying in the company of their ancestors.
The cathedra is where the bishop sits when he presides at liturgy.
Occupied or not, it is the symbol of his office and authority.
The shield mounted above the cathedra is the bishop's crest. One side
represents the diocese itself: two stars symbolizing the dioceses of
Saginaw and Grand Rapids, from which the Diocese of Gaylord was formed;
the point represents the high elevation of the City of Gaylord, with the
Christian cross below; the blue background is for the Great Lakes, wavy
white for the snow that covers the diocese. On the
opposite side of the shield are symbols representing our current
bishop, Patrick Cooney. The green color represents his rank as bishop.
The right hand professing fidelity is found on the Cooney family crest
and the two swallows are taken from the Dowdall (mother) crest, also
symbolizing fidelity because these are birds of graceful flight and
faithful migration. The motto "Fidelis usque ad mortem" is also taken
from the Dowdall crest and means, "Faithful even to death." This motto
has been anglicized to "Forever Faithful."
The tabernacle has the general shape of a monstrance with a luna
suspended in a sunburst where the reserved Eucharist is held. It is
used for taking communion to the sick (viaticum) and for occasional
veneration. To the right of the tabernacle is the reconciliation
room. The oil of the sick is placed between the tabernacle and the
reconciliation room as a symbol of healing, the healing which comes from
the Eucharist taken to the sick and the healing, of the Sacrament of
There are four shrine areas within the cathedral. Included are shrines
to the Sacred Heart, St. Joseph, the Blessed Virgin (appellation of Our
Lady of Czewtohowa) and Bishop Baraga (the "Snowshoe Priest"). The
shrine of St. Joseph includes a central figure flanked by windows made
of faceted glass symbolizing both Joseph's occupation as carpenter
(hammer and square) and his role as patron of the universal church
The crucifix suspended above the altar is entitled "The Glorified
Christ" and was designed specifically for the cathedral. It depicts the
Risen Lord in crown and chausible, as High Priest.
The stained glass windows surrounding the outer area of the body of the
cathedral list titles taken from the Litany of the Blessed Mother, such
as Queen of Saints, Queen of Confessors, Queen of Peace, Queen of
The Stations of the Cross are sculpted bronze figures with wooden
crosses placed around the perimeter of the nave walls.
Directional candles mark the four geographical points of the Church
(north, south, east and west). These areas were anointed with chrism at
the time of the dedication.
The pipe organ was hand-built in London, Ontario by Gabriel Kney
Company. The pipes were manufactured in Gottingen, Germany. It took a
five-man crew a week to install and another ten weeks to voice the more
than 2000 pipes. The organ has 30 stops and originally cost over
The Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament seats approximately 100. The icon
behind the altar is called The Burning Bush and was sculpted by Vera
Bartnik of Traverse City. It is made of copper. The apertures
symbolize mouths because this is the bush that spoke to Moses and gave
him the courage to come down from the mountain to face the Israelites.
The shrine of Our Lady of Czewtohowa is on the outer wall of the
Chapel. It is a copy of an icon from a Polish monastery thought to be
painted by St. Luke. The windows of the chapel differ from those of the
main cathedral in that instead of being predominantly blue, they are the
color of wheat, symbolizing "the blessed sacrament."
The body of the church houses the Body of Christ, the assembly. The
pews are arranged in a semi-circle and in such a way so that no member
is more than 12 rows from the middle of the sanctuary. The seating
capacity is approximately 1000.