New Cathedral Design – Inspired by You

Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral will be the center of Catholic life in our Diocese, belonging to all the faithful and serving as a sacred place to celebrate the pastoral and spiritual life of the people. Our Cathedral will enable the faithful to gather with their Bishop for major liturgical celebrations, pilgrimages, and events as a family of faith, hope, and love to worship God and to further the mission of Jesus Christ.

The final stages of the planning process are within sight. With great enthusiasm, we announce that input from the faithful has been heard and is reflected in the new architectural designs. Based on that feedback, the first priorities for the development of the Cathedral campus are the Cathedral and surface parking. The fundraising for the Cathedral campaign has seen significant progress. New and increased pledges have continued in early 2014.

Vision of the Faithful

Following 400 receptions and thousands of conversations with members of the faithful, a new Cathedral design has come to fruition. Many parishioners, for example, expressed a desire for the Cathedral to be large enough to support major Diocesan liturgies throughout the year, while mindful of its role as a parish. Others said a priority was nearness to the sanctuary: “We want to be closer to the altar and one another.” Many of those who attended receptions also voiced an interest in easy access to the Cathedral, as well as an environmentally and financially responsible design and building.

From the beginning of the project in 2009, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge has been adamant that the Cathedral would only be built and fundraised if it emanated from the desires of the Catholic faithful of eastern North Carolina. The outpouring of support has been tremendous and the next steps of the process – breaking ground within the year and the beginning of construction – are attributable to an enthusiastic and generous Catholic population in the Diocese of Raleigh.

While the master site plan has not changed, the revised design focuses on the priorities, which are the Cathedral and surface parking.

The present community of Sacred Heart Parish will move to the new Cathedral. Sacred Heart Church will be retained and honored as the first church designated to be the Cathedral for the Diocese of Raleigh. The master site plan includes provision for a school on the Cathedral Campus. Sacred Heart parish and school administration are developing plans to relocate the Cathedral School to the site.

In the Form of a Cross

The most notable change in the Cathedral itself is the development of the transepts creating the cruciform design. The cruciform shape places the altar at the east end and the narthex at the west end, with north and south transepts creating the cross shape. The design places the Altar of Sacrifice at the heart of the building, at its center, and under the dome, with the assembly seated around the altar.

The cruciform plan of a church has for centuries been associated with the Body of Christ on the Cross. The heart of the Lord is at the crossing, where the altar of sacrifice stands. The head is represented by the Bishop’s Cathedra, or chair. The torso, arms, legs and feet – the Body of Christ – are represented by the faithful gathered in the nave and transepts.

In the new design the narthex, similar to an open atrium, is expanded to allow the faithful to gather and greet one another prior to Mass, a feature voiced by parishioners at many of the local receptions.

“The design will be similar to other Cathedrals, in that we are building on a 2000-year heritage of sacred architecture,” said James O’Brien, architect for the final design phase. “At the same time, the Cathedral is intended to be a reflection of the values of the faithful of North Carolina, and so it is bound to be unique in that way.”

The seating capacity remains 2,000; each transept will seat 500 people and the nave will welcome 1,000 people. The cruciform shape allows the pews to be closer to the altar than in the earlier design, thereby enhancing the sense of community. From the Altar to the first pew is 24 feet.

Environmentally conscious design and building was an often expressed priority of many in the Diocese. Increased natural light and efficient heating and cooling systems will make the Cathedral environmentally friendly and reduce operating costs. Building resources, construction materials and labor will be locally sourced as available.

The Dome

“The dome is a significant architectural feature of the Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral,” said Mr. O’Brien. “The word dome itself originated in the Latin word domus, meaning “home.” Thereby, designated as the “home” of the Diocesan family, the Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral is where the faithful will gather in union with the whole Church, under the leadership of the Bishop, to encounter Our Lord in Word and Sacrament.

“The dome reaches upward above the assembly, and through it sunlight illuminates the sanctuary directly below, serving as an architectural expression of the union of heaven and earth that takes place within our worship and prayer. It is in this sacred place that we are brought into communion with God who in Christ is the source of our salvation, joy and unity.

“The dome of the new Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral stands above the tree line as a landmark in the community. It will also prompt us to raise our eyes and lift our hearts to our Heavenly Father. It will evoke the dignity of the Church’s place within society, and inspire us to carry out its mission in our lives.”

The Windows

The 40 historic stained glass windows acquired from Ascension of Our Lord Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia were created in 1927 and inspired by the windows in medieval churches. The center lancets of the tripartite aisle windows are 17 feet, 8 inches high and show scenes from the New Testament, such as the Annunciation, the Nativity, the Transfiguration, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. Six other windows depict the Archangels and there are three rose windows.

The Stations

Stations of the Cross were acquired in 2013 from St. Francis Church in Philadelphia. The 14 Stations are rectangular, measuring three feet wide by slightly more than five feet high with a rounded top and elaborate frames. They are approximately 80 years old, yet will require only minimal restoration.


With tremendous support from the faithful, we have made great progress toward our goal.


Gifts and pledges continue to arrive daily.

We have made great progress in fund raising, and we are almost there! More than 22,000 donors from all parishes and missions have pledged funds to support the Cathedral project. The campaign raised funds for the 2012 BAA and local parish needs as well as for the Cathedral.

A large portion of funds pledged are going to fulfill the Bishop’s promise that the campaign would benefit parishes as well as the Diocese. These monies are funding new construction, renovation and maintenance projects, parish ministries and programs and debt reduction. Additional funds will help sustain and expand over 30 outreach ministries of the BAA in parishes, schools and agencies throughout the Diocese. The cost to build the new Cathedral includes funds spent to-date and is based upon current project cost estimates. Funds spent to-date of approximately $3 million include preliminary site planning, engineering costs, and the purchase of historic stained glass windows and the stations of the cross.

With the remaining funds raised, we are designing and will soon break ground for the first two elements of the Master Site Plan for the Nazareth property: The Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral and adequate surface parking. This traditional and noble Cathedral has been inspired by the tremendous support of countless faithful throughout the Diocese.

Gifts and pledges are coming in daily, and many parishes continue their efforts to reach or surpass their goals from the campaign. Conversations with donors about major gifts to the Cathedral continue and the naming opportunities phase of the campaign to raise the remaining amount needed to complete this work is now ready to begin.

For news and the latest fundraising information, go to

The Need: A Growing Diocese

Since December 12, 1924, when the Diocese of Raleigh was created, Sacred Heart has served as the Cathedral for the Diocese of Raleigh. In 1924 there were 6,000 Catholics in the entire State of North Carolina. Today, there are approximately 500,000 Catholics in the Diocese alone. This total is projected to reach 1 million Catholics in less than 20 years. With a seating capacity of 320, Sacred Heart Cathedral is the smallest Roman Catholic Cathedral in the continental United States. When it was completed in October 1924, Sacred Heart was envisioned as a parish church. Because of its small size, inadequate support facilities, and very limited parking, the Cathedral cannot accommodate most major Diocesan celebrations which properly would be held in the Mother Church of the Diocese.

The Cathedral remains an important priority for serving the pastoral, spiritual, and civic needs of Catholics in North Carolina.