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Legatus Magazine

Judy Roberts | author
May 11, 2017
Filed under Featured

Catholic Super Center Emerges in Garden Grove

Five years after acquiring the 34-acre campus of Dr. Robert Schuller’s famed Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, CA, the Diocese of Orange has nearly finished transforming the site into a vibrant center of Catholic life.

With most renovations complete on all but the iconic cathedral, now renamed Christ Cathedral, the seven-building campus fairly hums with activity reflecting the “community of communities” it has become. The former Family Life Center is now the Pastoral Center, housing diocesan offices and Christ Cathedral Academy, a school for students in preschool through grade 8. A dozen Masses are offered each weekend in the Arboretum, the original church for Schuller Ministries and now the temporary home of Christ Cathedral Parish.

The 13-story Tower of Hope has reopened after a $6 million renovation and now houses the parish offices; Christ Catholic Cathedral Corp., which manages the site; the West Coast facilities of EWTN Global Catholic Network; Immaculate Heart Radio’s recording and broadcasting studio, and offices for such ministries as the Augustine Institute and Dynamic Catholic.

Also on the site are the Cathedral Cultural Center, which features an indoor-outdoor reception area and performing arts theater; the Cathedral Memorial Gardens, an ecumenical cemetery, and Crean Tower, which houses a 52-bell carillon.

From Crystal to Christos

The final piece to be completed is Christ Cathedral, a 12-story structure designed by American architect Philip Johnson. Made of glass and steel with 10,660 panes of mirrored glass, it will be the newest cathedral for the 40-year-old, 1.2 million-member Orange diocese, and will require extensive renovation to make it suitable for Catholic worship.

Plans originally called for the cathedral to reopen by 2016, but the project was delayed by the need to reduce the overall cost by about $30 million, a process that involved a redesign.

Construction Advisor Richard Heim Among Many Assisting Legates

With the redesign complete, Legate Richard Heim, who has been overseeing the renovation as project/construction advisor, said he expects construction to proceed by early May with completion near the end of 2018.

Heim is among hundreds of Legates who have responded with generosity to the Christ Cathedral campus project by giving of their time, talent or resources.

Hank Evers, director of development and communications for the Orange Catholic Foundation, said the team responsible for acquiring the property, as well as the committees that forged the infrastructure and restored the campus, were led principally by Legates. Other Legatus members funded the acquisition and continue to give toward the renovation of the cathedral and campus, he said. “In our diocese, Legates are known for selflessly providing their valued time and resources to support our bishop . . . and to further the mission of our Church.”

When Orange Bishop Kevin Vann asked Heim, a divisional president for Clark Construction Group in Irvine, to lend his professional expertise to the cathedral project, he saw it as an opportunity to join others in building the house of God. “It’s not that I was looking for something to do, but at the same time, when you’re asked to help, as we’re all servants of God, we all step up and help.”

Heim’s task turned out to be a daunting one after it was determined that the cost of the project would have to be trimmed. He said decisions about the redesign were made with the help of a committee of accountants, civil and mechanical engineers, clergy, contractors and developers that included Legates Randy Redwitz, Tim Psomas, Kent Peterson and Rand Sperry.

The redesign cuts costs, Heim said, while maintaining the significant architectural elements of the main sanctuary. “I think we have struck a very, very appropriate compromise,” he said, adding that the new design keeps the focus on the visual ambience, preserving the artistic qualities and making the space an inspiring one that is fitting for Catholic worship. At the same time, he said, “We think it’s a design that brings good value for the many, many donors who have participated in the fundraising.”

Legates Tim and Susan Strader Lead Fundraising to Finish Line

Leading the final phase of the effort to raise money for the cathedral renovation are Legates Tim and Susan Strader, who helped found the Legatus Orange County Chapter. The Straders are co-chairing the Home Stretch Campaign, which already has raised $8 million of the $20 million goal.

When Bishop Vann asked them to take on the task, they said they viewed it as yet another way of living the Legatus mission to learn, live and spread the Catholic faith.

Visiting the Christ Cathedral campus and seeing everything that is happening there has turned out to be one of the most persuasive methods for convincing people to participate as donors, Tim Strader said. “This is one of the largest cathedral campuses in the U.S. . . . so there’s just a lot going on. It’s going to be the center for the Orange Diocese and I just get excited talking about it. I don’t think we’ve been turned down by anybody who’s come to the campus.”

The Straders came on board when it was time to cultivate major gifts for completion of the Cathedral project. Through the For Christ Forever capital campaign, which has a goal of $140 million, more than $110 million in cash and pledges has been raised, but some of the funds also will go to support local parish projects, pastoral ministries, Catholic education and retired priests in addition to the Christ Cathedral campus renovation.

Susan Strader said she and her husband have been assisted by a task force of clergy and laypeople who provided advice and ideas. Their primary vehicles for briefing potential donors on the project have included dinners with Bishop Vann, receptions in private homes, “Cathedral Road Show” programs in parishes and “Mass and Meals” events on the Christ Cathedral campus.

Father Chris Smith, episcopal vicar and rector of Christ Cathedral and a participant in fundraising events, said helping generate money for the campus renovation is just one part of his multi-faceted job, which also includes overseeing the development and administration of the campus, the liturgical life of the cathedral and pastoral ministry.

He also has been involved in the cathedral redesign. “Trying to match the money we have that will give us a financially responsible project and keeping the aesthetic of the building and having it be liturgically appropriate were some of the challenges,” he said. But he added that someone who had not seen the first design likely would not even notice the changes that were made. For example, originally, the altar was in the middle with the pews facing east and west. Now it is near the center, but with a radial arrangement of pews. Father Smith said the most outstanding feature of the new cathedral will be its openness. “It’s going to have a very, very open feeling to it because of its height and the glass.” Also, he said, the use of a mono-tonal palette with lots of grays and whites will highlight the liturgical colors.

“This whole project really gives a sense of place to the Diocese of Orange,” Father Smith said. “ . . . Place is important to any diocese and that’s what this Christ Cathedral campus is providing us. And we haven’t even begun to see the power of that because of the cathedral not being open. But when you have a place of liturgical gathering around the bishop, this will build a sense of unity in the diocese.”

JUDY ROBERTS is a Legatus magazine staff writer.



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